Women on the march in Cannes

Blanchett, Stewart, DuVernay, Cotillard and Hayek join red carpet call for equality

by Richard Mowe

Demonstration of femme power at the Cannes at the Cannes Film Festival
Demonstration of femme power at the Cannes at the Cannes Film Festival Photo: Festival de Cannes
Women took centre stage at the Cannes Film Festival last night (12 May) with 82 stars, producers and executives making a symbolic ascent of the fabled red carpet to promote gender equality in the industry - including, Cate Blanchett, Ava DuVernay, Kristen Stewart, Marion Cotillard and Selma Hayek.

The number of women represented the female quotient who have appeared in the Competition in its 71-year history. Blanchett and her entourage stopped half way up the steps to proclaim: "On these steps today stand 82 women representing the number of female directors who have climbed these stairs since the first edition of the Cannes Film Festival in 1946. In the same period, 1688 male directors have climbed these very same stairs. In the 71 years of this world-renowned festival, there have been 12 female heads of its juries. The prestigious Palme d’Or has been bestowed upon 71 male directors - too numerous to mention by name - but only two women - Jane Campion, who is with us in spirit, and Agnès Varda who stands with us today.”

She continued: "These facts are stark and undeniable. Women are not a minority in the world, yet the current state of our industry says otherwise. As women, we all face our own unique challenges, but we stand together on these stairs today as a symbol of our determination and commitment to progress. We are writers, producers, directors, actresses, cinematographers, talent agents, editors, distributors, sales agents and all involved in the cinematic arts. We stand in solidarity with women of all industries"

She then outlined a series of demands, adding: "We will expect our institutions to actively provide parity and transparency in their executive bodies and safe environments in which to work. We will expect our governments to make sure that the laws of equal pay for equal work are upheld. We will demand that our workplaces are diverse and equitable so that they can best reflect the world in which we actually live. A world that allows all of us behind and in front of the camera to thrive shoulder to shoulder with our male colleagues. We acknowledge all of the women and men who are standing for change. The stairs of our industry must be accessible to all. Let’s climb.”

The stark facts suggest that in the seven decades of the Festival only 82 films in the Competition have been directed by women. This compares with 1645 by male directors across the festival's history. This year there are only three.

The demonstration of femme power was greeted inside the Palais with a standing ovation ahead of more women-centric lobby events today. The film screening was Competition entry Girls of the Sun (Les Filled Du Soleil), directed by Eva Husson, about a female battalion commander who is preparing to liberate her hometown from the hands of extremists, hoping to find her son who is held hostage.

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