A Rooftop Protest At Opening-Night Gala of Cannes Film Festival

Cannes Film Festival workers launched a rooftop protest during the opening night gala. It wasn’t about the Israel-Hamas war. The protest was about good old-fashioned unemployment compensation.  

The rooftop protest was described as impromptu but it is also reported that there were organizing and internal discussions by members of the Precarious Film Festival Workers Collective throughout the day on Tuesday.  

Members of the group snuck onto the roof of the Palais where they dropped a sign with their motto Sous les écrans la dèche (Under the screen, the waste). At the same time, another group of demonstrators from the collective began a second protest on the ground. They held a sign with the same message and began chanting and blowing whistles to draw attention.

Protesting for wages and compensation makes more sense than the deluded useful idiots protesting on college campuses and in city streets over the Israel-Hamas war. The workers are protesting what they consider is an issue that is in their own best interests. Changes in labor policies would slash unemployment benefits by more than half. The pro-Hamas protesters are mostly ignorant and misinformed about what is happening in Israel and Gaza. They are antisemites who are taking advantage and crawling out from under their rocks to create havoc. This isn’t America’s war. America must help its only real ally in the region but it is Israel’s war for its existence. 

The opening-night protest was the first stage of the collective’s ongoing plans to demonstrate throughout this year’s festival over the way they are compensated. We were first to report on the collective last month as they launched their campaign with plans to stage a strike action at the festival. It’s still unclear whether a strike will take place. But sources within the movement tell us they have made staggered progress and have locked a meeting with French labor minister Catherine Vautrin. 

The workers’ anger stems from two intertwined issues. Firstly, they are asking for better pay packages that acknowledge the long hours they work when events are in full throttle. Secondly, they want to be officially classed as temporary entertainment workers, known as intermittents du spectacle in France. This status would enable them to access France’s special benefits regime for people working in the entertainment sector, which is tailored to the fact they are often employed on temporary contracts and provide year-round income.

The collective launched an online petition in support of their cause last week. The petition was signed by more than 300 international industry professionals. 

Thierry Fremaus, the head of the film festival, addressed the problems during a Monday afternoon opening press conference. He told journalists that “everyone wants to avoid a strike.” He predicted a settlement in June. Fremaux noted that the collective and the festival negotiated directly on the issue. The collective is taking advice from labor unions on how to proceed with demonstrations.

I suggest staying off that roof. Someone could get killed from a fall. 

The Cannes Film Festival runs through May 25. 

It’s interesting that the collective went ahead and protested on opening night. Actress Greta Gerwig addressed a press conference on Monday. She is serving as the president of this year’s competition jury. The prestigious Palme d’Or will be presented at the end of the festival. She seemed to think the film festival would be able to avoid demonstrations of any kind. The collective includes hundreds of festival workers from projectionists to drivers and caterers. 

“I certainly support labor movements and we’ve certainly gone through this just now with our unions,” Gerwig said. “I hope that the festival workers can form an agreement that is good for them and supports them and supports the festival.”

Earlier a decision was made by the festival to ban protests on the Croisette. In the press conference producer Pierfrancesco Favino called the festival a “free space” when he was asked about the war. The Cannes Film Festival has a film about Gaza in its program. Jury member Sy urged politicians to stop Israel’s ground invasion of Rafah.

It may be naive to think the high-profile film festival will avoid pro-Hamas protests. This is the kind of exposure the demonstrators search for. The antisemitic protests are happening around the world. It just seems like it is only happening here because it is what we see in the media. 


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