Cannes film fest vows parity push for women

Danny Woods
May 15, 2018

The leaders of Cannes Film Festival have signed an historic gender equality pledge promising to make the selection process more transparent going forward.

As part of the debut Saudi presence at the worldwide festival, nine short films by young Saudi directors were screeed in the Short Film Corner, including Is Sumiyati Going to Hell? by Meshal Aljaser, about a maid working for racist employers, and Alkaif by Seba Alluqmani, about the country's coffee tradition.

Joining Fremaux in signing the pledge was Director's Fortnight director Paolo Moretti and Critics' Week director Charles Tesson, both of whom made promises to improve gender equality in Cannes' biggest sidebars. The intention of the protest was to express how hard it still is to climb the social and professional ladder as a woman in the film industry. Blanchett read a statement atop the Palais steps in English; Varda read it in French. As women, we all face our own unique challenges, but we stand together on these stairs today as a symbol of our determination and commitment to progress.

Jury members Cate Blanchett, Kristen Stewart, Lea Seydoux and Ava DuVernay were also on hand to witness the signing, The Hollywood Reporter confirmed. The stairs of our industry MUST be accessible to all. Husson is one of three female filmmakers out of the 21 movies in competition for the Palme d'Or this year.

Capernaum, from Lebanese director Nadine Labaki, and Happy as Lazzaro, by Italy's Alice Rohrwacher, are the other two works by female filmmakers up for the prize in 2018.

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Cannes has come under repeated criticism in recent years over its poor record of selecting female filmmakers. The evening's film, Girls of the Sun, not only has a female director but also tells of a commando unit of female fighters in Kurdistan.

Haifaa Al Mansour joined stars including Cate Blanchett and Kristen Stewart to highlight gender inequality at the festival. Festival director Thierry Fremaux earlier this week hailed Saturday's event as a way for women "to affirm their presence".

The new measures will be threefold, with the festival committing to: (1) providing research and gender statistics on film submissions; (2) ensuring transparency on the selection committee; and (3) having parity of representation on the executive board.

Fremaux has repeatedly insisted that the festival chooses its films purely based on quality.

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