Strike could put damper on Cannes

Croisette plans scrambled further by Gallic employees

PARIS — After the SARS scare, battered Franco-American relations and a film selection process that ran down to the wire, this year’s glitch-prone Cannes Film Festival is facing another, typically French, menace: a nationwide public workers’ strike this coming Tuesday.

Gallic workers from railroad conductors to air traffic controllers will walk off the job just as thousands of film folk from around the world will be sitting on Cannes-bound trains and planes, ahead of opening night May 14.

“The strike is likely to disrupt public companies like the SNCF (the French national railway company) and private companies like Air France, so I would advise people to travel on the 12th or the 14th if they can,” fest managing director Veronique Cayla told Daily Variety Tuesday.

Keeping her good humor, Cayla added: “It’s been a complicated year — but at least the war’s over.”

The great unknown is just how widely the strike will be observed.

Strikes occur often in France, with varying impact on daily life. Locals tend to err on the side of caution, staying home from work on strike days rather than face a long wait for the infrequent bus or train that is invariably too full to board.

The action is over government plans to add three more years to the French working life.

SARS precautions

In another Cannes development, Cayla revealed that filmmakers and industryites from SARS-affected Asian countries will have medical checks before attending Cannes. Some are making the trip early to avoid being grounded in the Far East if the health scare worsens.

Others are waiting to finalize travel arrangements until the last minute, but the final number of Asian participants is expected to be down, Cayla said, who decline to go into further detail.

“Delegations from China, Hong Kong and Taiwan spontaneously said they wanted the checks for everyone’s peace of mind, including their own,” Cayla said. “They’ve organized themselves to find a way around the problem.”

Early arrivals

Some, like Chinese actor Jiang Wen, a jury member, have also taken the precaution of traveling to France earlier than scheduled, Cayla said.

“We didn’t ask them, but they are very conscious of their responsibilities.”

The medical examinations are being carried out before the delegations leave their countries.

But Far East fest attendees will still face the usual once-over at airports –including temperature checks for anyone with a cough — introduced since the SARS epidemic broke out.

The same measures are in place at Nice airport, although no flights arrive there nonstop from Asia.

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