For whatever reason, the Cannes Film Festival — perhaps because of its grandeur, glamorous red carpet, and press attention — has become the crux around which global conversations about gender and women directors take place. I’m sure that if Cannes director Thierry Fremaux had his way (and he did for many, many years), no one would even comment on the lack of gender diversity at his festival. But the world has changed, and Mr. Fremaux has clearly heard the message — in his own way — as he dribbled out a bunch of announcements over the last month that he hoped would satisfy his critics on this issue. First Jane Campion was anointed the jury president, then Andrea Arnold will head the Critics Week jury, and lastly that Rebecca Zlotowski will lead two other juries during Critics Week.
Yet none of those announcements take away from the fact that the festival still has a problem with including women directors in the main competition. I refuse to accept the bullshit that women are not making “good enough” films. Because “good enough” is simply a shield and a code — just another way to keep women out by pretending there is some objective standard for quality when all judgments are subjective and influenced by the viewer’s own tastes, background, and biases. So where is Liv Ullmann’s Miss Julie? Where is Susanne Bier’s Serena? Where is Mia Hansen-Love’s Eden? Sure, she’s young, but Xavier Dolan is even younger and he’s in again.
Mr. Fremaux did his best to appease the situation by mentioning that there will be 15 women directors this year at the Cannes Film Festival. But that figure is padded; five of those women are the directors of a compilation film called Bridges of Sarajevo that’s playing at a special screening. As it stands there will be just two women — Alice Rohrwacher with La Meraviglie and Naomi Kawase with Still the Water in the main competition. That’s two women out of a total of 18 films. Last year was no better with, only one woman-directed film in competition out of 19.
After Mr. Fremaux boasted about his fifteen women, he went on to talk about how he has been in touch regularly with Terence Malick about his incomplete film. I wonder how many women he tracks like he tracks Malick? I’m guessing none. That’s the culture of Cannes, where you see certain male directors over and over again. More unacknowledged biases.
Un Certain Regard always does better in terms of gender diversity. This year, the opening film Party Girl is co-directed by two women, Marie Amachoukeli and Claire Burger, and one man, Samuel Theis. This year, five out of the 19 film in Un Certain Regard are directed by women. Last year there were six.
Including the opening film, the other women-directed films in Un Certain Regard include: Jessica Hausner’s Amour fou, July Jung’s Dohee-ya, Keren Yedaya’s Harcheck mi headro, and Asia Argento’s Incomprensa.
In addition to Bridges of Sarajevo, which has multiple female directors (I don’t have their names yet), Stephanie Valloatto’s film Caricaturistes – Fantassins de la democratie will get a special screening out of competition.
So thus begins the next iteration of the conversation about women directors. Stay tuned for much, much more.
Full lineup: Variety