Newspaper article International New York Times

Turning out in Force at Cannes ; the Buzz at Film Festival This Year Is All about Women in the Industry

Newspaper article International New York Times

Turning out in Force at Cannes ; the Buzz at Film Festival This Year Is All about Women in the Industry

Article excerpt

The buzz at the film festival this year is all about women in the industry.

Last year's Cannes Film Festival was abuzz with the "heel gate" microscandal after a security guard reportedly wouldn't let women wearing flats onto the red carpet. This year, Julia Roberts strode up the red-carpeted steps for the premiere of Jodie Foster's "Money Monster" and revealed that beneath her gown she was barefoot.

The gesture seemed to capture the spirit of this year's festival, where women of substance were much in evidence. After years in which the festival was criticized for favoring male auteurs, this year three female directors have strong films in competition, including Maren Ade, a German whose poignant comedy "Toni Erdmann" is seen as a likely contender for the top prize, the Palme d'Or. (Jane Campion is the only woman to have won that award, in 1993, for "The Piano.")

Besides Ms. Ade, the other women with films in competition are the British director Andrea Arnold, whose "American Honey," a road movie starring Shia LaBeouf and the first-time actress Sasha Lane, has been receiving rave reviews (along with some pans); and the French writer-director Nicole Garcia, whose "From the Land of the Moon" stars Marion Cotillard as a troubled, love-struck Frenchwoman in the 1950s and has received mixed reviews.

"It's great there are three women directors here, but there's still a lack of women making films," Ms. Arnold said after a news conference for "American Honey."

Lizzie Francke, a senior production and development executive at the British Film Institute's Film Fund, echoed those sentiments. "It's obvious that this year is a pretty good year," she said, "but I also still feel it's not good enough." She called Cannes "a venerable old man's festival, but with a cutting edge."

Even if Cannes's selection, like the film industry itself, hardly achieves gender parity, there's been more conversation this year about the challenges of getting more women behind the camera and in front of it, an issue that has heated up since the American Civil Liberties Union last year called for an investigation into gender discrimination in Hollywood hiring practices.

At an event where the luxury consortium Kering gave an award to Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis 25 years after the release of "Thelma and Louise," Pierre Lescure, president of the festival, said that maybe in a few years there would be a woman in his place and in the place of Thierry Fremaux, the festival's director. The audience applauded.

"I think more and more women starting production companies" would help, Ms. Sarandon said, adding: "Hollywood isn't political one way or another -- that's the good news and the bad news. They just go with the money."

Ms. Davis, who founded the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, recalled how after "Thelma and Louise" came out in 1991, the film was hailed as groundbreaking; there were suggestions it might lead to more films co-starring women. That hasn't entirely happened. "I think we have to stop saying, 'Now this will change everything,"' she said. "If you can't measure the change, it hasn't happened."

Ms. Davis said that she advised studios and TV networks to "Make what you're already going to make," but "before you cast it, just go through and change a bunch of names to female."

Ms. Foster, whose "Money Monster" (playing out of competition) is her fourth feature as a director, said that the technological changes of recent years, like the advent of streaming services, had made studio executives and producers far more risk-averse. That, she said, led them to tend to take big bets on projects they hope will draw huge audiences rather than investing in smaller films by unknown directors, including women. …

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