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Sexism Row Over Cannes 2012′s Lack of Female Directors

Posted on the 17 May 2012 by Periscope @periscopepost
Sexism row over Cannes 2012′s lack of female directors

Diane Kruger, seen here (far right) in Cannes in 2009, is one woman out of four on the judging panel. Photo credit: Cine Fanatico

The background

It’s the 65th anniversary of the Cannes Film Festival, which opened on 15 May in the sunny south of France – and, as in previous years, the world-renowned film festival is courting controversy.

The Cannes Grand Jury came under fire this week after several groups, most prominently the French feminist collective La Barbe, alleged that one of film’s biggest events doesn’t like women – and given the complete lack of films by female directors in the 22-strong shortlist for the coveted Palme d’Or, they might have a point. Or do they?

The allegations: Barbed irony calls attention to sexism

French feminist group La Barbe (‘The Beard’), which includes film directors such as Virginie Despentes and Coline Serreau published an open letter to the Cannes Grand Jury in Le Monde and The Guardian this week. Using what The Independent called an “ironic theme”, the letter was liberally peppered with such phrases as “Last year, no doubt it was an accident, four women managed to slip in among the 20 in the official competition […] Sirs, you have returned to your senses and we thank you for that”. The letter also complained that women’s only place in the festival was as Mistress of Ceremonies, where “they become disturbing icons who you manage to leave where they belong: on display on the festival posters”. Following the letter, a petition sprang up from a group of women representing, among others, Vancouver Women in Film, Women in Film India, and the Australian Directors’ Guild. The petition calls for the Grand Jury “to commit to transparency and equality in the selection process of these films”.

Cannes organizers hit back

The head of the committee, Thierry Fremaux, defended the committee’s decisions, declaring that the judges wouldn’t select a film “just because it is directed by a woman”, Reuters reported. Still, Fremaux conceded that the lack of female directors was a problem – just not one particular to Cannes. Andrea Arnold, a British female director and member of this year’s panel, told The Independent that the lack of female directors is “a great pity and a great disappointment”, but noted, “I would hate it if my film was selected because I’m a woman. I would only want it selected for the right reasons.” The Independent also pointed out that “there is an equal gender split with four female judges on the panel”.

Women are successful outside directing

The Herald Sun claimed that despite the fact that women may not be included in the directorial competition, they have a significant presence in other areas of filmmaking. “Women also are plentiful in off-screen cinema roles, from the traditional enclaves of hair and makeup to film editing,” the paper declared. The Herald Sun also point out that “female directors are not entirely absent from the festival. The secondary competition, Un Certain Regard, features two, both French: Sylvie Verheyde and Catherine Corsini”. The Hollywood Reporter also highlighted the film Wadjda (The Match Factory), which is part of the Cannes Marché du Film. It was directed by Haiffa Al Mansour, the first female Saudi filmmaker making the first-ever film shot in Saudi Arabia.

More on Cannes

  • What’s set to wow at Cannes 2012
  • The Dictator: Trailer
  • Austerity Cannes 2011 cans the parties, existential crisis ensues

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