| Italian actor Laura Morante at a photo call in Cannes on Tuesday. (AFP)
Cannes, May 11 (Reuters): Organisers of the world’s biggest film festival reached a last-ditch deal today with stagehands and part-time French actors who threatened to derail Cannes’ cocktail of sun, stars and celluloid.
On the eve of the festival’s opening, officials announced they had given the protesters a platform to voice their grievances over welfare benefit cuts.
The movie showcase had been threatened with chaos by the workers who last summer managed to force the cancellation of several leading French arts festivals.
The 11th hour deal was an enormous relief to Cannes, which over 12 days plays host to such A-list stars as Brad Pitt, Charlize Theron and Cameron Diaz as well as the world’s media.
“The representatives of the arts workers reaffirmed their desire to respect the mission of the festival which is to welcome artists from all over the world and help cinema,” the organisers said in a statement.
The workers will be officially welcomed on tomorrow’s opening gala in the Palais des Festivals. They are to stage their own news conferences and meet actors and directors to discuss their future. France, already on heightened security alert after the Madrid train bombings, has sent in 1,000 policemen to ensure the festival runs smoothly.
A field of 18 films from around the globe are competing for the Palme d’Or at Cannes, a festival that thrives on controversy. This year will be no exception.
American filmmaker Michael Moore, who scored such a stir two years ago with the anti-gun lobby documentary Bowling for Columbine, hits Cannes this time with Fahrenheit 9/11, a tirade against the Bush administration. The Walt Disney Co has barred its Miramax film unit from releasing the movie, saying it did not want to put out a politically polarising film in a US election year.
The Life and Death of Peter Sellers, a biography of the British comedian starring Geoffrey Rush and Theron, has angered his family. Sellers’ son Michael has objected and Britt Ekland, the actor’s third wife, called the casting of Theron “nonsense”.
Cult film director Quentin Tarantino heads the judges for Cannes 2004, where a third of the films come from Asia. The Berlin, Venice and Sundance festivals thrive on art films. Cannes, in sharp contrast, is brash and glitzy. Movie moguls hit town to do mega deals and Hollywood sends in the big guns.
For Pitt, Cannes offers the perfect chance to promote the $200 million sword-and-sandals epic Troy. For Tom Hanks, this is his maiden voyage to Cannes where he will publicise the Coen brothers’ remake of the classic British comedy The Ladykillers.