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Sign the Petition! Where Are the Women Directors?

by Melissa Silverstein
May 18, 2012 12:14 PM
  • |
Andrea Arnold and Diane Kruger
Andrea Arnold and Diane Kruger

It's been very interesting to watch the opening of the Cannes Film Festival.  In light of the fact that there are no women directors in competition and the great work of La Barbe, at the opening press conference the jury as well as the directors of the festival were confronted with a barrage of questions about the issue.

I remember two years ago when there were no women directors in competition and there was a petition started "You Cannes Not Be Serious" but there was not that much media converage and that was just after Kathryn Bigelow won the Academy Award for best director.

What a difference two years makes.  The media and the public (thanks to social media) are way more attuned to this issue and we refuse to let the issue rest.

I feel for Andrea Arnold -- the only female director on the jury -- for having to be the representative to speak out on the topic.  She spoke about her disappoinment but not surprise but defended the festival against sexism.  It's a tough spot for any director to be put in, even one as feminst as Arnold.  Here's what she said:

In response to this continuing problem, Women and Hollywood has put together a petition directed to the jurors of the festival.  Here it is:

You will spend the next 11 days watching 22 films that the programmers and leaders of the Cannes Film Festival deemed to be the worthiest of this year's competition.

The Cannes Film Festival is one of the most prestigious festivals in the world.  Festival Films including last year's Oscar winner The Artist have gone on to have long and successful lives, and filmmakers' careers have been launched on the Croisette.  As we all know, the opportunities to have your film seen on a world stage is invaluable.

For the 2012 edition, as with the 2010 edition, there are NO FEMALE DIRECTED FILMS in competition, and in the 64 years of the Festival only one woman -- Jane Campion -- has been awarded the Palme D'Or.

Read the rest of the petition and join the over 1,000 people calling for transparency in the selection process.

I want to thank everyone for their support and help.

Here are some media stories about the petition:

Women on Cannes red carpet -- but not in directors' chairs (LA Times)

In 65 Years of the Cannes Film Festival, Only One Woman Has Been Awarded the Palme D’Or (Jezebel)

Cannes 2012: 700 Protesters Sign Petition Demanding More Women Directors (Hollywood Reporter)

Cannes 2012 Sexist? Lack Of Woman Directors In Competition Spurs Outrage (Huffington Post)

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  • Melissa M. Wilson | May 31, 2012 10:36 PMReply

    Once again Women are treated like second class citizens. It is so obvious that Cannes has only $$$$ in it's eyes, and women still fall short economicaly. Hard to get a leg up when you are overlooked in an arena where the art of film should be genderless. So many incredible and interesting women directors out there just waiting for a chance to dazzle us with their work. Women are the stronger sex and so I know that female directors will never keep plugging away. Shame on you SNOOTY CANNES JUDGES!

  • Karyl Miller | May 30, 2012 6:38 PMReply

    I LOVE your website. Just thought you might like to see this column I wrote for Daily Variety in 1996 regarding women directors.

  • dionmose | May 24, 2012 2:39 AMReply

    I think women can be better director, because they are the perfectionist and have better ability to understand handled other's point of view.

  • Mary | May 23, 2012 9:02 PMReply

    You know what I'd love? A woman to do some of the comicbook-hero/action movie remakes that have been coming out. I bet a woman would understand the nuances of the cannon and not have loused up the upcoming TMNT movie the way Micheal Bay has done.

    We need more sensitive, creative, inspired people in Hollywood, period, both in the independent films and in "regular" movie-making. I'm frankly sick of cookie-cutter movies and stock characters, and triply sick of badly-done remakes of my childhood favorites. :-p This is one film-goer who won't be spending any money in the theater anytime soon, and honestly I'm thinking of dropping my cable entirely because I just don't bother watching television these days.

