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Whose Responsibility Is It To Move The Dial for Women Directors?

Whose Responsibility Is It To Move The Dial for Women Directors?

So now that the Cannes lineup is in the rear view mirror it’s time for a moment of reflection.  I want to thank Mr. Thierry Fremaux the head of the Cannes Film Festival, for inspiring this moment.  He talked to Screen Daily following the announcement of the lineup and made some interesting points worth further consideration

Here’s one of the questions he was asked:

There is only one woman in Competition. Were there really no other eligible female-directed picture?

If you count Un Certain Regard, there are seven women in Official Selection. Un Certain Regard is as important for me as the competition.

As I said at the press conference, the lack of women in cinema is a fundamental problem. As a citizen I think we need to fight it but it’s not a battle I can wage as a Cannes selector.

I don’t select films because they are directed by women. The most important thing is the film – whether it be by a woman, man, old person or young person.

One can create a controversy around Cannes, use Cannes, but Cannes is not at the root of the problem. You can attack the festival but it does not solve the problem. It’s an easy way to discuss the issue without really doing anything about it.

There was the controversy last year and then in the 12 intervening months nobody’s actually done anything to tackle the issue. The upshot of all this is that if Valerie Bruni Tedeschi’s film (A Castle in Italy) doesn’t go down well everyone will ask if we put the film in because she’s a woman. The answer is no – we put it in because we thought it was a good film.

Let’s break this down a little.  

I agree with him the Cannes is not the root of the problem.  But Cannes is one of the problems.  The whole industry is full of problems.  Cannes gets huge press coverage and people pay attention to it.  For years nobody talked about the lack of women directors at Cannes.  Some years there were a couple, some years there were none, but nobody paid attention.  But now they pay attention and part of paying attention is holding people accountable.  Mr. Fremaux says that as a citizen that we need to fight it, but he also puts in the caveat that he can’t do it as a Cannes selector.   Which citizens does he suggest to fight it?  

Then he goes on to say that since the controversy last year “nobody’s actually done anything to tackle the issue.”  

That makes me fume.   There was an unprecedented summit at the DGA.  There was just a panel at CinemaCon about women in the film business.  The conversation is happening at film festivals around the world, and lineups everywhere, not just at Cannes are being scrutinized.  

But it also makes me think, talking and education is one thing.  Clear forward motion is another thing.  And Mr. Fremaux inspired a good point – whose job is it to make this change?  Is it the job of the women directors?  Of film festivals?  Of film organizations?

The problem is that it is not just one person’s job.  It is everybody’s job.  It is up to everyone who cares about this to try and make change.  It’s about telling your friends to go see women directed films.  It’s about making people understand that seeing a film directed by women and/or about women will not be a painful experience and that you might actually have a good time and learn something.

But I’m not going to let Mr. Fremaux off the hook (and since I know I will never get to Cannes I am not afraid to be blunt)  His  arrogance is astounding.   In response to the question as to whether there were other films by women ready for Cannes, he said:

The thing about women is that – like men – they can make bad films. There are hundreds of men who were rejected and dozens of women too. We’re not going to take a film by a woman simply because it’s by a women – what an insult. Yes, cinema is male-dominated but it doesn’t make sense to only discuss it during Cannes.    

“Hundreds of Men and dozens of women.”  Need I say anything else?  

FYI – Nobody wants you to take shitty movies directed by women.  How about not taking shitty movies directed by men?

But just the fact that Mr. Fremaux gave a full, and yes thoughtful, yet full of self righteousness answer about the issue means that things have changed. So by saying that he thinks nothing has changed he has actually made quite clear that it is no longer business as usual.

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