Cannes accused of sexism over men-only Palme d'Or shortlist

May 15, 2012

Women directors complain that French film fest loves women, but 'only for their cleavages'

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THE CANNES Film Festival organisers have been accused of sexism after no female directors were nominated for its top prize, the Palme d'Or. A group of prominent French film-makers has written an open letter condemning the organisers of the event, which kicks off in the French Riviera this week.

The letter, published in Le Monde, notes that all the 22 directors short-listed for the Palme d'Or, awarded to the director of the best feature film, are men. It states: "Men love their women to have depth, but only when it comes to their cleavages."

The protesters point out that an image of sex symbol Marilyn Monroe appears on the festival's official poster, and that talented women are mainly acting as presenters. They add: "Above, all do not let young girls think that one day they might have the nerve to make films and climb the steps of the Palais other than on the arm of a prince charming."

The letter is signed by well-known film-makers including Virginie Despentes (Baise Moi) (pictured above), and Coline Serreau, (Three Men and a Cradle). The writers condemn the judges for overlooking women in 63 of the past 65 Cannes Festivals. To date, only one woman has won the Palme d'Or, Jane Campion for her 1993 film The Piano.

But festival organisers have hit back at their accusers. Thierry Fremaux, the head of the selection committee, says that judges "would never select a film that doesn't deserve it just because it is directed by a woman".

While the shortlist might favour men, organisers say the jury is not gender biased. It is led by Italian director Nanni Moretti, but comprises four men and four women, including a Cannes Jury Prize winner, British director Andrea Arnold.

Fremaux said the lack of female directing talent reflected an industry-wide problem, and that "there is no doubt that women's role needs to be improved".


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