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Cannes Unveils 2013 Line Up With One Female Director in Main Competition

Cannes Unveils 2013 Line Up With One Female Director in Main Competition

Well I guess there will be no petition or protests this year because the folks at Cannes have picked a single female directed film to compete in the main competition for this year’s festival.  That’s better news than last year, but it’s still doesn’t make me happy.  It’s not enough.  There are 19 films in the main competition and 1 is directed by a woman.  That’s a little over 5%.  Even Hollywood did better last year with women directing 9% of the films.  

I’m trying to process the message it sends when there are six female directed films in Un Certain Regard which we all know is the less important competition category with its own jury.  Should we think that Claire Denis was just oh so close but couldn’t cut it?  

And about Sofia Coppola

She is one of only four women nominated for a best director Oscar.  Her last film Somewhere won The Golden Lion at Venice.  That she is not in the main competition is shameful.   Let’s compare her to James Gray whose film The Immigrant has had people salivating over even while it was filming here in Brooklyn.  He made the competition.  Yes, he is clearly a talented filmmaker.  His first film Little Odessa won the Silver Lion at Venice.  His last film — We Own the Night — played at Cannes in 2007.  But Sofia Coppola has won many more major awards and has won an Oscar.  

For me the message is again that the Cannes Film Festival is about what these guys like.  And they like the guys.  As a programmer myself, I understand how programming works.  It’s all about taste.  But when you are a festival that has the status of Cannes and gets the press that Cannes does your choices send a message.  I saw this tweet this morning from the press conference when festival director Thierry Fremaux was asked about why there was only one woman director.  His response was that was “that the best films got in blames “slight” unbalance in the industry.”

And that “slight” unbalance in the industry may be the biggest fucking understatement of the year.

Here are the women:


Un Chateau En Italie, directed by Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi

Un Certain Regard:

Bends, directed by Flora Lau

The Bling Ring, directed by Sofia Coppola (opening film)

Grand Central, directed by Rebecca Zlotowski

Miele, directed by Valeria Golino

Les Salauds, directed by Claire Denis

Sarah Prefere La Course, directed by Chloé Robichaud

Full lineup

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Julia Chasman

There are so many inequities in this lineup and in every festival program choice, just as in the award nominations of the various coveted prizes. But Melissa, I don't necessarily agree with your analysis of which sections are more prestigious. It might be interesting to ask Sofia Coppola if she would rather be the opening night of Un Certain Regard, or to be in the main competition. Given the intense politics of Cannes, she may even have weighed in on that decision herself. Some of the other comments reiterate the obvious point that Cannes "copinage" is notorious, and, indeed this is widely known — accepted as a fact. And that there are certain Cannes favorites is another sine qua non of the festival world. James Gray is a Cannes star, but I don' t begrudge him because, you know what? He is vasted underrated in the rest of the film world, in my opinion. And then, there are those who thought that when Sofia Coppola won the Venice FF with SOMEWHERE, in a year when her pal Quentin Tarantino was heading the jury — was itself outrageous. SOMEWHERE went on to a lackluster future life, while BLACK SWAN, also in that Venice competition, went on to a great critical and financial success, and Oscar recognition. Instead of the constant carping and complaining, we should be happy that there are many festivals which may favor different films — and different KINDS of films. And remember this is all just a game — a marketing game and a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing. Each prize given is just the result of one popularity contest or another. You can't act like these things represent "injustice."

