Cannes is kicking off right now. I’ve spent the last two days putting together a petition that will be sent to the festival about the lack of female directors in competition. You can sign the petition here. (Just so you know every signature generates an email to the Cannes officials so hopefully this will go viral and they will have full email boxes.)
The big argument about women directors always comes down to the discussion that women directors don’t want to be picked for representation because they are women, they want to be picked because their film stands on its merits.
Here’s what the great director Andrea Arnold who is on the jury this year said when asked about the lack of women directors at the opening press confrence today:
I would absolutely hate it if my film got selected because I was a woman. I would only want my film to be selected for the right reasons and not out of charity because I’m female. I would say it’s true the world over in the world of film. There’s just not that many women film directors. I guess Cannes is a small pocket that represents how it is out in the world. And that’s a great pity and a great disappointment, because obviously women are half of the population and have voices and things to say about life and the world that probably would be good for all of us to hear.
I totally agree with Arnold.
But here’s the problem. The film world reminds me of politics. Small and clubby and people promote their friends and friends of friends. And it’s mostly male. Look at the critics. Look at the people at the top level of most film festivals. Dudes all around. Women can compete but the playing field is not level, and that’s why there needs to be changes in how films get selected so that people with all different kinds of diverse visions of the world will be accepted.
Diversity is hard. No one is saying that it isn’t. You have to work harder to find films from people outside the known networks. You have to ask your consultants and scouts to work harder and to think outside their box. But it has got to be done.
I am not saying that any festival should program and film they are not 100% in love with. What I am saying is that we need to know how they pick the films and they all need to figure out a way to create better mechanisms for discovering and identifying female talent and for finding those women who might not rise to the top of the pile for reasons other than quality.
And while I firmly believe that we need to have films about women alongside films directed by women this cannot be seen as a zero sum game. You cannot say look at all the great female protagonists we have and make that your answer. Women and men see the world differently because we have different perspectives. One shouldn’t be seen as universal and the other as “niche” – they should both be seen for what they are, different. But still, we fight for women’s voices and experiences and vision to be taken as seriously as our male counterparts.
So that is why we continue to use opportunities like the lack of female directors in competition at the Cannes Film Festival to raise our voices and say – where are the women directors?