My flight departed from Charles de Gaulle early morning on May 17th, 1991. I had a backpack, many expectations, and still nowhere to stay. But I wasn't worried, specially now that I had a contact there – just in case. The airplane was filled with people going to the film festival: young and beautiful women, journalists, photographers, agents, actors and directors, executives from all ends of the movie industry. I could look at each one of them and assign a job.
Of course, I had a last-minute middle seat, and the nice woman seating by the aisle had to get up so I could squeeze in. She smiled at me, and we started talking immediately. Her name was Joëlle Robin, a French actress who seemed genuinely interested in my story.
“So, first time in Cannes! Amazing! Where are you going to stay?”
“Well, I still haven’t figured that part out…” I said, to her absolute surprise.
Joëlle looked at me, worried. “Oh, dear, it is very hard to find a hotel available in the city at this point. Plus, they don’t do daily fares, they only book for the whole festival!”
“Really? Well, I will sleep on the beach if that is what it takes. It is going to be an adventure!,” I replied, feeling silly.
The older man seated by the window nodded his head negatively, overhearing us. “Sweetie, this is not carnival in Brazil. This is the most prestigious film festival on the planet,” he finally said.
“I guess that’s why I am here?,” I replied, a little bit annoyed by his nosiness.
Joëlle held my arm, bringing my attention back to her side.
“I have kids myself and I would hate for them to be homeless in Cannes, that’s why I will lend you my chambre-de-bonne, Laura” she said, smiling at the gentleman.
“That is really nice of you,” he replied to her.
I got the feeling that they knew each other.
“Oh my god, are you for real?”
She nodded, “you come with me, the chambre is on the top floor and there is a communal bathroom on the hallway, it is clean and safe.”
I could not believe my luck! My angels were really looking after me! Not only I had gotten a place to stay even before the airplane landed, but I had been offered a ride all the way from Nice to Cannes, a good 40 minutes’ drive; and many tips about where to go for movie tickets, food and how to meet the industry people!
Reporter in Action
Once I get settled at Joëlle’s chambre-de-bonne, that was indeed very decent and proper, I changed into my first Journalist outfit, something that would make me look older. I grabbed my fake letter with the potato stamp, passport, notebook, a bunch of pens (if I was going to play the reporter, I needed to play it right) and headed to the bus stop to wait for the number 1, as Joëlle had instructed me to.
As I sat there revising my speech, all I could think about was the silver lining that had led me to being in Cannes that exact moment: how being placed in a dangerous household, then an emergency second foster home where I was not welcomed, led me to finding peace in the movies. And how I enjoyed watching them when I moved to Paris. As a result, I was waiting for the bus to the Palais des Festivals at that magical moment. It was amazing! It was almost divine, and I was so thankful that my lips were tight together in a perpetual smile. One of satisfaction, of victory!
Not an actress... just acting!
At the entrance of the Palais, I went to the accreditation booth. As I started to confidently talk to the nice woman on the other side of the will call, she looked intrigued.
“I am a reporter for the Jornal de Brasil, but unfortunately my credentials were lost with my luggage upon my arrival in Nice. Nevertheless, I have a letter here,” I said as I pulled my precious work of art.
Hold on, we are talking about 1991, the pre-internet era, when things were much more based on what you told and how you told them. No records, no Google, no cell phones to double check information. No fucking fake news!
The Art of Improvising
The woman took a long pause to read it, then she put her fingers on top of the stamp, maybe a little bit suspicious of the crooked potato letters I had carved out. Then she took a look at my passport, my picture, my info, and straight up to my face.
“Ms. Malin, I see here that you just turned 17. How can you be an international correspondent?”
Oh, fuck, she paid attention to my birth date...Improvise, Laura, Improvise!, I told myself.
“Well, thing is, my father is the owner of this newspaper. I want to be an entertainment reporter and I am currently living in Europe, so it made sense that I would come cover the film festival and prove to everybody at the newspaper that I have my own merits.”
She looked at me for an uncomfortable 30 seconds before she handed me out a laissez-passer for that day. I got so excited that I thanked her more than I should, almost screwing up my disguise.
*this story is not over! Subscribe to the blog to keep posted when I drop the suite!