Cannes: After 2015's 'Year de la Femme,' Women Directors Fall Short Again

Cannes Poster 2016
Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival

Just three films out of 20 in competition for the Palme d'Or this year, or 15 percent, were directed by women.

A year on from 2015's famed "Year de la Femme" and Cannes' official selection wouldn't suggest there has been anything approaching a seismic shift in what is still generally considered to be a male-dominated film industry.

With Andrea Arnold's American Honey, Mal de Pierres by Nicole Garcia and Maren Ade's Toni Erdman, just three films out of 20, or 15 percent, in competition for the 2016 Palm d'Or were directed by women. That said, this figure is a step up from last year, when there were just two (although the fest opened with Emmanuelle Bercot's Standing Tall), but it's a fall from 2012 when four female directors made the cut, still a Cannes record. 

The Un Certain Regard section, Cannes' main sidebar, fares better, but only slightly. Four films — La Danseuse, Voir Du Pays, Omar Shakhsiya and La Large Noche de Francisco Sanctis — come from distaff directors out of 17 slots announced so far.

Out of competition, helmer Jodie Foster is the solitary femme figure with her latest, Money Monster.

"Each year we wait with bated breath for the Cannes lineup with hopes that it will creep up in its representation of women at the top competition levels. Yet each year we are disappointed because there are not enough women represented," said Melissa Silverstein, founder and publisher of the Women and Hollywood website and author of In Her Voice, speaking to The Hollywood Reporter following the announcement of Cannes' lineup on Thursday. "Cannes illuminates what we all know, that women are underrepresented at the highest levels of the business and consistent interventions are needed everywhere to have the film business reflect the realities of the world."

As a potentially highly positive sign of things to come, however, in Cannes' Student Shorts section this year, more than half the films were directed by women.