  • Claudia Cifuentes | May 21, 2012 4:21 PMReply

    There needs to be more support for female directors from the get go. Ladies, put your money where your mouth is! :) I've got a live kickstarter. Female director and producers. Only days left to fund but we can't do it without you. #womensupportingeachother -

  • debbie | May 20, 2012 11:29 AMReply

    For example, an indie film company might have a slate of 4-5 films. If the directors or producers of those films do not have an established relationship with Cannes, the company hires a consultant to review the films and decide which films on their slate are submitted to the selection committee. Usually producers are trying to figure out the best/most appropriate festival for their film in advance, rather than risk being rejected.

    The real problem is a woman director rarely makes it onto the slate of films. If there was a similar situation where 50% of the medical schools or law schools were graduating women, yet the number of women working in those professions was going down, there would be massive lawsuits. It's not clear how to address the gender inequity in the film business, shame doesn't appear to be working.

  • Debbie | May 21, 2012 10:53 AM

    Michele, A class action is probably not a good option, or it's at least an option of last resort. Women don't want to commit career suicide by suing the film companies. I do think a campaign to raise awareness among the public and continued pressure on the film festivals and production companies might work. You've probably heard the argument from men on this board that women simply choose to opt out of being directors or they choose subjects that have no interest to a wider public. Both these myths need to be dispelled.

    Women do not spend $200,000 on film school, then fund a bunch of their own short films, which amounts to years of grueling sacrifice, because they don't really want to be film directors. No one would question whether a woman at the top of her class, who is doing a surgery rotation after medical school, is serious about her career. Also, gender does not always determine the subjects that interest artists. I know plenty of men who write period romance movies and some women who like to blow things up onscreen, it all depends on the personality of the artist.

    Perhaps the independent film companies, who are all owned by parent companies with non-discrimination policies and the European state film funds could be pressured into setting up funds to address the gender inequity. A 1-2 million dollar fund could possibly finance 10 up and coming female directors. $200,000 films shot on the Red or Alexa. There are successful business women who could provide the funding for the "slate" and there are plenty of well known actresses, especially over forty looking for parts. First the industry has to acknowledge there is a problem, then there are a number of ways that problem can be addressed. They just lack the will. There's no reason why the film industry should be the last business on the planet to systematically exclude women.

  • Michele Dagle | May 21, 2012 12:22 AM

    Debbie, thanks for the thorough explanation. Your comparison to medical and law school makes a lot of sense—there seems to be a real disconnect from the number of women graduating film school to how many are in powerful positions in the film industry, including as directors of features. So, what can be done so that more films directed by women get made? Of course, you're right—the absence of women directors from Cannes goes beyond the festival itself. But, I'd love to know how many women are on the selection committee(s).

  • debbie | May 20, 2012 10:56 AMReply

    Michele, I believe there is a selection committee that chooses the films. It's not so easy getting your film in front of the selection committee. You don't just drop it in the mail, if you know what I mean. The jury reviews the selected films in competition and gives out the awards. They probably need more women on the selection committee and need to do greater outreach. You have an established connection for them to even consider the film. All the major festivals operate this way, this is nothing specific to Cannes. That's why you see some of the same directors year after year.

    I do believe the lack of competition worthy women directors has to be addressed from the financed side as well. You can't blame the festivals when films directed by women never even get made. There's also a big problem with women getting financing for their second feature. I can name a number of male directors who lost big money on the first feature and still got a second chance.

  • izzy Knutz | May 19, 2012 11:42 PMReply

    This petition is so apropos to this topic/ discussion. I encourage people to read it and sign…time again to mix things up.

    I am trying to get the word out on this petition. I just signed this forwarded petition: Hollywood executives in film and television: Level the playing field for all people of color and for women.

    The organizer is trying to collect 100 signatures.

    To read more about this petition and sign the petition letter, click here:

    Full initiative write up at

    It'll just take a minute!

    Once you're done, please ask your friends to sign the petition as well. Grassroots movements succeed because people like you are willing to spread the word!



  • migdia chinea | May 18, 2012 3:52 PMReply

    Well, I am here -- !!!!!!!

  • Katharina Kahler | May 18, 2012 3:45 PMReply

    There are women in the Jury - so what does that mean ?

  • Michele Dagle | May 18, 2012 8:17 PM

    From what I understand, the jury doesn't choose the films that will be in competition. Can anyone back me up (or enlighten me)?

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