Women in Film Stand Up for Gender Equality at Cannes

May 25, 2018  |  Film Festivals

A new pledge to inclusion was made at the festival, but there’s much more to be done.

Photo: Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

Women in Hollywood are mad as hell and they’re not going to take this anymore, to paraphrase the classic film, Network. They’ve already taken a fierce stand against sexual assault, harassment and gender inequality as part of the #MeToo movement, which includes Hollywood’s Time’s Up campaign.

In May, women brought their message to Cannes, France, where men including Harvey Weinstein — who now faces sexual assault charges in New York stemming from multiple allegations of sexual abuse — have dominated the prestigious film festival for 71 years.

That’s all going to change, if women in film have anything to say about it. They took advantage of the global audience the Cannes Film Festival provides to make a very clear statement: Women deserve equal treatment, including recognition for their achievements in film.

At the 2018 festival, women led the charge for the introduction of a new equality charter. Three key organizers of Cannes — festival director Thierry Frémaux, Director’s Fortnight artistic director Edouard Waintrop and Critics’ Week artistic director Charles Tesson — signed the “Programming Pledge for Parity and Inclusion in Cinema Festivals.”

According to The Guardian, under the new charter the Cannes Film Festival will record the gender of the cast and crew of all films submitted, make public the names of selection committee members and work toward gender parity on the Cannes executive board. The charter — whose signing was attended by this year’s festival jury, including president Cate Blanchett, Kristen Stewart and Ava DuVernay, the first Black woman director to serve on the jury — is expected to be signed by other festivals.

The pledge was drafted by French organization 5050×2020, which also organized a red-carpet protest featuring 82 women — calling attention to the fact that only 82 films helmed by women have competed for the Palme d’Or, the top award at Cannes, compared to 1,645 films made by men. The 82 female actors, directors, writers, producers and distributors stood halfway up the red carpet in silence, symbolizing just how challenging it is for women to climb the film industry ladder.

Cannes supported the protest and also hosted a discussion featuring gender equality movements including Time’s Up, the UK organization Women in Film & TV and Greek Women’s Wave. Topics included the dearth of compelling roles for women in film, the gender imbalance among film critics and the need for improved guidelines regarding the filming of sex scenes.

Although the protest was gracious — Blanchett thanked the festival for participating, saying, “It’s about uniting, not dividing” — this is hardly the last the Cannes Film Festival or the industry as a whole can expect to hear from women who are fed up with abuse, harassment and inequality.

After all, of the 21 directors in the 2018 Cannes competition, only three were women, and the festival apparently felt there was a need for the sexual harassment hotline it introduced this year. So the film industry still has a long way to go before every woman is guaranteed a safe working environment, fair pay and equal opportunities.

Fortunately, women are leading the way. We have no doubt they’ll get the job done.

Don’t miss Cate Blanchett’s powerful speech from the protest at Cannes. And get in touch with us at info@andaction now to learn more about how your organization can use pop culture in its communications.


– By Amy Lynn Smith for AndACTION