Cannes You Not?

I’m going to be hard pressed to keep finding Parisian pun titles for my articles on this, but as long as Cannes film festival keeps seesawing on the scale of gender equality I will have to be cringe worthy.

But seriously, what is going on with Cannes this year?

Last years festival caused a stir when 82 female directors, led by late filmmaker Agnes Varda, took a stand on the red carpet to represent the 82 female directors who had their films screened at Cannes since the festival’s inception, compared to 1,688 male directors [1]. It was a demand for change and yet this year what we have gotten is a confusing mess of championing female content and yet denying them entry into their own premieres if they’re not wearing high heels.

A year after signing the 50×50 by 20×20 pledge the festivals jury panel and selection committee reached a equal split of men and women, yet out of the 21 films competing this year only four are directed by women, which is only one more than in 2018 [2]. It is these kinds of juxtapositions that seem to have defined the festival this year. For example, the festival provided child care facilities for attendees for the first time in its history, and then gave an honorary Palm D’Or to Alain Deon who has acknowledged slapping women in the past and openly opposes the adoption of children by same-sex parents.

Festival director Thierry Fremaux was also quoted saying both positive and problematic things. Complying with the transparency in the selection progress requested in the pledge he signed last year revealed that of all the films received as submissions for the festival 26% were directed by women and 27.5% of all films selected were directed by women. Yet his response was, “There have never been so many women directors in the official selection because there have never been so many women directors in the industry as a whole.” Which is just plain untrue and subsequently undermines all the females who have been working in the industry for many years.

But to the 50×50 by 20×20 goal. To reach gender parity within the next 6 months is going to take a lot more effort from all parties in the industry in order to get there. Oscar winner Julianne Moore spoke out at the festival calling for quotas to get us there [3]. “I believe in trying to level the playing field for everybody regardless of their gender or their culture or ethnicity,” she said. “You have to open doors.” Its a debatable topic due to the idea of merit and fairness, but if it takes a quota for women to finally be discovered then I say bring it on.

At the end of the day there was progress made in some areas at this years Cannes, but by no means are we close enough to where we need to be. It is time for festivals, productions, people with power in the industry to stop trying to take the easy road. To reach parity by 2020 requires a big bit of action, whether its quotas, mandatory inclusion riders, discounts for gender equal productions, whatever. Only action will spur change and I for one can’t wait to see it come to fruition.


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