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Cannes Film Festival Becoming Attentive to Gender Imbalance with Film Directors

A new gender equality agreement is hitting the Cannes Film Festival. The agreement hopes to push the festival, which just celebrated its 71st birthday this month, to recognize more women in film within the coming years.

The new agreement also calls for the Cannes Film Festival to record how many men and women were part of the casts and crews of the submitted movies.  

Leaders of the festival, including director Thierry Fremaux and various artistic directors, signed a pledge last Monday that promises a more transparent selection process, as well as steps towards more gender equality when it comes to the actions of the festival’s executive board.

The pledge was created by 50/50 by 2020, an international organization pushing for gender equality in Hollywood. They also collaborated with other gender parity groups like Time’s Up.

“We hope that Cannes will welcome these new initiatives,” Fremaux said. “We hope that it will reinforce the realization that the world is not the same anymore. The world has changed. We must question our history and out habits.”

Its habits definitely need to be reexamined, considering that very few women have actually been included at Cannes. In the 7-decade run of the festival, a mere 82 women directors have shown films there, whereas 1,866 male directors have had the opportunity. The top award, the Palme d’Or, has also only been won by a woman once.

Prior to getting the agreement signed by festival leaders, 50/50 by 2020 reflected this small number of women directors included at Cannes by holding a protest. Last Saturday, 82 women, including Cate Blanchett and French filmmaker Agnes Varda, stood on the red carpet-covered steps of the Palais des Festivales in Cannes to fight against gender inequality in their field.

Photo by lan deng on Unsplash

“Women are not a minority in the world, and yet our industry says the opposite,” Blanchett, who was also the president of the festival’s jury this year, said during the protest. She also called the move “a symbol of determination to change and progress.”

Though Cannes may not show many films made by women, they are actually screening more than are actually made in the overall movie industry. Studies show that only 11 percent of the top 250 movies in the United States and Canada in 2017 were made by women, a number that has not seen much growth in the last few decades.

“Even if there is a higher proportion of women showing films at Cannes, we’re aware that it’s not enough,” Fremaux said.

One thing that Fremaux is not willing to do to foster gender equality, though, is create a designated number of winning spots for men and for women, a move that he says is because the decisions should be based on “artistic merit.”

But still, Cannes is the first film festival to go as far as signing an agreement to work towards gender equality, which is a big step in and of itself. Hopefully, other festivals will follow suit, and more women will be recognized for their talents in filmmaking.

Featured Image by Joel Muniz on Unsplash

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