Cannes Chief Says Programming 50-Percent-Female Lineup "Would Show a Lack of Respect"

Thierry Fremaux attends the 72th Cannes Film Festival Official Selection -April 18, 2019-H 2019
Courtesy of Dominique Charriau/Getty Images

At his opening press conference, Thierry Frémaux fielded sharp questions about gender and Alain Delon—but no Netflix.

Cannes artistic director Thierry Frémaux dodged some pointed questions about gender at the festival press conference Monday, and shed a little light on some of the festival’s most anticipated films, including Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and Jim Jarmusch's The Dead Don't Die.

Asked about Cannes' progress on the gender parity pledge he signed at last year’s festival, Frémaux noted the equal representation of men and women on his juries and selection committees this year, but said the festival never intended to program a lineup with 50 percent of its films directed by women. “People ask Cannes to do things they don’t ask other festivals to do,” Frémaux 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.”

Frémaux stood by the festival’s decision to give an honorary Palme d’Or to French actor Alain Delon, who has made controversial statements about slapping women and supporting the rise of the far right in France. “We’re not going to give the Nobel Peace Prize to Alain Delon,” Frémaux said. “He is entitled to express his views. Today it is very difficult to honor somebody because you have a sort of political police that falls on you.”

Frémaux explained why Once Upon a Time in Hollywood was a last-minute addition to the lineup, noting an increased delay because Tarantino requires a 35mm print to screen. “He was running really late,” Fremaux said. “He finished shooting at the end of the year…. At the end of March the film wasn’t quite ready.”

The 1969-set Once Upon a Time in Hollywood deals with “memories of [Tarantino's] childhood, the Hollywood he knew,” Frémaux said. “It’s important to have Quentin Tarantino here because he’s one of the greatest directors of his generation. He’s a friend and it’s very pleasant to have one’s friends coming back.”

Asked about the politics of his opening night film, Jim Jarmusch’s zombie allegory The Dead Don’t Die, Frémaux acknowledged, “It’s a very anti-Trump film. It talks about American hegemony. America is an extraordinary country. With Jarmusch, we can expect that he is not very happy with what’s happening at present.”

Seeming exasperated by some reporters’ questions, Frémaux was relieved that one topic didn’t come up at the press conference. “You haven’t asked me about Netflix yet,” he said, “and now there isn’t time.”