Cannes Film Festival: a record of female directors in competition, but still a long way to go

Thirty years after Jane Campion and two years after Julia Ducournau, a woman may win the Palme d’Or. This year, seven directors are in the running, among the 21 films selected in official competition at the Cannes Film Festival. Or a third of the selection. Never has the Croisette counted so many. Last year, they were only five to claim the prestigious trophy and four in 2021 and 2019.

Between 1946, date of the first edition, and 2018, of the 1,727 films in official competition, only 82 were directed by women, i.e. 5% of feature films, even notes the 50/50 collectivean ociation that works for equality in cinema.

“I am delighted, because the figures are clearly on the rise”, confirms Fabienne Silvestre, co-founder and director of the “Women of Cinema” Lab, a think tank which works on parity and diversity in cinema and audiovisual. “If there are women honored in the awards, it creates inspirational models for women, it’s very important,” she continues.

Three French women in official competition

Feature films in the running for the Palme d’Or include Club Zero by Austrian director Jessica Hausner, The Chimera by the Italian Alice Rohrwacher and the first film by the Senegalese Ramata-Toulaye Sy, Banel and Adama. Already named in the parallel selection of the Cannes Film Festival “Un certain regard” in 2017, the Tunisian Kaouther Ben Hania is now in official competition for her documentary Olfa’s Daughters.

Three French directors are also vying for the prestigious trophy, Catherine Breillat with her film Last summer and Justine Triet for Anatomy of a fall. The film by Catherine Corsini, The returnwas retained only later after suspicions of harment on set.

In the history of the festival, only two directors have won the prestigious trophy, New Zealand’s Jane Campion in 1993 for The Piano Lesson and the French Julia Ducournau in 2021 for Titanium. A feminist collage in a street in Nice also denounces this imbalance, reported Nice morning Monday: “76 Palmes d’or, only 2 award-winning directors”.

A feminist collage to denounce the lack of parity in the awarding of the Palmes d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival

– Nice-Matin (@Nice_Matin) May 15, 2023

“A festival is a showcase of what cinema produces, tempers Fabienne Silvestre. Given the European average of female filmmakers, it’s very difficult to reach 50% in competition. In fact, women represent only a quarter of directors in Europe, according to figures from European Audiovisual Observatory. “Things cannot be perfect in Cannes, when the environment is not perfect”, estimates the director of the Lab “Women of cinema”.

For its part, the Cannes institution, which did not respond to our requests, says it is committed “to freedom of expression, parity and diversity” on its website: “Each year the Festival composes a official selection that is as demanding as it is attentive to diversity and parity”. In 2018 he signed the Charter for parity and diversity in film festivals of the 50/50 collective. This commits in particular to “making transparent the list of members of the selection committees and programmers” to “remove any suspicion of lack of diversity and parity”.

The “political positions” of the festival criticized

The institution is, however, keenly criticized this year for choosing Jeanne du Barry by Maïwenn in the opening filmdespite the accusations of domestic violence of which Johnny Depp, its headliner, was the subject. The selection of Catherine Corsini’s film, The returnis also singled out.

In a column published in Release Tuesday, the day of the opening ceremony, more than 100 actresses and actors denounce the “political positions displayed by the Cannes Film Festival” : “By rolling out the red carpet to the men and women who attack, the festival sends the message that in our country we can continue to exercise violence with complete impunity, that violence is acceptable in places of creation. »

The general delegate of the Cannes Film Festival Thierry Frémaux defended himself by saying not having followed the media trial of the actor, at a press conference on Monday: “I don’t know what it’s about, I’m interested in Depp as an actor. »

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