Human Floods

Issue 01/15

At each new festival I attend … there it is—my surprised face by the instinctive inclination of audiences to turn everything into a big party.

I’m not a festival man. As they say where I come from, ‘crowds frighten me.’ Meeting more than four people in the same place overwhelms me; I need distance to observe and time to converse. I’m happy at home—in my own home, in the homes of my friends and relatives. I think the only places where I dare to blend into a crowd are cinemas or theatres, perhaps because the seats limit my individual space and I’m camouflaged by the dark.

Inès de la Fressange at Festival de Cannes red carpet, Cannes, France, 2013. AFP Photo/Pool/Olivier Anrigoolivier

And yet my professional life has taken me to several different countries and to be an observer at various—not too few and still not too many—film, urban culture, gastronomy, music and theatre festivals, besides others that are difficult to classify. However original, strange or spectacular their content, through the audiovisual projects that capture the atmosphere and then tell the story and describe the mood, I am still surprised by the instinctive inclination of audiences to turn everything into a big party.

As an unwitting observer, on several occasions I’ve witnessed the minutes that precede the jubilant enjoyment of life: in the cinema, prior to the start of the film that’s causing such a stir, at a restaurant as we’re waiting for the dish we’ve ordered, at a stadium throbbing with emotion just before the beginning of the match … Nevertheless, even though all these situations are in themselves thrilling, none of them have offered me the opportunity of being as happy as possible, a feeling that is experienced by festival-goers. As a result, when I’m reviewing the recorded material and carrying out the simple exercise of choosing the shots that are most entertaining, I always feel I’m running the risk of seeming to exaggerate, of being too sugary.

Even before they cross the threshold, all festival-goers appear to be overcome by a desire to forsake their daily obligations. People stroll, breathe, observe, smile; friends meet up again and as they briefly greet one another they seem to sum up the best of previous events. Evocation and the possibility of repetition are what make man an animal of habits, and the novelty or the mystery of what is about to begin are set aside, almost like a main course, before this festival of memory.


La Tomatina, Buñol, Spain

This is why I think it takes so many years for a festival to become one of the greatest. Its success is built on thousands of memories, piled up on top of one another, transmitted by word of mouth, year after year, communally, so that every time it is held that unrelenting moment of happiness that summons the crowds can be reborn; so that those who have never formed a part of it are sorry that they haven’t; so that those of us who flee from it may raise our eyebrows in surprise.