Director Jacques Audiard and star John C. Reilly wore 50/50 buttons at the photocall for their new film, The Sisters Brothers, adding their voices to the controversy plaguing Venice around cries of sexism in the lineup. For the second year in a row, there is only one women in competition.

Audiard who is a member of the 50/50 by 2020 movement, which aims to create gender-balanced leadership in festivals and in the film industry, had much to say on the topic.

“When I learned that in the competition we were 20 men and only a single woman, I wrote a message to my colleagues working on the selection, but they didn’t give me any kind of answers,” said Audiard. “Then I heard that when it comes to films, the sex of the person who makes it doesn’t matter, only the quality of the work.” 

“So let’s not ask about the gender of the filmmaker and instead ask if the festivals make sense. In 25 years of attending festivals I have never seen many women leading the various events. And I’ve always seen the same faces, the same men, even if in different roles. So let’s stop thinking about other things,” he continued.The system does not work and there must be a change.”

“I make it a question of equality and justice. Equality matters, justice applies,” Audiard said, to much applause in the press room, which he promptly shut down. “We do not applaud. We act.”

Reilly then offered his thoughts. “Actually I know very little about the 50/50 movement. I saw these pins they were wearing. I thought ‘That’s cool!’ They told me what it was briefly and I have to say wholeheartedly I think everyone involved in the film is a feminist. And certainly in my household it was exactly 50/50 because I produced the film with my wife, Alison Dickey."

“I was really impressed by the female presence on the set. In fact, I think it might have been more than 50 percent women working on the film,” he continued, despite acknowledging the film's lack of female characters. “I think the film does say something about masculinity and the balance of gender," said Reilly.

Venice signed the 50/50 by 2020 gender equality pledge that came out of Cannes but did so begrudgingly at a conference, telling assembled press that it was really unnecessary as they already did everything the pledge committed to, including being transparent with their curatorial board and having equality in their executive leadership. 

Yesterday, guards let a man walk the Suspiria red carpet wearing a “Weinstein is Innocent” T-shirt, much to the delight of paparazzi. In Cannes earlier this year, 82 women in the film industry took to the red carpet as a sign of protest, but there are no plans in Italy to make a similar statement.

The Sisters Brothers premieres Sunday night in Venice competition. Reilly and Joaquin Phoenix star as Eli and Charlie Sisters, respectively, two assassins chasing a gold prospector Hermann Kermit Warm (Riz Ahmed) who has stolen from their boss in 1850s Oregon.