Cannes Film Festival is world renowned for bringing some of the most prestigious cinema to the one place. From Indie shorts to Big Blockbusters Cannes is certainly the place to make a name for yourself.
Up until now, however, women have not featured very heavily. And thats not to say that women don’t attend, but for a long time female filmmakers have been getting the short end of the stick. Since the beginning of Cannes the only woman to have won best director was Russian director Yuliya Solntseva in 1961. An appalling statistic…
But this year the festival showed women the spotlight. Firstly with the biggest piece of news to come out of the event; that another female director had won best director. Sophia Coppola’s The Beguiled came out on top with the win and heralded a significant step forward in cinema’s history. It also put the festival ahead of the Oscars, which has only ever had one woman win best director. Whilst we reflexively call this win an achievement both for Sophia Coppola and female filmmakers I can’t help but think that it’s about damn time! There have been signs pointing toward 2017 not really being any better than 2016 in terms of gender diversity in the film industry but I think Cannes stands as a representation that women (and others) are really just fed up with the division.
Jessica Chastain certainly wasn’t afraid to speak out against the lack of diversity and how she thought it was affecting cinema’s ability to reflect life and represent a more accurate version of reality.
She said “After watching 20 films in 20 days, the one thing I take away from this is how the world views women, and it was quite disturbing to me. I was surprised by the representation of female characters on screen.
“I hope that when we include female storytellers we will see more of the women that I recognise in my daily life…the pro-active women that don’t just react to the men around them.”
The other influential woman to actively speak out at Cannes was Australia’s own Nicole Kidman who stated that she actively seeks work with female directors. As an important message to those already working in the industry Kidman stressed the importance of female actors working with female directors. She was quoted saying “We as women have to support female directors. Hopefully it will change over time, but everybody keeps saying ‘oh it’s so different now, oh it’s so different now’, and it isn’t.”
Having two highly coveted stars draw attention to this issue at a place like Cannes is big for bridging the Gender Gap. Unfortunately the statistics of the competition only improved slightly however from 2016 with 16% of the competition films directed by women. The big number jump for the festival was in the Directors Fortnight category where women helmed 35% of films entered. This number up by 13% from last year.
So yes. Cannes took quite a few, if small, steps in the right direction and for that I think the only way to conclude is to say we have a long way to go but…