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Cannes Film Festival Slammed By Feminist Group La Barbe For Excluding Women Directors

Cannes Film Festival Slammed By Feminist Group La Barbe For Excluding Women Directors

The French feminist group La Barbe which was started several years ago in response to the sexist media treatment of Segolene Royal in her race against Nicholas Sarkozy, has taken on one of the most sexist film establishments, the Cannes Film Festival for its exclusion of female directors from this year’s competition.  They are kind of like the Guerilla Girls in that they dress up in beards and as they say “crash high level meetings to protest male supremacy.”

They published a piece this weekend in Le Monde to raise awareness of the issue.  Here it is translated – reprinted with permission

The Cannes film festival 2012: a Man is a Man is a Man!

“What has changed in cinema? Everything has changed!” Exclaimed Gilles Jacob, President of the Cannes film festival, during the presentation of the 65th Festival de Cannes film nominations. ‘Everything?!’ For one second we trembled. But for no reason, it turned out, as the twenty-two officially selected movies — happy coincidence — were directed by twenty-two men. This 65th festival will therefore lead to giving the precious award to a male director for the 63rd time, thus unfailingly defending the masculine values which give the Seventh Art its nobility.

Only once did the Cannes film festival lose heart. In 1993, the Palme d’Or was indeed awarded to Jane Campion, a she-director – an obnoxious term which would corrupt any language as it does the great Seventh Art. And last year, doubtless due to a lack of vigilance, four women somehow sneaked themselves in among the twenty people nominated in the official competition. Thierry Frémeaux, Director General, correctly remarked, ” It is the first time that there are so many women.” How weak! All the more unforgivable as in 2011 the Césars displayed a dignified example by not selecting any women in the categories of ” Best movie ” or the ” Best Director.”

Sirs, you came to your senses and we are glad. The Cannes film festival 2012 applauds Wes, Jacques, Leos, David, Lee, Andrew, Matteo, Michael, John, Hong, Im, Abbas, Ken, Serguei, Cristian, Yousry, Jeff, Alain, Carlos, Walter, Ulrich, Thomas, who show us once again that “men are fond of depth in women, but only in their cleavage.”

This exemplary selection sends a powerful message to professionals and audiences all around the world. Because what else if not the movies, what event other than Cannes, the most prestigious festival in the world, could herald this unchanging message? With great understanding of the monumental importance of such an event, you were able to dissuade women from aspiring to set foot in this well-guarded scene.  Above all, never let the girls think  they can someday have the presumptuousness of making movies or to climb those famous Festival Palace steps except when attached to  the arm of a Prince Charming.

Is it not enough for them to aspire to be mistress of ceremonies someday during the Festival’s opening night? Bérénice Béjo in 2012, Mélanie Laurent in 2011, Kristin Scott-Thomas in 2010, women are perfect hostesses, who are perfectly happy with a simple, ” you have beautiful eyes, you know “, or other well-uttered compliments. Disturbing icons as well whom you manage to leave where they belong: on display. As you can see from festival posters: this year Marilyn Monroe is the one we celebrate, in 2011 Juliette Binoche, in 2009 Monica Vitti, and in 1989 the Republican Marianne.(feminine symbol representing the French Nation)  In 1976 the naked buttocks of a woman were honored. What could our muses complain about? They are celebrated for their essential qualities: beauty, grace, lightness… Let us preserve them from the torments of bossing around a film crew, let us spare them the painful confrontation with the technical puzzles of a film set. Why allow them to bore themselves in the Festival Steering Committee where important decisions are made, where only male presidents have ruled since its creation? Let us go on giving only men the heavy load of repulsive duties. Let us be even better than Hollywood where only 77% men still sit on the Oscars’ Academy.

Women, mind your spools of thread! and Men, as the Lumière Brothers did before you, mind your film reels! And Let the Cannes Film Festival Competition Forever be a Man’s World!

La Barbe !
(The Beard) feminist direct action group.

Sign the petition Cannes 2012: A Man is a Man and be a part of the effort to say that we are no longer going to take these affronts in silence.  That women’s voices matter and that every time women are dismissed and ignored and not counted we will be there with out voices loud and proud to make sure that people know that this is unacceptable. 

And if you want to really get into it join the protest at this year’s Festival.  You will need to wear a fake beard.  If you want to join the protest email:

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Thanks Debbie. Thanks Anna. I love seeing your statements here.


What I really got insulted by was the movie premise of "Sleeping Beauty" at the Cannes Film Festival. To show a young woman being sexually abused is not art in any way, shape or form.
I may never bother to enter my movies at Cannes after that.


So next year let's select films based on the diversity of the makers rather than the quality of the content, shall we? A film festival isn't really about the films.


In response to Ted: didn't they say the same thing, back before Title IX, about women in sport -that the % of living, great, performant women in sport was disastrous and hence the Olympic Game should not feel bad about excluding them? Isn't this true about every domain, from politics to science to finance? The question is what is so special about the art / movie world that makes it free of having to question gender and its power structure? Of course Cannes is just the tip of the iceberg, but highly symbolic and I don't agree that it is silly to blame the most prestigious and influential players in this men's game if you want to see some change.

P.S. I am french and always admired the US for their Title IX initiative, their great basket ball female teams and games, the performance of their women athlete and how everybody there values their daughter's physical strength. We need this in sexist France!


So we are going to Title IX art now? Let's not worry about Hollywood for a moment and talk about truly great, artistic films – and let's be completely honest. What percentage of living, great, artistic filmmakers are female? And then what percentage of those are still making great films (e.g. ignore people like Vera Chytilova who have passed their peak)? And then what percentage of those remaining filmmakers are the type that even would want to go Cannes? Your list should be very small at this point if you are being honest. There are, of course, tremendously talented female filmmakers. But the numbers are much smaller than the number of talented male filmmakers. It's completely plausible that not many great female entries were submitted this year (does anyone believe if Claire Denis submitted a film, that Cannes would have rejected it because they are sexist?). I don't know why filmmaking talent is so heavily titled toward men. The standard explanations of discrimination aren't plausible because there have been talented female filmmakers working for decades, what makes them so special? There may be social conditioning or something in play that discourages females from directing or something, but that's silly to blame Cannes and expect them to Title IX their program.

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