Both women delivered acceptance speeches that extolled the virtues of film as an art that connects us through stories while criticizing the industry for shutting out women’s voices.
Ellison was the first to take the stage. The notoriously private and enigmatic producer, who has yet to give a formal interview with the press and delivers statements via Twitter, began her speech by acknowledging how flattered she was to share the honor with Fonda, “a real legend.” After identifying the film community as “the primary source of inspiration” in her life, Ellison explained, “I don’t believe in very many things, but art is definitely one of them, on the top of that list. Films and arts influence our culture in a way that many of us don’t understand or fully respect.”
She continued, “Art doesn’t belong to the few but to the many, and I believe that the perspective we’re putting out in the world should not come from such a small subset of people. It’s a disservice to us all.” The “small subset of people” Ellison is referring to are, of course, predominantly white and male.
Fonda reciprocated Ellison’s praise, saying that “without [Ellison], a lot of the most daring, cutting-edge, important filmmakers in the United States would not be making their movies.” Ellison’s producing credits include Kathryn Bigelow’s “Zero Dark Thirty” and the upcoming Jennifer Lawrence biopic “Joy.”
Fonda echoed Ellison’s sentiments about the power that film wields, calling the movie business “the most important cultural force in the world.” In light of this, “It’s critical that women are at the heart of the international film industry, not just as glamorous icons but as creators, as artists, as decision-makers, ensuring that the narrative — of not just half but 51% of the world’s population — is fully represented.”
The “Grace and Frankie” star explained how the absence of women onscreen and behind the scenes affects female audiences, arguing that “if our stories, our truths, are not respected on that big silver screen, then the women in those dark theaters are going to risk feeling that they are not seen and that they don’t really matter that much. And the half of the world that is male will be robbed of half of reality.”
“Through the Women in Motion Talks here at the Cannes Film Festival, we want to get you talking openly with each other about what is happening and what we can do about it,” commented Francois-Henri Pinault, Chairman and CEO of the Kering Group. We assume Pinault’s effort to challenge Hollywood’s gender gap is at least partially inspired by his wife, Salma Hayek. We christened Hayek our new heroine for dropping epic truth bombs about women in Hollywood during a recent event (also sponsored by Kering) at Cannes.
The Women in Motion program was designed to highlight and celebrate the contributions of women to cinema, an important initiative at any film festival, but especially at Cannes, where only 9% of films in the main competition since 2005 have been directed by women. That being said, there’s still much to celebrate at Cannes 2015. Check out our infographic showcasing the amazing women being recognized at this year’s festival, including directors, jury members and presidents, and honorary Palme d’Or winner Agnès Varda.