Protest delays Cannes film cans

Strikers appear determined to cause mischief on the Croisette

PARIS — Disgruntled showbiz workers and assorted French protest orgs made clear their intent Friday night to disrupt the Cannes Film Festival, which bows Wednesday.

Nearly 100 showbiz protesters besieged a depot where French films were being loaded into vehicles destined for Cannes and prevented them from leaving for several hours.

“Our aim isn’t to stop the festival from taking place,” a rep said. “We want to put on the pressure to show that we are determined and ready to do this kind of thing.”

On Saturday, at least 10 French directors with pics in this year’s fest lineup signed a declaration of support for the striking workers. The festival has also publicly defended their cause.

But with no breakthrough in sight in the year-old battle over cuts to the showbiz industry’s unemployment benefits system, protesters appear determined to cause mischief on the Croisette, as some of the organizations’ names — K.O. Cannes and Cannes Intermittents en Lutte (Battling Cannes Showbiz Workers) — clearly indicate.

Farm workers’ unions and unemployed people’s groups have said they will join the protests, although different showbiz factions bickered during the weekend over whether those other parties’ presence was wanted.

All was calm on the Croisette Sunday as a few early-bird festgoers mingled with the population of senior citizens out for their afternoon stroll.

But come Wednesday’s opening-night ceremony, showbiz strike leaders have demanded the right to air their grievances on the red-carpeted steps of the Palais — offering to wear tuxedos to avoid spoiling the spectacle.

They also want to give a press conference from inside the Palais.

“It is only normal that we want to have our moment in the extraordinary shop window that is Cannes,” an activist said.

But both demands conflict with fest managing director Veronique Cayla’s assertions last week that the Palais — especially the steps — should be out of bounds to anyone not directly involved with the fest.

Her suggestion that the sidebar Directors Fortnight would probably be more involved in events surrounding the showbiz workers’ presence in Cannes sparked a separate furor at the Societe des Realisateurs de Films, creator of the sidebar.

Org said Friday that it was “stupefied” by Cayla’s remarks and snidely added that “the heart of any film festival is first and foremost the films it shows and not some steps covered in a cheap red carpet.”

Protest leaders will meet fest organizers again Tuesday morning.