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Kick the Cannes
May 17, 2004

By James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.
contributor to

In the bowels of the Cannes Film Festival, a group of stars called "the jury" deliberates away. They're the elite bunch who decides which films will take home the awards.

On opening day of this year's festival, jury president Quentin Tarantino wailed, "Politics be damned."

The guy may be sought after when it comes to directing, but apparently he's ignored when it comes to directives. Politics made their French Riviera presence known despite Tarantino's decree.

In last week's "Left Coast Report," I told you about how French show business workers were threatening to stage protests over plans to cut their benefits and how organizers of the festival were in a pickle. Well, they came up with a way to get out of the political brine they were in. Or so they thought.

Organizers invited protesters to don tuxedos and become part of the show, offering them an emcee-sized welcome on opening night. It was thought to be a way of providing labor activists with an opportunity to voice grievances and not disrupt events.

But ticked-off workers staged daily protests on the sidelines of the festival anyway, which led to clashes with police.

At one particular gathering, Michael Moore joined anti-globalization activist Jose Bove to show support for the workers.

"A job is a human right, a living wage is a human right. This is a human right," Moore shouted through a megaphone to several hundred workers who had clustered on the Croisette beachwalk.

Standing alongside Bove, Moore continued, "I am here today in solidarity with the French workers who are here to seek a living wage."

At a peripheral event, some of the workers proceeded to occupy the Star cinema. Police broke up a group of about 100 protesters who were planning to force out the audience and disrupt festival screenings.

In another skirmish with the cops outside a Cannes police station, scores of protesters demanded that the gendarmes let go of their previously arrested buddies.

France's senior state representative in the Cannes region even felt obliged to issue an apology for the actions of the police, maybe because some journalists were injured in the tussles.

Also on display for Cannes viewing pleasure was Shrek 2. The animated flick kept the labor theme going in a scene where Shrek and toon friends gain access to the fairy godmother's magic castle by posing as union officials who are inspecting worker abuse.

Festival attendees must have really enjoyed the break from politics as they watched a flick with fairy tale characters and imaginary themes - Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 911."

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Copyright © 2004
James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.

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