Cannes film festival: The things we don't talk about

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Cannes film festival: The things we don't talk about
The two sides of Cannes. Photo: AFP

As celebrities clad in Chanel twirled on the red carpet at the 72nd Cannes Film Festival, less than a block away several homeless locals could be seen panhandling for a meal, reports Yeeseon Chae.


The festival's glitz and glamour throws in to sharp relief the poverty and inequality present in the city and the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region. 

The festival that has become synonymous with the city brings in about €30 million in just 12 days. But as much revenue as the festival brings in, there is also displacement that occurs.


The bright lights of the Cannes film festival hide a multitude of problems. Photo: AFP

It’s not hard to imagine how far removed the festival-goers and rich tourists are from the rest of everyday Cannes.

The considerable economic inequality is present in the housing alone.

The city of Cannes simultaneously has some of the world’s most expensive real estate and also a higher poverty rate than the national average.

The average price per square metre of property in Cannes is €23,133, according to the 2012 Wealth Report from Knight Frank and Citi Bank, while the average yearly salary in Cannes is €28,202.

To address theese multiple disparities, the City Council of Cannes and seven local businesses and individual donors have created the Cannes Foundation.

The fund’s objectives are to “create a true and long lasting solidarity between local and foreign residents of the city who care about Cannes,” and “allow inhabitants and businesses to efficiently provide concrete support to the projects of their choice." 

The Fund also helps donors to identify the beneficiaries and precisely allocate the charitable contributions.

If the foundation means to amend the current state of the city, there is a lot of work to be done.

A total of 18.4 percent of families in Cannes fall under the poverty rate, higher than the national average of 13.9 per cent. The Gini index - which measures wealth inequality - for Cannes is 40 per cent, compared to the national average of 30 percent.

The increasing national sentiment for improved economic conditions against income disparity was echoed by the 'yellow vest' protesters, around 150 of whom gathered close to the Palais des Festivals.

Their presence was banned in the city centre by the new representative of the Alpes-Maritime state this past weekend.

Such inequalities, however, are far from rare.

Though the tourism sector of Cannes may hide the flaws from the red carpet, filmmakers like veteran British director Ken Loach have been lauded for bringing inequality and issues of modern poverty to the front.

Sorry We Missed You, Loach’s new film centered around a working-class family in Newcastle, opened this past week at the festival to glowing reviews.

“I always hope that my films will change attitudes or lead to a reflection on the world, but the rich will probably not see Sorry We Missed You,” Loach said in an interview with 20 Minutes.

He also added that he "admired the courage" of the 'yellow vest' protesters.

It is striking that the festival favorite is a film discussing the increasing global income gap and its costs to everyday people when you consider the social and economic context of the festival itself.

But we must continue to talk about the displacement and real-life consequences that occur when incredibly large-scale events, like the film festival, bring a tremendous amount of opportunity and simultaneously disenfranchisement to the same place.

Yeeseon Chae helps to run the Lost in Frenchlation cinema club in Paris. The group's next screening is on Saturday, May 25th. Find out more here.



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