France pension protest held on outskirts of Cannes Film Festival

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French union demonstrators march to protest President Emmanuel Macron's pension reform during the 76th edition of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, Sunday, May 21, 2023. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)

CANNES – Protests over pension reforms have roiled France in recent months, but demonstrations have been kept largely at bay at one of the country's glitziest events, the Cannes Film Festival.

On Sunday, dozens of protesters gathered in Cannes to oppose the raising of the reforms pushed through parliament by President Emmanuel Macron's government. Those protests, however, were far removed from the central hub of the festival, the Palais des Festivals, or Cannes' seaside boulevard, the Croisette. Instead, they gathered on the edge of the city, on the Boulevard Carnot.

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“We are against the retirement reforms which will make many people die at work.," said Tomas Ghestem, one of the demonstrators.

Ahead of the festival, local authorities in Cannes ordered a ban on rallies throughout much of Cannes. That move was part of increasing attempts throughout France to prohibit demonstrations in some high-profile locations. Unions have called for a new round of nationwide demonstrations on June 6.

The ban has kept Cannes' famous red carpet clear of demonstrations and prevented one of the most divisive issues in France from disturbing the highly orchestrated flow of the festival.

One exception was on Friday. Hospital workers skirted the ban by protesting on private grounds in front of the Carlton Hotel, a historic luxury hotel where many stars stay during the festival stay. Hotel and catering workers held up a banner reading “No to pension reforms.”

Labor strife has colored much of this year's Cannes, which is happening while Hollywood screenwriters are on strike. Film and TV writers are seeking higher pay, reforms for the streaming era and safeguards against the use of artificial intelligence.

Juror Paul Dano said he planned to join the picket lines when he returned home. Sean Penn called the studios' stance on AI “a human obscenity.” The board for SAG-AFTRA, the actors union, earlier this week voted to ask its members for strike authorization in its own negotiations with studios for a new contract.

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