Cannes festival organisers vow to improve gender equality

The sight of 82 women walking slowly, silently and purposefully up the red-carpeted stars of Cannes' Grand Theatre Lumiere brought home the shocking under-representation of female film-makers at an event meant to celebrate the totality of world cinema.

Organizers said the event was orchestrated by the Time's Up movement and the French movement known as 5020x2020 to show "how hard it is still to climb the social and professional ladder" for women.

That's a disparate fact that was protested this week by female icons across the industry in the coastal resort town, where 82 actresses, directors, writers and producers congregated on the festival's famous steps.

On Monday morning, high-ranking representatives from the Cannes Film Festival signed a pledge to deliver more work by women filmmakers into the world-renowned film festival.

Led by president of the Cannes Film Festival Jury, Cate Blanchett, this year's panel is dominated by some impressive female names including actresses Lea Seydoux, Kristen Stewart, director Ava DuVernay, artist Khadja Nin as well as male directors Robert Guediguian, Denis Villenueve, Andrewy Zvyagintsev and Taiwanese actor Chang Chen. Blanchett read a statement atop the Palais steps in English; Varda read it in French.

Agnes Varda, the legendary French film director of "Faces Places", added, "The stairs of our industry must be accessible to all". Two films by Indian filmmakers - Nandita Das' "Manto" and Rohena Gera's "Sir" - are in separate competition sections at the gala, one of the most prestigious film jamborees around the world.

The other two - Nadine Labaki's "Capernaum", and Alice Rohrwacher's "Happy as Lazzaro" - are to premiere next week. Only one woman has ever taken home the top prize: Jane Campion for "The Piano" in 1993.

The festival supported Saturday's protest.

Total of 82 women were part of the protest.

While members of the crowd called out Fremaux for historically not including women in the selection and downplaying the festival's responsibility for promoting gender parity, Zlotowski said Fremaux should be an ally.

Fremaux has repeatedly insisted that the festival chooses its films purely based on quality.

  • Kyle Peterson