Bomb sweeps, bag checks as terror threat looms over Cannes Film Festival

The city gets ready for the 69th film festival under heightened security after France was hit by two Islamist militants attacks in 2015.
Policewomen on horses patrol on the Croisette near the Festival Palace on Monday (May 9)  before the start of the 69th Cannes Film Festival.
Policewomen on horses patrol on the Croisette near the Festival Palace on Monday (May 9) before the start of the 69th Cannes Film Festival. PHOTO: REUTERS

CANNES, France (AFP) - Bomb experts will carry out daily sweeps at the Cannes film festival, opening this week under maximum security as France faces its highest ever terror threat, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said Monday.

The glitterati, set to descend on the resort town as the festival opens Wednesday, will also have to tip open expensive handbags for inspection after climbing the red carpet into the main venue, the Palais des Festivals, which is to be secured by some 400 private security agents.

Hundreds more police officers and specialised units will be on duty in the city, whose lure for the rich and famous makes it equally attractive to jewellery thieves and robbers.

The 69th Cannes film festival comes six months after Islamic State in Iraq and Syria terrorists launched co-ordinated attacks in Paris that left 130 people dead, and France remains under a state of emergency.

"We must keep in mind as we prepare to open this festival, that we are faced with a risk which has never been as high, and faced with an enemy determined to strike us at any moment," said Cazeneuve. "We must demonstrate extreme vigilance at all times."

Cazeneuve, who visited the city two days before it becomes the world movie capital for the two week cinematic extravaganza, said the stakes were high for security forces.

He said the city had to take into account "the global nature of the event, its visibility, the high number of celebrities who must be protected, the concentration of crowds in public spaces, without forgetting the need to preserve the atmosphere of conviviality which is crucial to the success of the festival".

Just along the coast from Nice on the French Riviera, Cannes is home to 500 CCTV cameras, making it the most closely monitored town in France, said mayor David Lisnard.

He dismissed concerns that the tight security will throw a wet blanket over the parties, glitter and glamour of the event.

"Do you think an attack brings merriment? We have succeeded in preserving the festival atmosphere. The public will be at the foot of the (red-carpeted) steps. All the parties will be authorised, but, security must be taken care of," he said. "Cannes must be protected not because of the cocktail parties, but because it is a professional event of a high level which brings honour to France."