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Expect More Cops, Bomb Experts, and Searches at This Year's Cannes Film Festival

"Exceptional" security measures have been put into place to protect cinephiles who will gather this month for the French Riviera city's 69th annual film festival.

by Solenn Sugier
May 10 2016, 7:15pm

La Croisette di Cannes. (Foto di Gilbert Bochenek)

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve announced Monday that "exceptional" security measures have been put into place to protect cinephiles who will gather this month for the 69th annual Cannes Film Festival.

Visiting the French Riviera city ahead of the festival's launch, Cazeneuve announced that hundreds of police officers and security agents would be deployed to patrol the streets and respond to security concerns in light of last year's terror attacks in Paris. Four mobile police units have been dispatched to the city to boost the number of officers on the ground during the 10-day festival, which begins on May 11.

Cazeneuve also announced that bomb disposal teams would routinely inspect the Palais des Festivals et des Congrès, the film festival's main venue, as well as the site of the famous Cannes red carpet steps, which are scaled each year by film industry heavyweights.

The interior minister highlighted the festival's global reputation and said that Cannes has a duty to ensure the safety of those who attend the event each year.

The risk, he said, "has never been this high." The day after he spoke, France's Parliament approved an extension of the state of emergency that it imposed following the November 13 terror attacks. It will now run until the end of July.

Related: Suspected Terror Mastermind Salah Abdeslam Is Dumb as an 'Empty Ashtray,' His Lawyer Says

In addition to the increased police presence in Cannes, 400 private security agents will be stationed at tasked with searching bags, frisking festivalgoers, and monitoring traffic around the the Palais des Festivals. Those entering the festival hub will also have to be screened by a metal detector.

Seven lifeguards will patrol the city's beaches, which will have limited access during the festival.

Cannes has taken security particularly seriously this year. It was the stage for a simulated terror attack in April as part of a training exercise for cops, first responders, hospitals, and officers from France's elite Raid and BRI units. The exercise saw law enforcement teams respond to a simulated car bomb attack and a siege of the Palais des Festivals by four terrorists.

According to RTL, Cannes was the first French city to introduce a municipal counterterrorism plan in January 2016. At the time, city authorities consulted with "counterterrorism experts" to evaluate the terror threat and determine the best risk management measures. One of the suggestions put forth by the experts was for the city to set up "a single command post for the various [security] partners within the city," and to mobilize a citywide "civilian force."

The city appears to have followed the expert advice, establishing a temporary operational headquarters for the duration of the festival.

Video of a simulated terror attack training exercise in Cannes, April 2016.

Noémie Dewavrin, a city councilor who owns a hotel near the Croisette, the city's famous seafront promenade, expects this year's festival to be business as usual despite the new measures. She said she hadn't introduced any drastic new security measures at the hotel she runs with her husband.

"We are careful, same as each year," she said. "We have a night watchman."

Dewavrin's hotel is popular among festival staff and journalists, but she explained that she doesn't face the same pressures as some of the city's luxury hotels, which are also known as "palaces." Despite the high level of alert, business isn't hurting. "We receive as many [booking] requests as ever, both from France and internationally. Our guests, who are regulars, think the city is more secure — and they are delighted."

Related: Paris Police Are Shopping for High-Performance Drones to Spy on Crowds

"There have always been security measures in place," said Jean Venou, president of the Cannes Prestige business owners association. "Some of the stores have hired security guards," he said, specifying that the guards are "unarmed."

"The only measure that has been authorized since 2015, following a request to the local authorities, is to have a security guard stationed outside a store," he added.

Venou heads the Cannes Prestige Security Committee, which was formed in 2013 following a string of high-profile heists, including one at the Carlton Hotel.

"The national context is different, given the [economic] crisis and the attacks. But aside from that, there are no more concerns than usual. Bag searches and metal detectors have more or less always been around during the film festival," said Venou.

Follow Solenn on Twitter: @SolennSugier

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Photo via Wikimedia Commons

This article originally appeared in VICE News' French edition.

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