Liberté, egalité, fraternité (“liberty, equality, fraternity”) is France’s motto, and equality has appropriately emerged as the theme of the 2018 Cannes Film Festival, taking place May 8-19 on the French Riviera.
This year’s nine-member Main Competition Jury boasts five women, including Ava DuVernay, Burundian singer-songwriter Khadja Nin and this year’s jury president, actress Cate Blanchett. (It’s also worth noting that one-third of the jury is of color—Taiwanese actor Chang Chen rounds out three of the nine.)
However, that gender equality hasn’t extended to the rest of the internationally renowned competition; in its 71-year history, only 82 films competing in the Official Selection category have been directed by women, compared with 1,645 films directed by men.
To draw attention to this disparity and promote gender equality in the film industry, on Saturday night, 82 women from the film industry—including all five of the female jurors and some of international film’s most respected talent, like actresses Marion Cotillard, Salma Hayek, Kristen Stewart, Léa Seydoux, Sofia Boutella and director Patty Jenkins—walked arm in arm up the red carpet and ascended the iconic steps of the Palais des Festivals.
It was a symbolic gesture of solidarity and a mostly silent protest, fittingly staged prior to the premiere of Eva Husson’s drama Girls of the Sun, about Kurdish female fighters. Husson is only one of three female filmmakers out of those representing the 21 movies competing for the Palme d’Or this year. After the women were assembled on the steps, Jury President Blanchett read the following statement:
On these steps today stand 82 women representing the number of female directors who have climbed these stairs since the first edition of the Cannes Film Festival in 1946. In the same period, 1,688 male directors have climbed these very same stairs. In the 71 years of this world-renowned festival there have been 12 female heads of its juries. The prestigious Palme d’Or has been bestowed upon 71 male directors—too numerous to mention by name—but only two women—Jane Campion, who is with us in spirit, and Agnès Varda, who stands with us today.
These facts are stark and undeniable. Women are not a minority in the world, yet the current state of our industry says otherwise. 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. We are writers, producers, directors, actresses, cinematographers, talent agents, editors, distributors, sales agents and all involved in the cinematic arts. We stand in solidarity with women of all industries
We will expect our institutions to actively provide parity and transparency in their executive bodies and safe environments in which to work. We will expect our governments to make sure that the laws of equal pay for equal work are upheld. We will demand that our workplaces are diverse and equitable so that they can best reflect the world in which we actually live. A world that allows all of us behind and in front of the camera to thrive shoulder to shoulder with our male colleagues. We acknowledge all of the women and men who are standing for change. The stairs of our industry must be accessible to all. Let’s climb.
This show of strength in numbers purportedly had the support of the Cannes Film Festival; prior to the demonstration, festival director Thierry Frémaux called it a way for women “to affirm their presence.” The gesture itself was orchestrated by the French arm of the 50/50 by 2020 movement, whose use of Cannes’ red stairs was intended to show the difficulty women still have in attempting to climb the professional ladder. The organization’s website states:
We believe that the distribution of power needs to be questioned. We believe that equality restores the balance of power. We believe that diversity deeply changes representations. We believe that the opportunity to work in an egalitarian and inclusive environment must be seized because we are certain that the equal sharing of power will promote profound creative renewal.
The group 50/50 by 2020’s American counterpart counts Lena Waithe, Lupita Nyong’o, Rosario Dawson, Shonda Rhimes and Rashida Jones among its advisers. Working in tandem with the Time’s Up movement, 50/50 by 2020 is working toward inclusion and intersectionality in multiple aspects across the film industry, addressing issues of gender, race, sexuality, ability and abuse. On Monday, they will hold a conference with other women’s groups, including both American and English factions of Time’s Up, Dissenso Comune (Italy), CIMA (Spain) and Greek Women’s Wave.
On Sunday, all eyes turned to the catwalk for the Fashion for Relief event at Cannes’ Mandelieu Hangar. Now in its 13th year, Fashion for Relief raises funds for environmental and humanitarian causes via various charity events held in conjunction with the nonprofit human rights organization CARE. Its much-anticipated events—which have thus far taken place in Cannes; Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; London; Moscow; Mumbai, India; and New York City—are hosted by spokeswoman and supermodel Naomi Campbell.
This year’s theme was Race to Equality, focusing on education, health and culture, and in support of Save the Children and the Time’s Up movement, among other charities. The evening’s event included a gala dinner, live auction and runway show, which featured Campbell alongside top models and talent like Maria Borges, Leomie Anderson, Winnie Harlow, Dilone and Jussie Smollett.
But of course, aside from the films, what Cannes is best known for is its red carpet, where stars from around the world gather to make statements as big as those on-screen. This year was no different; the film and fashion elite showed up and showed out in showstopping style. As is our fashion, we’ve found all the pops of color during the first six days of the 12-day international festival. We’ll be sure to check back in after the close of Cannes, but until then, let’s live a little vicariously on the French Riviera. See you on the other side ...