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Inside Move: Thesps pull curtain on fests

Avignon, other events feel the strike

Labor actions by teachers and even burly railway workers earlier this year failed to rattle the French government, but thesps and other arts technicians last week managed to shut down both the Avignon Festival and the Francofolies music fest in western France.

They also interrupted shooting on a comedy pic starring Jack Nicholson that was scheduled to film in Paris.

France’s leaders now have a real problem on their hands as the strike movement gains momentum.

Culture Minister Jean-Jacques Aillagon has tried his indignant best to pin the blame squarely on belligerent unions.

But the strikers, angered over plans to trim their generous unemployment benefits system, were adhering to the time-honored tradition of protest in France.

And despite the canceled fests, they have fostered a certain amount of sympathy among the French public.

The same can’t be said for the ruling Gaullists, who seem to have badly misread the situation.

Having successfully pushed through a long-awaited reform of the pension system earlier this year, and with unions still licking their wounds, launching the sensitive showbiz reforms on the eve of France’s summer fest season was clearly asking for trouble.

It increasingly seems that France is in for a summer of discontent. “If I were the Prime Minister, I’d start to worry,” says helmer Bertrand Tavernier, one of a posse of cinema folk supporting the strikers.

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