Maria Giese

Thank you for this wonderfully spot-on article, recognizing that we each much take responsibility for the staggering under-representation of women directors in the global entertainment industry—not least of all Cannes' own Thierry Fremaux. Several arguments about the problem abound, but most common of all is the myth that there are not very many women directors in existence. There are 1,100 women directors in the DGA alone. The problem is that there are so few women directors WORKING. The numbers, in fact, are so low, that the American entertainment industry is in egregious violation of the US Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title VII. The intrepid Ms. Silverstein, champion of women directors around the world, is right that some of us are working tirelessly to mitigate the problem. Last month’s DGA Summit for women directors was an immense success and required at least 18 months of full-time work for many women DGA members (Google "Women Directors: Navigating the Boys' Club" to read what over 150 of America’s top women directors had to say — Silverstein was the only media executive ANYWHERE who had the wherewithal to publish an article about it). What we learned, among many other things, was that if we women directors can unify and galvanize our determination to change the status quo, we could sue the hell out of the studios. A fifty million dollar studio payout in one year might seem tolerable, but another 50 million the following year, and the following year might not be so palatable. Perhaps then our industry would realize that they may not continue to act as an independent entity that can operate outside the jurisdiction of American civil rights laws (no different from organized crime). Since media is America’s most influential global export, it would behoove our nation’s leaders to recognize that having nearly 100% of our media output come from the perspective of just half the population is not just patently unfair and unlawful, it also is resulting in unfortunate socio-political ramifications around the world. It’s time to stop silencing the voices of half our country’s citizens (those of women). Nearly every other industry is deep into solving the problems of disparity in gender employment. Why not Hollywood?


I work in Paris and in film circles here everybody is completely blasé about the Cannes Film Festival selection. It's a running joke that Thierry Fremaux and Gilles Jacob ALWAYS pick their friends' films for the most prestigious "in competition" category. Basically, if you are the Dardenne brothers, Ken Loach, Michael Haneke or Terrence Malick and you have a film ready at the right time, you're guaranteed to make it to the Cannes competition. Here the word that is repeated ad nauseam to refer to the festival is "copinage" (cronyism). Yes, there are a few worthy exceptions from little known directors now and again, but only to give the illusion that it's a fair system. I mean, how on earth did an abomination like "The Brown Bunny" ever make it to the "in competition" list?

I thought that after last year's brohouha over the lack of female directors, they would be more enlightened. WRONG. "Entitled" "arrogant" and "neanderthal" are the first adjectives that come to mind when I think of Jacob and Fremaux.

Of course, there's always the lovely Locarno Film Festival for truly good films.


I guess men are just better at movies. Have you seen ANY of the transformers movies?


The good point about this post is that the author highlights the element of 'taste'. We cannot deny that the taste of men and women are strongly different. When I saw Django Unchained it occurred to me that at some point in history we will think: why was this film ever considered 'good'. Its pointless violent, has a totally implausible plot (sure a woman will still love a men after he has killed dozens of people???), and is merely Tarantino masturbating at the thought what he could have been had he been muscular and handsome like Jamie Foxx. It is a male film, that I doubt would be selected by an all female jury in Cannes when one day we will have matriarch dominating our world. So yes, its all about taste. And taste is subjective.


Have you seen Coppola's new film? Or seen any of the films selected for the main competition and Un Certain Regard? The assertion that her exclusion from the main competition lineup is "shameful" is highly imprudent. And to echo Dan's comment, her past achievements, fine as they are, have nothing to do with the merit of this new film. To suggest that she automatically deserves a spot in the competition is inane. This kind of reactionary, ill-considered writing does female filmmakers no good.

Christina B.

Thank you for spotlighting the female directors included in this year's lineup, but I do have to voice an exhaustion with beating a dead horse. Some films simply are not ready in time for these festivals. Some directors find warmer reception stateside like at Sundance or Full Frame. And take Jane Campion's history at Cannes: her short film won top prize in 1986, "The Piano" won the Palme d'Or in 1993, "Bright Star" played in 2009, and this year she's being presented with the Carrosse d'Or from the Society of Film Directors AND head of two juries. What's wrong with going this route? Who knows how many careers will be started in this year's shorts competition?


There's no question that Cannes' lineup is traditionally sexist – and this year is no exception – but I don't know how you can say that it's "shameful" that Coppola isn't in the main competition. There could be a dozen reasons for this, and being the headliner of Un Certain Regard is still one of the greatest honors in the film world. Claiming that Coppola deserves a spot in the competition because of past award nominations is fairly shameful in itself, and suggests that you have no idea how film festivals are programmed, or what purpose a "competition" serves. Again, it is fairly obvious that Cannes has unveiled another sexist line-up – and it can be faulted for that many other things as well – but the way you are playing James Gray and Sofia Coppola off each other is about the most unscientific and counter-productive method possible to prove your point.

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