Here’s the good news.
Facing public pressure and growing anger over the lack of female representation among the filmmakers who chose to celebrate them, this year’s Cannes Film Festival is making efforts to diversify beyond many of the male directors themselves. Instead, there will be a record number of outputs in the competition.
Now the bad news. That record is a paltry five female filmmakers, out of 21 films overall, representing less than a quarter of all films vying for the Cannes Grand Prix, the Palme d’Or. The scarcity of women in the lineup puts pressure on the group of female directors who have been selected to screen their films in the south of France.
“Because there are so few women in the competition, we feel a lot of pressure, as if we have to be icons,” admits Leonor Serail, director of Mother & Son. “We ask ourselves a lot of questions. But the issue is that I don’t want to be just a director.”
Moreover, this type of reductionist analysis tends to obscure a variety of projects presented by the five competing women – a group that also includes Kelly Richart (“Appearance”), Claire Denis (“The Stars at Noon”) and Valeria Bruni Tedeschi (“The Almond Tree”). ), and Charlotte Vandermerch, co-director of “Le Otto Montagne”. and global themes they explore. Dennis’ latest film, a thriller during the Nicaraguan revolution, feels wildly far removed from Bruni Tedeschi’s view of a group of young actors on the cusp of their careers. Richard’s latest neorealist drama also serves as a meditation on the art of creation. The film is about a Portland, Oregon, sculptor trying to balance financial and family pressures, while making time to prepare for the exhibition.
“The concern with everyday life was to make work and work that might not even be seen,” Richart said. diverse For a recent cover story on Williams. “Maybe you have that desire or the need or maybe the compulsion to make things, but how do you deal with all the things in your life around that? It’s never an equal playing field. Some people have great advantages in preparing their lives for making art, while some people have with fewer advantages to do so. And there are a lot of people who make art, and they are often their own way.”
Richard was primarily talking about the personal, social, and economic advancement some people have in life, but there are structural challenges that are hard to overcome. Studies have shown that even those women who are able to get their films into major festivals struggle to get the financial support they need for their subsequent films, and thus take longer to gain product follow-up features. And when they have the opportunity to show their films to financiers or studio directors, the faces that stare at them disproportionately belong to men.
In Kahn’s case, female filmmakers are more widely represented outside of the select few eligible for ringworm. The non-competitive Parallel Cannes Critics Week features weekly or Un Certain Regard directors’ picks such as Agnieszka Smoczyńska (“Silent Twins”), Charlotte Le Bon (“Falcon Lake”), Mia Hansen-Løve (“One Fine Morning”) and Alice Winokur (” Memories of Paris”). However, Cannes has long struggled to come close to achieving gender parity in the films it shows, and its track record pales in comparison to other major festivals such as Toronto and Sundance.
But it seems Cannes does not want to hear the criticism. During the press conference with reporters on Monday, festival director Thierry Frémaux said it was inaccurate to describe the presence of female directors as insufficient. Instead, he said that since men have historically dominated directing, it has been difficult to increase acting behind the camera. He noted that according to UNESCO, a decade ago, only 7% of the world’s directors were female. Although things are getting better, he said they vary greatly from region to region. Instead, he said, journalists should point out that two of the three French films in competition are female directors: Franco-Italian actress Valeria Bruni Tedeschi “Les Amandiers” and Claire Denis “Stars at Noon”.
“This is because France is a country with a lot of output,” he said.
The gender of the person behind the camera can affect what they appear on screen. Le Bon, a Quebec-born actress, will make her directorial debut with Falcon Lake. She says she felt compelled to get behind the camera after becoming frustrated with the way female characters are portrayed in films. “I just got tired of female roles seeing them look so tacky,” Le Bon said.
When she transformed Hawk Lake from Bastian Vives’ graphic novel, one of the things she modified was Chloe, a tormented teenage girl. “I didn’t want her to be too flirty and feminine, I wanted her to talk and walk a bit like a tomboy, but also more threatening and secretive.”
Some female directors had difficult experiences at the premiere of their films in competition, for example Valérie Donzelli and Eva Husson whose films drew reviews that many people considered unfairly harsh. This may be due to the intense scrutiny that female directors are subjected to at Cannes. Even Julia Ducornu, who won the Palme d’Or at Cannes last year with “Titane,” looked like she was the victim of a backlash afterwards when the movie wasn’t nominated for Best Picture at the César Awards. This was the first time in the history of the Cesar Awards that a French film did not receive a Palme d’Or award for Best Picture at the Awards.
Hansen Love, who was at Cannes last year in competition with “Isle of Bergman” and went back two weeks for directors this time, has mixed feelings about how far the festival has come.
“The competition is clearly not impressive with its track record with female directors,” she says. “We’d love to see more of them in 2022. Sometimes there’s an impression, from the outside, that the competition is for male directors, and Un Certain Regard is for women.”