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Four Steps Back – NO Women Directors in Competition at Cannes

Four Steps Back - NO Women Directors in Competition at Cannes

I’m sitting in my hotel room in Cologne, Germany having arrived yesterday at International Frauen Film Festival for the second year in a row.  I came back this year because I had such a great time last year meeting and talking with so many women directors and I really love the people who run this festival.

Last year I also sat in my hotel room when the Cannes lineup was revealed and I was happily shocked when four women directed films were included in competition.  And you will note that when the Festival happened people talked about the women and their work.  It wasn’t just about a woman.  It was about the work.  That’s what happens when you get to some level of critical mass.  Several of the films especially We Need to Talk About Kevin were released all over the world and Lynne Ramsay won a ton of respect for her effort on the film.  Maiwenn’s Polisse is now about to play at Tribeca and it will be released in the US in May.  Would this have happened without Cannes?  I can’t answer that but her film’s profile was clearly raised because of the Festival.

But this year we are back to two years ago when no women were included.  NO WOMEN DIRECTED FILMS WILL BE IN THE MAIN COMPETITION AT CANNES.  That is ZERO out of 21.  Two women directed films out of 17 films — Trois Mondes (dir. Catherine Corsini) and Confession of a Child of the Century (dir. Sylvie Verheyde) — are in Un Certain Regard. 

Cannes is the most prestigious world competition and to have no female directors is just a slap in the face.  I cannot believe there were no films worthy of inclusion.  I just don’t believe it.  The whole process is fucked up that women can’t even get into the conversations about films that people are even thinking about will be included in lineups. 

For an industry that professes to examine questions about life, that challenges conventions, that pushes the envelope, the total neanderthal approach to women is breathtaking.  How can this industry say it is progressive or forward thinking in any way when it constantly shunts aside the perspectives of half of the world.

This puts a very bitter taste in my mouth.  I am so grateful that I am in a place where I am surrounded by women with strong visions.  I can’t wait to get to the movie theatre this evening to be relieved of the grand misogyny that envelopes the film business.

I feel like I repeat myself everytime something like this happens — with far too much regularity — that something must be done about this.  I know that women directors want to be seen as directors and not as women directors but they also want their movies seen and taken seriously and that is just not happening. 

I know I will get into trouble for saying this but I think that festival directors need to decide that they will include women directors in at least 20% of the slots.  Yes, it will take some more work.  Yes, you will have to watch movies that you might not get because you are so fixated on the male being universal and the female as being other.  Yes, you will have to occasionally endure seeing and hearing about vaginas and other things women experience.  Here’s a thought, maybe you could send people to places that say play films by women directors to see what’s out there and see what people are working on. 

People will need to be “affirmative” in deciding that the inclusion of women makes their festival better and more reflective of the culture as a whole.  Until the festival directors believe they are missing something by not including women, there will never be progressive change.  There will always be one step forward and one step backward — or in this year’s case, four steps backward.

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