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Cannes Wrap-Up: Festival President Admits They Need to Work Harder to Include Women Directors

by Melissa Silverstein
May 29, 2012 11:25 AM
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The Palme d'Or is the best-known laurel in the film festival world.

Cannes wrapped up this weekend with Austrian filmmaker Michael Haneke winning the Palme d'Or for Amour.  He also won the Palme d'Or in 2009 for the last film he had in the festival, White Ribbon

There were a couple of women directors who were acknowledged for their work at Cannes.  French director Noemi Lvovsky won the SACD PRIZE 2012 as part of Director's Fortnight for her film Camille Rewinds and Aida Begic was awarded Un Certain Regard Special Distinction for her film Dject.

There were clearly a variety of narratives out of Cannes, one was clearly the rain, and one was clearly the issue of women directors.  I cannot tell you how many press stories I read mentioned the lack of women directors in competition.  I give it up again to the women of La Barbe for starting the conversation with their manifesto, and I take great pleasure in acknowledging the over 2,600 signers and 170 initial signatories to the petition Where Are the Women Directors? that Women and Hollywood put together to raise our collective voices in protest of women directors being overlooked for the main competition.

I know there are some who disagree with the approach we took here asking for transparency in the selection process and diversity in the selection committee.  Speaking out in support of women directors does not mean we believe the selectors will have to lower themselves to include a woman.  Please.  Those comments are even more demeaning to women directors. 

Again, no one who signed the petition thinks that a woman directed film should be included just because it was directed by a woman -- what we want is for women to reach the top tier so they can be fairly considered. 

Shockingly, it seems that the powers that be at Cannes, namely festival Preseident Gilles Jacob, heard the protests and said to the Guardian: "I am sure that next year the chief selector, Thierry Frémaux, will look more carefully to find films by women."  He also said it was a "shame" that only one woman -- Jane Campion -- had won (or shared) the Palme d'Or, and he also admitted that film is dominated by men and that Cannes is a reflection of that.  Yeah, we kind of figured that one out.

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  • Jan Lisa Huttner | June 7, 2012 12:35 AMReply

    Yo, Melissa: Been absorbed & just catching up, but HUGE CONGRATS for organizing the online petition!!! Despite the stupid (& oh so predictable) blow-back, you accomplished a great deal on this round & it will certainly pay off in future. BRAVA :-)

  • Ginger Liu | May 29, 2012 3:52 PMReply

    I just received this message from Hunter. "Hunter Todd • WorldFest has always had a special place for Femme Directors, and we always include them every year, from all over the world. This year, 35 female directors out of 155 films! Take that Cannes! Interestingly enough, we have no agenda about women directors, we only select our films because they are good! "Excellence is our only agenda" and 35 female directors were selected for screening and for Remi Awards. I does make one wonder about the selection process in other festivals if they cannot find one female director and we picked 35! The 46th WorldFest is 04/12-21, 2013"

  • Ginger Liu | May 29, 2012 3:35 PMReply

    I'm still arguing this point to a few white guys out there who don't see the problem. Why would THEY see a problem. But maybe, just maybe reading about it and listening to us might have the issue sink in - might have them asking the same why.

  • debbie | May 29, 2012 1:26 PMReply

    Thank you Melissa for adding your voice to the conversation. These are older white men. A lot has changed during their lifetimes. I'm sure they don't intend to exclude women. It just happens, because it's always happened. The film industry is sadly way behind the times. If Cannes adds a few women to the selection committee and they make sure to watch the best films directed by women, that's at least a little progress in the right direction.

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