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Cannes 2014 Lineup Revealed; Only Two Women Directors in the Main Competition

by Melissa Silverstein
April 17, 2014 9:55 AM
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Director Naomi Kawase
Director Naomi Kawase

For whatever reason, the Cannes Film Festival -- perhaps because of its grandeur, glamorous red carpet, and press attention -- has become the crux around which global conversations about gender and women directors take place. I'm sure that if Cannes director Thierry Fremaux had his way (and he did for many, many years), no one would even comment on the lack of gender diversity at his festival. But the world has changed, and Mr. Fremaux has clearly heard the message -- in his own way -- as he dribbled out a bunch of announcements over the last month that he hoped would satisfy his critics on this issue. First Jane Campion was anointed the jury president, then Andrea Arnold will head the Critics Week jury, and lastly that Rebecca Zlotowski will lead two other juries during Critics Week.

Yet none of those announcements take away from the fact that the festival still has a problem with including women directors in the main competition. I refuse to accept the bullshit that women are not making "good enough" films. Because "good enough" is simply a shield and a code -- just another way to keep women out by pretending there is some objective standard for quality when all judgments are subjective and influenced by the viewer's own tastes, background, and biases. So where is Liv Ullmann's Miss Julie? Where is Susanne Bier's Serena? Where is Mia Hansen-Love's Eden? Sure, she's young, but Xavier Dolan is even younger and he's in again. 

Mr. Fremaux did his best to appease the situation by mentioning that there will be 15 women directors this year at the Cannes Film Festival. But that figure is padded; five of those women are the directors of a compilation film called Bridges of Sarajevo that's playing at a special screening. As it stands there will be just two women -- Alice Rohrwacher with La Meraviglie and Naomi Kawase with Still the Water in the main competition. That's two women out of a total of 18 films.  Last year was no better with, only one woman-directed film in competition out of 19. 

After Mr. Fremaux boasted about his fifteen women, he went on to talk about how he has been in touch regularly with Terence Malick about his incomplete film. I wonder how many women he tracks like he tracks Malick? I'm guessing none. That's the culture of Cannes, where you see certain male directors over and over again. More unacknowledged biases. 

Un Certain Regard always does better in terms of gender diversity. This year, the opening film Party Girl is co-directed by two women, Marie Amachoukeli and Claire Burger, and one man, Samuel Theis. This year, five out of the 19 film in Un Certain Regard are directed by women. Last year there were six.

Including the opening film, the other women-directed films in Un Certain Regard include: Jessica Hausner's Amour fou, July Jung's Dohee-ya, Keren Yedaya's Harcheck mi headro, and Asia Argento's Incomprensa. 

In addition to Bridges of Sarajevo, which has multiple female directors (I don't have their names yet), Stephanie Valloatto's film Caricaturistes - Fantassins de la democratie will get a special screening out of competition. 

So thus begins the next iteration of the conversation about women directors. Stay tuned for much, much more.

Full lineup: Variety

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  • oaif | May 6, 2014 4:27 PMReply

    There are significantly less female filmmakers in the world as opposed to males. That's why you only see two women on a roster with the likes of Mike Leigh, Ken Loach, Godard, Cronenberg, Assayas, Nuri Bilge Cyan, Xavier Dolan (who made a name for himself at Cannes), and the Dardenne Brothers. It wasn't just women who were pushed to the wayside for those seasoned contenders. Be that as it may, however, up to three or four of the directors this year are saying that it will be their last film. So yeah. They got the pass and maybe someone else's didn't get in for any number of reasons, that most likely being one of them.

    See here's the problem. No one is going to take into account the number of reasons why Susanne Bier's newest movie didn't get in. No one wondered by Mike Leigh had to turn to another film festival with Vera Drake, but he noted it anyways. It's because he wasn't done editing. So there's one possibility besides blatant misogyny.

    And as someone said, there's no sense of gender discrimination if the head of the conference was seeking out Terrence Malick. Terrence Malick is considered an apostle of filmmaking by much of the festival circuit, especially in France where film is taken seriously, and not just seen as a boys or girls club.

    Why do you think there are 5 women out of the 9 jury members this year? Or why Jane Campion is president of the jury. Direct me to my misunderstanding, please.

  • j.s. | April 23, 2014 12:04 PMReply

    the usual. very few films that are from a woman filmmaker's perspective and yet we make up half the planet. Kind of disgusting in the year 2014, or any year, actually.

  • Withnail | April 18, 2014 10:51 PMReply

    Yet another fascist, man hating article.Nice.

  • Star | April 17, 2014 7:23 PMReply

    "I wonder how many women he tracks like he tracks Malick? I'm guessing none."

    I wonder how MEN he tracks like he tracks Malick. I'm guessing none.

    There's only ONE Terrence Malick.

  • asdf | April 17, 2014 5:06 PMReply

    I'm not even surprised. This little men's club needs to be torn apart and sold for scraps. "Not good enough" is such bullshit when you see some of the garbage selected for Cannes. Those films listed were probably not accepted because they deal with the stories of women and as it can be seen, those are apparently worthless. Who wants to hear about women, they're not even people.


  • E | April 17, 2014 3:50 PMReply

    God forbid any American women get to direct films recognized on an international stage. Maybe we should all change our names so we can be considered artists?

  • Crazyxcrazy | April 17, 2014 12:00 PMReply


    What do you want? half?

  • guest | April 25, 2014 6:15 PM

    yes. that is exactly what i want.

  • Linn D. | April 17, 2014 11:54 AMReply

    Melissa, I "heart" you. Rock on. :)

  • Gabriela | May 7, 2014 9:48 PM

    THANK YOU for this article.

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