The first global film event to be staged in 2021, the 73rd edition of the Cannes Film Festival, will take place under strict security and health guidelines.
Variety spoke exclusively with Cannes general secretary François Desrousseaux, who has been hammering out protocols with the festival’s organizers, producers and Cannes regional authorities, while conducting discussions with the government aimed at softening some measures for international travellers.
The major changes in place for this year’s festival include the required use of masks during all screenings — which will be filled at 100% of their seating capacity — but also on and around the red carpet.
Meanwhile, guests will need to keep a one-meter distance between one another in queues, while the fan zone in front of the Palais, where stars and filmmakers generally stop by to sign autographs before crossing the street to hit the red carpet, will be scrapped. Desrousseaux still hopes, however, that this could change by early July if the health situation allows it.
A smaller fan zone adjacent to the Palais will be maintained, and stars may be able to remove their masks for pictures, as well as inside the Lumiere theater, as they’re filmed before and after world premieres.
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“Even if the health situation is improving, it won’t be as simple as in previous years. Our goal is to have an air-tight sanitary protocol that will not cause too much discomfort for attendees. The challenge there is to find a middle ground between safety and comfort,” said Desrousseaux.
Avoiding long queues and gatherings before and in between screenings will be crucial and the online booking system should help on that front. “We’ll tell people to respect the times indicated on their pre-booked tickets, and if they don’t, a distance of one meter will have to be respected and we’ll have stickers on the floor. Same at the film market where the aisles will be widened, and plexiglass will be placed at all points of direct contact between people,” said the executive.
Security, on the other hand, will be as tight as it was in 2019, but smoother with the introduction of digital scanning stations that won’t require guests to have their belongings scanned by security agents.
One key element of the protocol is COVID-19 testing, which will have to be carried out every 48 hours unless guests are fully vaccinated 15 days before the start of the festival, or can show proof of immunity via a positive antibody test or RT-PCR test taken within 15 days and completed within six months.
The health pass, which comes into effect on June 9, will work as a QR code that guests can show with their vaccine, immunity or test results. But as of Monday (June 7), some international countries — such as the U.K. — won’t have access to the health pass. Desrousseaux said discussions were ongoing to determine which countries will be included in the digitized system, and suggested that the U.K. should be part of it. If they’re not, guests from these countries may have to be tested every 48 hours even if they’re fully vaccinated.
A 300 square-meter tent will be used as a testing lab. Tests, which can be booked online, will be free for both French and international participants and results will be available within six hours. The lab will practice salivary RT-PCR tests.
“The logic is to avoid crowds so we’ll have bilingual online booking systems for testing,” said Desrousseaux. “The lab is being sized up and staffed to ensure that there won’t be more than a 10-minute wait for each person,” added the executive, who mentioned that a similar system was successfully used for the French Open (Roland Garros), as well as the 24 Hours of Le Mans race, among other events.
In addition to these measures, the Cannes Film Festival will also boast a medical protocol, including a special medical unit linked to the local hospital that will be able to assist guests in case of a health emergency. This is on top of an online platform that will be available in French or English, where guests can get an online consultation with a general practitioner within an hour and, if necessary, get redirected to a doctor in town.
The French government decided last week to allow fully vaccinated visitors listed in the “green zone” (from Europe, Australia, South Korea, Israel, Japan, Lebanon, New Zealand and Singapore), deemed as the safest, to enter France freely without restriction or the need for extensive testing.
Visitors traveling from the 150-plus countries, including the U.S. and U.K., which are listed in the “orange zone,” will also be able to enter France without quarantine and a “compelling reason” for travelling if they have been fully vaccinated two weeks prior to their trip. If they haven’t, they will need a compelling reason along with a seven-day period of self-isolation.
Travellers from the countries listed in red (including South Africa, Argentina, Brazil, India, Turkey) will need to quarantine and have a compelling reason to travel, whether or not they are fully vaccinated. Desrousseaux said the festival was still in discussions with government authorities to lift some restrictions for accredited guests and talent from the U.S., U.K. and other countries listed in orange and red.
Desrousseaux said the festival and market expect around 20,000 registrants to turn up, compared with 40,000 in a normal year.
“We know that in the end, some accredited guests will not come, either because they will have given up, or because the conditions of entry to the territory will be complicated, so there will be less festival-goers and more tourists this year, but the mix of the two will give [the festival] a pretty nice atmosphere,” said Desrousseaux.