A fleet of energy-guzzling luxury yachts and private planes, kilos of gourmet food dumped, limousines driving stars just a few hundred metres: for environmentalists, the Cannes film festival is just “one big mess”.
“There is, without a doubt, a huge amount that needs to be done by the festival organisers to make it more environmentally friendly,” said Cyril Dion, a filmmaker and climate activist.
For the 12-day extravaganza, the French Riviera town gets a glamorous makeover, leaving no stone unturned as turns on the charm to play host to a glittering array of global cinema’s biggest names.
But for local environmental organisation ADEN, the flip side is a lot less attractive, with the world’s biggest film festival creating phenomenal pollution.
“During the festival, the population triples, and all of these people have to travel,” said ADEN head Genevieve Huchet.
“Professionals and artists fly in to the airport at Cannes or Nice, a convoy of vehicles often led by motorcycles with their sirens wailing drive them to their hotels, the huge yachts in the bay with their motors running all day in order to have electricity.”
Every day, the red carpet is changed three or four times, and the festival prints out countless thousands of flyers advertising the daily film listings, which sometimes end up in the sea.
And that’s without mentioning the vast numbers of glossy magazines printed out every day for the first week or so of the festival, with daily copies issued by The Hollywood Reporter, Screen, Variety and Le Film Francais among others.
All of which amounts to “frenzied consumerism”, Huchet says.
In 2015, the festival generated an extra 1,900 tonnes of rubbish for the city of Cannes, ADEM says, pointing to the last available figures.
Fireworks, flowers and fuel
If the finger is pointed at everyday festivalgoers, those responsible for the heaviest toll are first and foremost the numerous celebrities who walk the Croisette.
“Imagine the wishes of the stars, all their desires, ordering mountains of flowers, then changing the order at the demand of their aides, the decoration of their suites, what food they order and how much gets dumped when they don’t eat it,” she said.
And offshore, the private parties on board yachts where impressive displays of fireworks light up the night sky, sending clouds of fine dust particles into the air and debris into the sea, posing risks for seabirds and other marine life.
But more than anything, it is the constant rumble of air traffic that most bothers the residents of Cannes, which begins in earnest with the festival and continues on into the summer.
Last year, Cannes airport registered 1,700 private take-offs and landings in May, averaging 54 a day, compared with 1,000 in April and more than 2,000 during the summer months.
Planes taking off and landing are a major source of noise which can reach up to 80 decibels for those with the loudest engines, while normal levels of ambient noise are below 50 decibels, figures from the ADNA local campaign group said.
Leo and the yachts
“The stars coming here, that’s all very well, but with their noisy jets, they ruin our lives. We cannot live with the windows open at this time of year,” said Albert Dauphin, who heads the group.
Cannes Mayor David Lisnard insists that the town does what it can to ease the environmental impact of the cinema showcase.
“Contrary to popular opinion, I don’t think there is a lot of waste during the festival,” insisted the town’s mayor, David Lisnard, pointing out that the red carpet is made of recyclable material and that there is a marine clean-up after any fireworks.
“Many stars portray themselves as defenders of the environment when in reality, there are several paradoxes,” Lisnard admitted.
If Oscar-winning actor Leonardo DiCaprio, who has made a name for himself as an environmental activist, were to “empty the waste from his yacht into the bay of Cannes, he would get a fine, just like anyone else”.
DiCaprio was in Cannes this week for the premiere of Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood” and also for the launch of “Ice on Fire”, his latest environmental documentary.