Summer equals festivals in France, especially in the sunny South with its many outdoor events. Villages, towns, coastal resorts, they all have festivals of one kind or another where high and low culture each have their place. Among the more important ones is the theatre festival in Avignon, founded 70 years ago by French actor and director Jean Vilar.
|Antigone at Palais des Papes|
The OFF festival of more than one thousand smaller productions must largely fend for itself but is often the place where new talent is discovered and where creativity may be greatest. Youthful enthusiasm is all around, and the fire-in-the-belly of these young actors is almost palpable as they roam the streets, hand out programs and try to draw you into their theatres. They need it − with performances starting at 10:30 in the morning and running past midnight every day, it takes energy as well as talent to keep up the pace. And to keep the hope alive that someday, somewhere, they will be "discovered" and offered a chance to shine in Paris. It happens.
LE QUATORZE JUILLET
France celebrates its national holiday on the 14th of July, and this year President Trump was the guest of honor at the military parade on the Champs Elysées. The somewhat artificial reason for President Macron's invitation to Donald Trump was that this year marks the centennial of the United States' entry into the first World War. The parade was therefore led by American soldiers and some old WW-1 tanks. It was the usual display of military might and patriotic pride: sophisticated war machinery, well-choreographed troops, marching bands and flyovers, all meticulously executed under very high security. It was also an occasion to show Franco-American friendship and Melania Trump's dresses (she did beat Mrs. Macron in elegance).
The visit was not without risk in this country where Donald Trump has few admirers. Some accused Macron of grandstanding and catering to the enemy. Others see him as a savvy strategist who invited an embattled Trump in an attempt to obtain American support for French military operations in Africa and to try and reverse the US decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord. Trump's tantalizing parting message that "something could happen with respect to the climate change agreement; we'll see what happens" lit a spark of hope. If this vague promise could become reality, Macron's charm offensive would have paid off handsomely. But we will not hold our breath.
After the parade in Paris with Donald Trump at his side, President Macron flew to Nice which on this day remembered the victims of last year's terrorist attack by a radical islamist who drove his 19-ton truck into a crowd of people as they were leaving the July 14 fireworks, crushing 86 of them to death and wounding 443 others. In a somber and moving commemoration ceremony where the names and ages of the victims were read aloud, Macron added a name to the board of tiles that formed a heart-shaped list of the dead, placed temporarily near the site of the tragedy on the famous Promenade des Anglais seaside boulevard.
|Macron adds name to list of victims|
|Nice honors its victims|
At nightfall, following a last tribute on the Promenade, 86 blue light beams suddenly pierced the sky as 86 large white balloons ("our angels") were released in a final salute to each of the victims.
It was a moving and beautiful sight, bringing on thoughts of the randomness of death. Or of life.
Remember yesterday and live life today, because there may be no tomorrow.