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.
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.
“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.
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.
“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.