I have officially wrapped up week two in Cannes for the 64th Cannes Film Festival and it was a whirlwind of a trip. I had a chance to check out a few films, interview some pretty amazing directors and even hit up a party or two.
On the surface, Cannes is a city of extravagance, but inside it’s a hidden treasure of natural beauty, surrounded by classic French architecture and breathtaking landscapes. However, after spending so much time there, I realized that Cannes is not much different than any other traditional beach town. Beyond the flashing bulbs and red carpets exists a city full of people living everyday lives, surviving on the many festivals and conferences that drive money into the economy.
Although one can’t deny the enormous wealth and extravagance that the city is known for, only a few steps away from La Croisette you can encounter a very different reality. I was approached on several occasions by women using their small children to beg for money while right across the street, others were walking to yacht parties in $3000 slippers. Or the Cameroonian taxi driver who told me that he lives in Cannes only during the spring/summer festival season and moves north to work the ski resorts during the winters in order to survive.
In large part, it reminds me of Los Angeles — a city of smoke and mirrors that really houses a gritty reality of poverty and homelessness that the local government essentially ignores. In the main areas, prices for everything ranging from a loaf of bread to a bottle of lotion are excessively expensive, making it easy for those with money to navigate, but I would imagine quite difficult for those who are living from check to check. Perhaps it is this extravagance and embracing of money, glamour and luxury that creates the polar opposite.
Nevertheless, beyond the dichotomy of poverty and wealth, Cannes is a breathtaking city that I highly recommend. Just don’t be surprised when you realize in the end that it’s not much different from what you’ve probably already seen.