The new Cannes Film Festival harassment hotline is receiving multiple calls per day, the festival has told us. According to France’s Equality Minister Marlène Schiappa, one complaint from an “Anglo-Saxon woman”, has been escalated to the local police.
The festival was unable to provide further information on the nature of the police complaint but told us that the hotline had received “a few calls” each day of the festival, which began on Tuesday. These were mostly from general public rather than industry professionals, a spokesperson said.
Three employees staff the hotline, which operates between 9am-2am. The operators speak multiple languages. A festival spokesperson told us: “The hotline staff can provide advice on what to do but can also directly contact the relevant professionals, starting of course with the festival security staff but also police, hospitals, medical teams etc. The workers are also able to accompany the victims to help with translations, etc.”
The initiative — which follows the lead of similar hotlines at Sundance and upcoming CinemaCon — was created in partnership with the French government and is one of a number of steps the festival has taken this year to put a spotlight on harassment.
The festival has put flyers in the gift bags of accredited festival-goers, which state “correct behaviour required” and include the hashtag #NeRienLaisserPasser, or “Do not let anything go”. The fliers state that sexual harassment is punishable with a maximum three-year prison sentence and a €45,000 ($54,000) penalty.
Not all male festival attendees have taken heed of that message, it would seem. I heard from one festival regular this week how she was touched inappropriately by a stranger at a work event. The accredited festival-goer put his carry bag on the bare legs of the seated woman and pretended to rummage for something at the bottom, she said, thus touching her a number of times and making her feel uncomfortable. “It was strange and unacceptable,” she noted.
Yesterday, Jury President Cate Blanchett and French cinema icon Agnes Varda led 81 women in a red-carpet happening to protest gender inequality. On Monday the festival will take part in a conference on the subject.