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Cannes film festival: where are the women?


Sarah Macshane
WVoN co-editor

At the 65th Cannes film festival, zero women have been selected for the Palme D’Or award and only two for the ‘Un Certain Regard’ category (for young film-makers).

It’s a bitter disappointment for women in film as, according to the Huffington Post, last year’s Cannes was a “high-water mark for gender parity in the history of the festival” so this year feels like a huge leap backwards.

According to Melissa Silverstein, founder of website ‘Women and Hollywood’, the fact that not one female director has been selected represents a real “slap in the face”.

A total of 54 features from 26 countries were selected out of 1,779 submissions, but no one knows how many were directed by women as the submission list is confidential.

But surely there were some that were worthy of inclusion?

According to Boston University film studies professor Roy Grundman, women directors are “rarely honoured at films festivals like Cannes” because of a “self-fulfilling prophecy” – that producers and directors tend to pick male-directed films because they know that female directors rarely win.

Martha Lauzen, executive director of the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University, argues that it is also down to a failure to acknowledge gender imbalance in Hollywood and the lack of strong financial support.

Talented female directors are not as well known so investors won’t take the risk, therefore female directors go for smaller budget features and documentaries – which would never be submitted for a Palme D’or.  Another vicious circle to break.

It’s a massive shame and the question arises: is Cannes more worried about big names and super stars than creating a true platform for aspiring film creators?

As Silverstein put it, “for an industry that professes to examine questions about life, that challenges conventions … the total Neanderthal approach to women is breathtaking”.

I’m just keeping all my fingers crossed for Catherine Corsini’s film “Trois Monde” and Sylvie Verheyde’s “Confession of a Child of the Century” shown out of competition in the Un Certain Regard sidebar.

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