Following the historic red-carpet protest by 82 of the most prevalent women in the film industry, the Cannes Film Festival institution has developed a new charter, which aims to give a better representation of women at the Festival, and therefore to promote gender parity. This is a move that makes the Cannes Film Festival a leading light in the fight for gender parity in the film industry, with other film festivals set to adopt a similar charter. This is a welcome course of action from an institution which has been heavily criticised in the past due to low representation of women.
The Cannes Film Festival has some rather damning statistics about gender representation: for example, in the past 70 editions of the world-renowned Festival, only two women directors have won the most prestigious award, the Palme d’Or. One of those two Palme d’Or winners, legendary French director Agnès Varda, was present at the protest: she delivered in French the powerful statement demanding equality and better representation for women in the film industry.
The Charter promises that the Cannes Film Festival institution will follow a strong set of commitments. Under the charter, statistics will be compiled based on gender – for example, the gender make-up of cast and crew of films that are submitted to the competition. Furthermore, the names of members on selection committees will be published in order to show committees are not dominated by either gender, giving women proportionately more representation than the current moment.
Sadly, the Festival would not commit to introducing gender-parity policies for directors who are selected for competition. This is a blow to the 82 women who protested: the number 82 is the number of total women directors who have been selected for competition over the course of the Festival’s history; there have been 1,645 male directors who have had films selected over that time. Festival director Thierry Frémaux has long held the belief that films should only be selected for the competition on artistic merit alone, which is generally the consensus.
Looking at the Festival’s history, we can see a 20:1 ratio in favour of male-directed movies being selected for competition. Does Frémaux believe men are inherently overwhelmingly better directors than women? Sure, maybe there were not so many women directors in 1946 when the Festival began, so most films at the time were directed by men only. However, there are many today, yet only 3 of the 21 films selected for competition this year are directed by women. It sure makes you wonder…
It is a great thing the protest, organised by the French social movement campaigners 5050×2020, has led to action from the Cannes Film Festival superiors – hopefully, this will get the ball rolling across the whole of Hollywood and in other Film Festivals. Further progress should be encouraged, and hopefully, over the coming years, we will see more women deservedly claim the Palme d’Or awards for exceptional films.