The 68th annual Cannes Film Festival has come to a close, with a number of female performers and helmers recognized for their talent and accomplishments.
As with previous installments of the festival, this year didn’t initially seem like it would offer female filmmakers much of a platform to showcase their work. Indeed, only 2 of 19 films in the main competition were directed by women — a frustratingly low 10.5%. And yet, there were a few achievements to celebrate at Cannes, including honorary Palme d’Or winner Agnès Varda.
Turkish-French director Deniz Gamze Ergüven, whose directorial debut “Mustang” screened in Directors’ Fortnight and has already secured a US distribution deal, scored the Label Europa Cinemas prize. While Directors’ Fortnight is a non-competitive sidebar of the festival, the French directors’ group behind the event selects honorees. “Mustang” will receive the support of the Europa Cinemas Network, which will help promote the film and extend its run in theatres. The drama focuses on a quintet of orphaned sisters in a remote Turkish village whose lives are catastrophically transformed by religious and repressive relatives and community.
As for women appearing onscreen, the best actress award was a tie between Rooney Mara for “Carol” and Emmanuelle Bercot for Maïwenn’s “Mon Roi.” We called Mara’s performance as a young woman who strikes up a romance with an older married woman (played by Cate Blanchett) a “revelation.” Cannes 2015 was quite the coup for Bercot, who also directed festival opener “La Tete haute.” In “Mon Roi,” Bercot plays a woman dealing with the aftermath of a ski accident and struggling to make sense of her decade-long relationship, which has long been plagued by problems.
A woman was also given top honors in the Cinéfondation Selection, which Variety rightly calls “the world’s highest-profile film-school student competition.” Pippa Bianco, a student in AFI’s Directing Workshop for Women, won first prize in her category for “Share,” an 11-minute short documenting a girl’s first day back at school after an explicit video of her is uploaded and shared on the internet without her consent. Taissa Farmiga (“American Horror Story: Coven”) stars.
”We tried to be very respectful, not sensationalist, in the telling of the story,” said Bianco, who also penned the script for the short, and is currently working towards adapting “Share” into a feature. In addition to winning €15,000, Bianco’s first feature is guaranteed a spot in Cannes’ Official Selection category.
Eighteen film students’ work was screened in the Cinéfondation Selection, chosen from 1,593 entries. Maria Guskova, a student from Russia’s High Courses for Scriptwriters and Film Directors, tied for third place with “The Return of Erkin.”
We are hopeful that next year will bring more progress — more films by women directors in the main competition, and with that, more women being recognized with honors.