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In 2022, the Cannes Film Festival — which has faced growing pressure over the years for a lack of female representation among the filmmakers in its lineup — smashed its record for women directors in competition.
However, the news of five names from 21 films vying for the Palme d’Or didn’t quite make for something to be overly enthusiastic about.
This year looks to be different. Following Thursday’s official announcement by Thierry Frémaux, a record six female directors are set to compete for the top prize, and this time from a shortened total selection of 19 films (for a record 32 percent of the overall competition lineup).
Among the lineup are established names and Cannes returnees, including Alice Rohrwacher with La Chimera (her fourth film to bow at the festival), Jessica Hausner with Club Zero (her fifth Cannes premiere), doc-drama Olfa’s Daughters from Kaouther Ben Hania (making her main competition debut after previously screening in Un Certain Regard), Catherine Breillat with Last Summer (her return to filmmaking after 10 years and her first Cannes film since 2007) and Justine Triet, another festival regular, with Anatomy of a Fall. In Ramata-Toulaye Sy’s Banel Et Adama, the main competition also includes a rare debut feature.
While it may not be the sort of dramatic progress that was promised back in 2018 when prominent industry feminists marched on the Palais and Frémaux vowed to work toward gender parity, it’s progress nonetheless. And the new record is a major step up from 2015 when just two female directors were in competition and comes following the festival’s appointment last year of its first female president, Iris Knobloch, and, in 2021, Julia Ducournau becoming the second female filmmaker to win the Palme.
In 2019, when asked about the gender parity pledge he had signed in 2018, Frémaux said he never intended to program a lineup with 50 percent of films directed by women.
“People ask Cannes to do things they don’t ask other festivals to do,” he said. “The Cannes Film Festival is asked to be impeccable and perfect. No one has asked me to have 50 percent of films made by women. That would show a lack of respect.”
The 2023 Cannes Film Festival runs May 16-27.
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