A guy from Quebec at the American pavilion in Cannes

When he was a teenager, Laurent-Armand Lachance dreamed of Cannes. As much for the movies as for the glamor. “I always wanted to do cinema,” said the one who did a little figuration. Then the little guy from Sainte-Foy studied, fell in love and moved to the United States 30 years ago. By a strange return of the pendulum whose life sometimes has the secret, he is now responsible for the organization of the American pavilion of the famous festival since … 19 years!
At the table of the pavilion, overlooking the beautiful beach of Cannes, Laurent-Armand Lachance exudes an irresistible joie de vivre. Inviting smile, piercing blue eyes, blond fifties, jeans, pale blue shirt, navy jacket and matching glasses, is inexhaustible.

Our man starts in mid-January the recruitment of about forty employees, then suppliers. It happens a week before the start of the festivities and stays a few days after the conclusion (then take a holiday in Europe). Stars have their habits, from Faye Dunaway to Spike Lee.

The national pavilions, wedged between the Palais des Festivals and the sea, are part of the landscape during the event. It has not always been so. Julie Sisk, his “boss” – Laurent-Armand is self-employed – asked the Festival in 1989 to set up a business center on the beach.

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Its leaders quickly sniffed the bargain. They also praise the spaces for gold prices, but being present, for the producing countries, is a must for business (Quebec and Canada each have their flag).

The American flag does not get money from the government. He calls on sponsors and asks for membership. They are more than 1500 members, “half of whom are not Americans”. Other visitors must pay, unlike other pavilions (but admission is free from 18h to 22h). Pay? There is a kitchen, a lot of events and workshops. And crazy parties, very popular.

There is also the biggest LBGTQ party of the Festival, for 11 years. Tuesday, we expect more than 1200 people to party until 2am.

Educational vocation

But, says our man, not very proud, the American flag also has an educational vocation. It hosts some 200 students in training during the festival. Not only there. They also work in other pavilions or with companies on site.

In exchange for a five-hour volunteer work, students in film (mostly), event and cooking, recruited in the United States, Canada, Asia and England, can live the full experience of the Cannes.

“It allows them to be in the middle, not just walking on the Croisette,” says Laurent-Armand Lachance. And even more: we organize ourselves to find them tickets so that they can make the famous rise of the steps of the red carpet.

And Laurent-Armand? Very busy, obviously. But there is no shortage of Xavier Dolan’s films presented in competition – he will be there for Matthias and Maxime.

The rest of the year? The resident of Newport, Rhode Island, does events like the local governor’s ball or Tennis Week. He also coordinated an American Pavilion at the Venice Film Festival for the five years of the experience and at the Sundance Festival.

But still and always he comes back, aware of his “luck” to participate in a “mythical” event. “After the first year, I did not know if I would necessarily come back. Nineteen years later, I’m still here.

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