On a few separate occasions this week, I’ve heard of instances where Directors’ Fortnight screening attendees saw attempts made by audience members to film movies once the lights went down. In one scenario, a film industry exec tells me they saw a spectator almost blatantly pull a movie camera out of a knapsack and begin shooting the screen. The exec alerted security and the offender was admonished — but not removed from the room. In another instance, someone filming with a smartphone only stopped when loudly scolded. I’ve heard similar stories from others, so I asked the Cannes Film Festival sidebar today what was going on. I was told they haven’t experienced this problem before, but with new digital gadgets popping up all over the place, they agreed they “should police better.”
No film from Cannes has ever been pirated, fest honcho Thierry Frémaux assures me. How could they be? At the Lumière theater in the Palais, where all competition movies are screened, security guards watch from on high and see the whole room. And if they see a smartphone screen light up, they pounce. There are also security checks once you get inside the Palais — I’ve had my rudimentary digital camera confiscated and kept at coatcheck. Hell, you can’t even get a bottle of water into that theater.
The Fortnight is run by a separate organization than the festival, and its screenings take place in the basement of what used to be the Noga Hilton — now the JW Marriot, but it’s gone through so many name changes over the years it’s hard to keep track. Contrary to the festival’s official screenings, the Fortnight is open to the public as well as accredited festgoers. Unlike the Lumière cinema at the Palais, some areas of the Fortnight room are not easily surveyed by security, a Fortnight insider explains. But, the Fortnight has slightly different rules: The introductions of the films that precede screenings can be filmed, but afterwards, audience members are told to place their cameras at their feet. I’m told Fortnight artistic director Edouard Waintrop heard the same story I did about the person with the big camera and allowed that the sidebar has to be more vigilant. I understand the issue will be brought up in tomorrow morning’s daily staff meeting. Given that Cannes is one of the greatest champions of cinema in the world, one Fortnight insider muses, “If we’re not vigilant at Cannes, where would we be?”