Festival kicks off with a green message

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The world premiere of The Da Vinci Code opens the 59th Festival de Cannes on Wednesday evening and the huge billboards have been nailed into place covering the outside of the exclusive Carlton Hotel. (They serve the dual purpose of promoting the Hollywood blockbusters due this summer, like Superman Returns and Poseidon, and neatly covering any of the peeling paintwork.)

The petunias have been placed into their slots along La Croisette with such care that the beds now match the colour on the facades of the luxury hotels lining the croissant-shaped boulevard. Gardeners are now at work creating live bamboo screens to separate one luxury beach from another.

There are still a few builders and carpenters erecting the numerous marquees, stages and pavilions on the beach and the shrink wrap is being removed from the pristine rattan furniture. But it’s a safe bet that when Tom Hanks, Paul Bettany, Audrey Tautou, Sir Ian McKellen and director Ron Howard step onto the red carpet on Wednesday night the hammers will have stopped. Well, the festival organisers would not want reality spoiling a good A-list party.

The Festival’s budget amounts to approximately €20m, half of which originates from public funding via the National Cinema Centre (CNC) under the authority of the Ministry of Culture and Communication, the City of Cannes and other local authorities. The financing is completed by contributions from a number of professional and institutional groups along with the Festival’s official corporate sponsors.

However, this year there is a growing movement to combine the luxury and hospitality of the event with environmental awareness. Julie Sisk founder and director of the American Pavilion – the beachfront hangout for young and independent filmmakers – has been inspired to reduce the ‘carbon footprint’ of the restaurant/bar which serves thousands of meals and drinks during the festival and supplies free wifi access for laptops.

Participant Productions, producers of the documentary An Inconvenient Truth, which charts Al Gore’s longtime commitment to reversing global climate change and is in the Cannes official selection, are partnering with the pavilion. The company will quantify the amount of electricity used and purchase renewable energy credits in a process known as carbon offsetting.

Paramount Classics is another partner in the scheme, which includes using only fair-trade tea and coffee and employing Atlanta-based carpet maker Interface to provide reusable floor covering.

The luxurious atmosphere is still firmly in place though. As the invited audience sits down to watch the opening film on Wednesday evening in the plush Lumiére cinema, the five-star Majestic Hotel across the road will be hosting a different gathering in its exclusive Salon Diane, courtesy of PR company The DDA Group and CUSTOM TV As the World Cup looms, this is only one of the football-themed events planned during the Festival. Vintage Brazil talent including Taffarel, Dunga, Bebeto, Aldair, Mauro Silva, Leonardo, Careca, Rai, Gilmar take on an All Star Celebrity team for five-a-side beach tournament on Monday afternoon the same day as a documentary on French icon Zinedine Zidane has a special out of competition screening.

The celebrity team has not been announced as yet. Perhaps the opposition is making them nervous.

The 2006 Cannes Film Festival runs from May 17 until May 28 when the Palme D’Or is awarded.

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