Cannes: Competition Remains a Boys Club With Only One Female Contender

Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi - P 2013
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As Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi vies for the festival's top honor, fellow female filmmakers abound in the Un Certain Regard sidebar.

Only one female director has ever won Cannes' Palme d'Or: Jane Campion in 1993 for The Piano, a plaudit she shared that year with Chen Kaige for Farewell My Concubine.

The chances of a woman taking home the festival's top honor this year are slim to say the least.

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Of the 19 features in the Competition lineup for the top award, only one is directed by a woman: Un Chateau en Italie (A Castle in Italy), from Italy-born filmmaker Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi.

It's the third feature from the actress-turned-director, whose younger sister Carla Bruni is married to former French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Bruni-Tedeschi co-wrote and stars in the film, which focuses on a family forced to sell its Italian home. The well-connected multihyphenate also will have to shoulder the burden of being the sole flag-bearer for female filmmaking at this festival.

There was an outcry last year when no female directors made the Cannes Competition cut.

At the time, Cannes artistic director Thierry Fremaux noted the absence with regret but added that he had no intention of introducing a quota of slots to help promote female filmmakers.

Bruni-Tedeschi's inclusion this year is unlikely to silence those who think the world's No. 1 film festival is very much a gentleman's club.

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But while woman directors are scarce In Competition at Cannes, female voices can be heard in the festival's Un Certain Regard section.

Sofia Coppola's The Bling Ring, starring Emma Watson, opens Un Certain Regard, and six of the 15 films in the section are directed by women, including former Palme d'Or contender Claire Denis, representing with her latest drama, Les Salauds.

The other Un Certain Regard films with female helmers are Valeria Golino's Miele (Honey), Flora Lau's Bends, Chloe Robichaud's Sarah Prefere La Course and Grand Central, directed by Rebecca Zlotowski.

Critical eyes will be on the Un Certain Regard lineup to see whether any of these titles could, or indeed should, have been included In Competition.

Theories abound as to why Coppola's high-profile film wasn't given a Competition slot.

Some veteran festival attendees suggest that the decision might have been hers, similar to her father's choice to screen his low-budget drama Tetro Out of Competition in 2009.

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Festival organizers have been known to offer favored invitees their preference, and Coppola and her producers may have decided the still-prestigious opening-night slot for Un Certain Regard was better than the eye-watering scrutiny of Competition.

After all, Coppola's most  recent film In Competition in Cannes -- the Kirsten Dunst starrer Marie Antoinette in 2006 -- received a hostile reception from festivalgoers.

Fremaux and Festival de Cannes president Gilles Jacob will be hoping the Competition films garner rapturous receptions and this year is judged a fine vintage. Otherwise, the voices will get louder demanding more space for female filmmakers at Cannes' top table.