“It’s coming home!” A man, who I met briefly two days ago here in Cannes and have since forgotten his name, yells at me as we bump elbows on Rue D’Antibes. It’s the first full day of Cannes Film Festival and while the eyes of the world are trained on the directors and stars of a line-up of the most anticipated movies of the year, a selection of attendees are finding themselves somewhat distracted.
Aside from the weather, perhaps the biggest difference of Cannes being staged in July is that it has landed in the final week of the Euro 2020 (not 2021) soccer tournament. For the ardent sports fans among the delegation, particularly those with national teams still in the competition (Denmark, England, Italy), being able to watch the matches is as pressing as securing your tickets for the hottest films in town.
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Tonight at 9pm local time is the semi-final between Denmark and England, and it’s a pretty big deal for two nations that have a record of mixed success at international tournaments. Denmark has won the Euros once, in 1992, when it hugely upset the odds, while England, the country which claims to have invented the sport, has never been this deep in the tournament, having only appeared in one previous major international final, way back in 1966.
International Cannes delegations may be considerably smaller this year, but there are still plenty of English and Danes in town, and excitement levels are getting feverish as kick-off approaches. For quite a few here, this is a momentous occasion.
“It’s really important for us,” says Helene Auro, sales and marketing director at Copenhagen-based company REinvent Studios.
There are likely to be more English in town, many of whom will take over the regular soccer venues, such as the Irish pubs Ma Nolan’s, The Station Tavern, and Morrisons, which are likely to all be packed to the rafters. “We went to the Irish pubs last night [to watch the previous semi-final, Italy v Spain], it was a very good atmosphere but I guess that’s not the place for the Danes,” adds Auro.
The exec has been scrambling through her contacts book today to round up as many Danish delegates as possible for the game, in a bid to establish a little Viking-like spirit via strength in numbers. They will be gathering at Café Cristal near the Marina. “We think we will win!” asserts Auro confidently.
The Danish producer Lina Flint, of The Guilty fame, is about to board a plane to Nice with her kids. “I will land at Nice Airport exactly when the game starts tonight, so I guess we (writer Maren Louise Käehne and I) will watch the first part of the game in a car and hopefully the second part at a bar in Cannes,” she tells me.
On the Brit side, many will gather en masse outside Ma Nolan’s (good luck getting a table), while others are heading out early to try and secure seats at Café Roma, which has multiple restaurant tables with screens, or space outside regular Brit haunt Le Petit Majestic, which has a screen indoors that is just about visible from the street.
For those with work commitments right up to kick-off, private showings are being hastily arranged in offices and hotel rooms. Lawrence Atkinson, CEO at PR firm DDA, is putting on a small showing for his employees, who coincidentally have a clear night before working on films screening each of the next three evenings. “It’s sheer luck that our schedule has worked out this way,” he says.
Chris Hagen at rival PR firm Premier is not so lucky and will be on assignment tonight for at least the first half of the match. “I have downloaded a number of VPNs on my laptop and my phone so I can watch the game. As it’s official activity tonight, I won’t be able to wear my lucky English shirt as it’s not quite up to dress code standards,” he jokes. “I’ll be relying on WhatsApps from back home to keep me updated.”
Hagen is hopeful that England will progress to Sunday’s final, which would be against Italy again at 9pm local time. “If England beat Denmark, then I think we’ll set up shop in a bar reasonably early in the evening on Sunday and watch from there. I’ve been scouting out every bar we walk past during our travels for its soccer-watching potential and have a few in mind, but I don’t want to get ahead of myself,” he adds.
Many in the industry were unable to get to Cannes this year so will be supporting their teams from afar, while working the festival and market virtually.
Danish sales company LevelK is conducting all of its Cannes activity remotely. “The good thing is, we will not have any problem watching this thriller game tonight,” says Natascha Degnova, head of PR & marketing, on not being able to travel.
Some 200 miles away, Claus Ladegaard, CEO of the Danish Film Institute, is on holiday in Piemonte when I reach out to him. “No one really seems to care about soccer here. I watched the first semi-final at my hotel with four bored Frenchmen, but I just found that the hotel I’m in has a conference room with a 4×6 meter screen where I can watch the Denmark game. Probably alone!” He tells me.
Naturally, every Danish executive is predicting a Denmark win, while the English are convinced football (soccer) is indeed coming home (as per the famous English soccer song Three Lions). Neutrals on the other hand are mixed in their outlooks. I spoke to several French who are keen for England to win now their team has departed the tournament, while others are backing Denmark in part due to the tragic situation with their player Christian Eriksen, who suffered a cardiac arrest during the first game of the tournament and had to be resuscitated on the pitch.
Regardless of the outcome, expect feverish excitement on the Croisette when Italy lines up against tonight’s victors on Sunday evening for the Euros final. For some attendees, this year’s Cannes will be memorable for reasons beyond film.
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