More on Cannes and the Lack of Women Directors

by Melissa Silverstein on April 16, 2010

in Festivals

This week in Paris, women directors and others gathered for the 32nd edition of Films de Femmes where they lamented how hard it is to get distribution nowadays which seems to be a bigger issue than the gender issue. Little did they know that as they wrapped up their festival the Cannes Film Festival was about to release their competition lineup and not one of the those women (or any others) made the cut.

It’s been a day and I am still pissed abut this.  It just feels like a big slap in the face and also feels really tone deaf.  Today I am wondering, who picks the films?  How big is the committee?  How many women are on the committee?  How do they find the films?  There just seems that something is broken here that not a single female directed film (or two or three) is worthy of inclusion.

But I am heartened that film writers are also questioning this issue. ST VanAirsdale on Movieline asked: Where Are All the Women Directors in This Year’s Cannes Competition?

Disappointed? Sure. Surprised, though? Look at it this way: Since 2000, the Cannes Film Festival has screened 212 films in competition. Of those:

· Seventeen titles were directed by a total of 14 women.
· Two titles — Shrek and Persepolis — were co-directed by women.
· The last year to feature no women directors in competition was 2005 (and before that: 1999)

Anne Thompson added her own thoughts:

Notably, no women filmmakers made the competition, although several are repped in Un Certain Regard and special screenings (Sophie Fiennes) and presumably the upcoming announcement for Director’s Fortnight.

And Variety added: “And while the 2009 festival showcased work by Jane Campion, Andrea Arnold and Isabel Coixet, there is not a single female director to be found in this year’s competition.”

The Bird’s Eye View Film Festival weighed in on their blog:

I was genuinely quite startled as I continued to check through the list of names, but mostly saddened that such a significant festival on the film calendar lacks diversity to such a degree.  So many female directors have told BEV that they hope Kathryn Bigelows win represents something of a ‘watershed’ and yet this list suggests otherwise.

Here’s the quote I gave to IndieWIRE for their roundup story

“The Cannes lineup revealed to me how little effect Kathryn Bigelow’s Oscar win has had around the world,” reacted Melissa Silverstein from Women & Hollywood. “The fact that the most prestigious film festival in the world could release a competition lineup with not a single female director on the list is shameful.”

So while we are still lamenting the boys club of Cannes at least there are more voices as part of the conversation.

Gender takes a back seat at women’s film fest (AFP)

Where Are All the Women Directors in This Year’s Cannes Competition? (Movieline)

Cannes Watch: Penn, Binoche, Crowe, Gosling, Douglas, Watts Head for Croisette (Thompson on Hollywood)

Few Hollywood films in diverse Cannes (Variety)

Cannes Film Festival Announce Line-up lacking ladies (Birds Eye View)

Eugene Hernandez: Cannes Roster Reveals Great Divide (IndieWIRE)


{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

cindy April 16, 2010 at 12:24 PM

Here’s how it works. A film is complete, it was done by company x. If the director has a relationship with the festival he or she might submit it themselves. If not, company x hires a consultant. Consultant X reviews the film and decides whether he thinks the programmers will like the film. If yes, consultant x submits the film. Both the consultant and the company know when the film is being watched and the reaction of the programmers. This is how the game is played. However to be fair, at least you can’t “place” your film in advance at Cannes like some of the other festivals.

mpowell April 16, 2010 at 12:29 PM

Yes, cindy is certainly right – but her analysis begs the question- who are the gatekeepers? And why do they like what they like?

Angelina Veritas April 23, 2010 at 4:57 PM

The final two additions to the In Competition category have just been announced. Both are by men.
The final two additions to the Un Certain Regard category have been made. Both are by men.
The level of this blindness is astounding.
Not one woman on the face of the earth is worthy of being In Competition?
Perhaps the women directors should do a bit of guerilla theater.
I suggest we band together on the edges of the croisette, then help these women project their films against the outer walls of the palais in the middle of the night.
Seriously. This might be the best way to bring attention to the brilliance of our visionary women. Because they exist. They are not invisible.

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los angeles acting classes December 16, 2011 at 2:23 PM

I am really glad that I found this site. As a women who is currently trying to break into the Industry up here as a writer, I am definitely apprehensive about how being female could hold me back… I would have loved to have gone to Film de Femmes…not quite there yet. But I hope to be someday!

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