Cannes: Some Progress, But Still Few Female Directors in Lineup

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Natalie Portman

Emmanuelle Bercot's 'Standing Tall' will open the 68th edition, but only two female directors are set for the competition.

The Cannes Film Festival will this year feature at least two competition films from female directors, equaling last year's total should no additional women be among the final additions in the coming weeks.

The festival has often faced criticism that women are underrepresented in its core sections, especially the competition.

The lineup for the event's competition and other major sections, unveiled on Thursday, includes films from Natalie Portman and other female directors.

The competition section, which on Thursday saw 17 entries, includes Valerie Donzelli's Marguerite and Julien and Maiwenn's Mon roie, matching the number of female-directed competition titles in 2014 (Alice Rohrwacher's La Meraviglie and Naomi Kawase's Still the Water). But this year's competition is expected to see two or three additions at a later stage, meaning the tally of female directors could still rise.

Last year, out of 18 competition films, the two from female directors amounted to 11.1 percent of the competition total. In 2013, there was just 5.3 percent, with one female-directed film in the competition out of 19. In 2010 and 2012, however, not a single competition title from a woman was selected, while in 2011, women directors numbered four out of 20 spots.

Earlier in the week, Cannes organizers had announced that Emmanuelle Bercot's Standing Tall (La Tete Haute) would open the festival, marking only the second opening film directed by a woman in the event 68 editions. That was seen as a win for critics of past selection decisions along with a new Women in Motion initiative.

Organizers on Thursday also announced that the festival's special screenings will include Portman's A Tale of Love and Darkness.

Meanwhile, Cannes' Un Certain Regard section includes Maryland from Anna Winocour, Shin Suwon's Madonna and Ida Panahandeh's Nahid.

Last year's Un Certain Regard section featured six female-directed films, double the 2015 amount. Last year's films were Amour fou by Jessica Hausner, Bird People by Pascale Ferran, Dohee-ya by July Jung, Harcheck mi headro by Keren Yedaya, Incompresa by Asia Argento and Party Girl by Marie Amachoukeli, Claire Burger and Samuel Theis.

Overall, this year's Cannes festival currently has seven films from female directors when looking at the competition, out of competition, special and midnight screenings, opening and Un Certain Regard titles. Last year, there were nine.

Producer Francine Raveney, director of the European Women’s Audiovisual Network, told THR: "The announcement of a partnership between Kering and Cannes and in particular their 'Women in Motion' project during the festival, would seem to highlight a positive engagement on the part of the festival to consider women not only as objects, muses to be admired as they walk up the red carpet in designer dresses, but also as creators in their own right and who, for whatever reason, have not been sufficiently represented as such by the festival."

She added that it was "especially satisfying" to see Bercot open the festival and then star in Maiwenn's Mon Roi.

"As director of a pan-European association promoting gender equality in the film industry at grass-roots level, working with directors, writers, producers and crew throughout Europe and beyond, I would hope that all of this will now filter down to a real commitment on the part of major brands and festivals, to support organizations like our own which have been working hard directly with professionals on the issue of gender equality in the film industry for many years , but with very limited means," she added.

The Berlin Film Festival this year put a strong spotlight on female directors. Isabel Coixet's Nobody Wants the Night became only the second film directed by a woman to open the festival in its 65 years.

Twitter: @georgszalai