Cannes: Festival Touts Gender Statistics, 20 Women in Official Selection

Claire Denis - Getty - H 2017
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In a festival first, the organization team tallied up the female directors that submitted and those that made the final cut.

Following a contentious morning news conference where festival director Thierry Fremaux was questioned on the festival's gender parity progress, Cannes has released new numbers surrounding female filmmakers.

In a festival first, the organization team tallied up the female directors that submitted and those that made the final cut.

In the feature film category, 1,845 features were submitted with 26 percent from female directors. Out of 21 films in the official competition, four are from female directors, coming in at just 19 percent. The Un Certain Regard section is more closely balanced, with eight out of 19 films from women – a stronger 42 percent.

Including special screenings that means a total of 20 female directors are represented in the official selection, nearly double last year's eleven and a huge jump from 2015's paltry six.

In the morning press conference, Fremaux was asked about how the festival is progressing after signing the gender party pledge last year. He said the festival never intended to program an evenly-split lineup. “People ask Cannes to do things they don’t ask other festivals to do,” Fremaux 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 short-film ratios were slightly higher, with 4,240 short films submitted and 32 percent of submitted films being directed by a woman. Five of the 11 short films selected are from female directors, clocking in again at 42 percent.

The Cinefondation film school section fared the strongest, with 44 percent coming from female students.The festival drew attention to the student number, noting that its “full of meaning since they prove that women’s presence is going to be more and more important in the future.”

Special attention was also called to the jury balance. While the main competition is headed this year by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, the other jury heads are evenly balanced with Rithy Panh heading the Camera d'Or jury and the Un Certain Regard sidebar headed by Nadine Labaki and the student and short films jury headed by Claire Denis.

Aside from Denis' jury, which is three men and one women, the rest of the juries are evenly split.

This year's selection committee was evenly split – a 50/50 share on the eight-person team, including documentary producer Virginie Apiou, former Premiere magazine editor in chief Stephanie Lamone, radio host Guillemette Odicino, former Marie France editor in chief Marie Sauvion, directors Paul Grandsard and Laurent Jacob, L'Express culture editor Eric Libiot and longtime committee member Lucien Logette.

Lamone also joined the film department as an adviser under longtime director Christian Jeune back in January.

The opening films were also touted. While Jim Jarmusch's The Dead Don't Die is the curtain raiser in the main competition, Monia Chokri's A Brother's Love kicks off the Un Certain Regard sidebar in an effort to balance.

Festival staff skews female, with 61 percent of the 109 full-timers being women. Temporary staff on the ground in Cannes — many involved in set up and logistics — is slightly lower, with 46 percent of the 865 additions being women.