Festival is looking for female directors: in Cannes, the promise of parity difficult to keep

Out of 21 films in competition, only five directors are in the running for the statuette. In question? An industry that is still too masculine, defend the organizers.

Like an air of deja vu: with five female directors – out of 21 films – in competition, the Cannes Film Festival is struggling to keep its promise of parity. In question? An industry that is still too masculine, defend the organizers.

However, like last year – which saw the Frenchwoman Julia Ducournau win the supreme award and become the second palmed director in history -, this 75th edition is not devoid of directors, especially in the parallel sections.

They are five filmmakers in competition (against four last year) and allow the Festival to reach its record: actress and director Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi, 57, will present The Almond Trees, about the eponymous theater school founded by Patrice Chéreau. Also in the running for the Palme d’Or, Claire Denis, 76, with Stars At Noon, filmed in Central America. Another Frenchwoman is in the running for the supreme distinction: Léonor Serraille, born in 1986, for her second film A little brothertelling the story of an immigrant family from the late 1980s to the present day.

A great figure in independent cinema, the American Kelly Reichardt, 58, will present Showing-up, about the daily life of an artist played by Michelle Williams. It will also be necessary to count with the Belgian Charlotte Vandermeersch, 38 years old, for The Eight Mountainsco-directed with Félix Van Groeningen.

As for the other major festivals, the question of parity is not obvious either. In September, the Venice Film Festival selected, in competition, five films by female directors. On 21 movies. Only the Berlinale did better: for its edition in February 2022, seven films out of the 18 in competition were the work of female directors. As in Cannes, two women – the French Audrey Diwan and the Spaniard Carla Simon – won the prestigious prizes of these festivals.

The parallel sections

The Cannes Film Festival is not just about its Official Selection. Thus, in Critics’ Week, which highlights young directors, of the eleven feature films selected, five are directed by women, including Everybody loves Joan by Céline Devaux, with comedian Blanche Gardin. Same tone on the side of the Directors’ Fortnight where eleven directors are selected, for a total of 23 films. Created by the Society of Film Directors in 1969, this section aims to discover the films of young authors and to salute the works of recognized directors. It will begin this year with the presentation of the traditional Carrosse d’Or to Kelly Reichardt. Among the films selected, the long-awaited The Super 8 Yearsthe first film by author Annie Ernaux, made with her son David, or the film by Mia Hansen-Løve A nice morning with Melvil Poupaud and Léa Seydoux.

Sides

If the official selection remains the weak link, on the side of the jury, parity is more respected with four women out of nine members. Three times, women outnumbered men (2009, 2014 and 2018). Moreover, if the president of the jury is a man, Vincent Lindon, the names of actresses like Penélope Cruz had circulated until the last moment. Added to this is the appointment to the presidency of the Festival de la juriste Iris Knobloch, who will succeed Pierre Lescure in July. She will be the only woman at the head of a major festival. As for the parallel sections, Ava Cahen took the lead this year in Critics’ Week. Finally, the Festival gives pride of place to several films and documentaries mixing subjects related to women such as feminicides, access to abortion. Among the films in competition, Feminist response (Un certain regard) by Marie Perennès and Simon Depardon or Holy Spider of Ali Abbasi.

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Festival is looking for female directors: in Cannes, the promise of parity difficult to keep