Cannes: Cate Blanchett, Kristen Stewart Join Thierry Fremaux as He Signs Gender Parity Pledge

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"We will be more engaged," said the festival head.

Flanked by jury members Cate Blanchett, Kristen Stewart, Lea Seydoux and Ava DuVernay, Cannes Film Festival artistic director Thierry Fremaux signed a pledge Monday to increase transparency and promote gender equality during a midday ceremony.

The room went wild when the jury entered the room with Fremaux, announced by French director Celine Sciamma. 

Fremaux noted that it was three men signing the pledge, as he was joined onstage by incoming Director’s Fortnight director Paolo Moretti and Critics’ Week head Charles Tesson who joined in the vow to increase parity in their sidebars. Film festival president Pierre Lescure also sat in the audience.

"We will be more engaged," said Fremaux in his remarks. "We must question our history and our habits. The world has changed and needs to change even more."

The room was in a celebratory mood, with the crowd loudly cheering Fremaux and singing "Happy Birthday" to jury president Blanchett.

"When we have a struggle and that struggle is taken up by someone, that is a victory. It's about uniting, not dividing," said director Rebecca Zlotowski regarding Fremaux's participation. "We are happy that Thierry Fremaux is such a strong supporter. Without Thierry Fremaux saying yes to the pledge, without saying yes to the stairs, we wouldn't be here. If he's part of the problem, he is part of the solution as well."

Zlotowski was referring to the protest held Saturday night on the steps of the Palais, when 82 women stood in silence to call attention to the low number of women who have ever been in official competition. 

"It is fundamental for the festival to be part of this," said Seydoux after the signing ceremony.

The new measures will be threefold, with the festival committing to: (1) providing research and gender statistics on film submissions; (2) ensuring transparency on the selection committee; and (3) having parity of representation on the executive board.

The new pledge, dubbed the "Programming Pledge for Parity and Inclusion in Cinema Festivals," was created by 5050x2020, the French group behind Saturday’s women’s march on the steps of the Palais, aims to sign on other festivals. Toronto, Locarno and San Sebastian have already agreed to sign, organizers said, and will host events during their respective film festivals later in the year. "Let's make it global, let's make it part of something bigger," Sciamma said.

The ceremony followed a talk led by Zlotowski and Sciamma with representatives from Time's Up U.S., Time's Up U.K., Dissenso Comune (Italy), CIMA (Spain) and Greek Women's Wave.

While members of the crowd called out Fremaux for historically not including women in the selection and downplaying the festival's responsibility for promoting gender parity, Zlotowski said Fremaux should be an ally.

Time's Up co-founder and CAA motion picture agent Maha Dakhil addressed the Time’s Up launch at the Golden Globes. “People kept saying it’s a Globes stunt,” she said of the black dress red-carpet launch of the organization. “It’s not a Globes stunt because it is something in every woman’s heart right now, and it’s going to carry on and on and on," she said. 

"We are forever grateful to our actresses," said Dakhil. Eight actresses signed up as Time's Up spokespeople at the awards, including Jessica Chastain, Emma Stone and Meryl Streep. "They really put themselves on the line for this movement, for their sisters, not just for each other but for women around the world. They put their faces and their names and the exposure and the attention that brings is not always positive."

French minister of culture Francoise Nyssen also announced a conference on gender equality set for late June in Paris. Nyssen said the festival "holds the keys" to moving women forward, not just in film but in a variety of industries. "We must fight against the temptation to return to the past for our daughters and our grand daughters. We have a responsibility."