SPOT­LIGHT ON GEN­DER AT CANNES

The Hamilton Spectator - - GO - JAKE COYLE

CANNES, FRANCE — The im­agery was stark, if in­evitable: 12 Palme d’Or win­ners, one of them fe­male.

When the Cannes Film Fes­ti­val cel­e­brated its 70th an­niver­sary on Tues­day, it as­sem­bled lu­mi­nar­ies from across cinema as well as many of the re­cent win­ners of its top prize. Jane Cam­pion was the only fe­male direc­tor among the hon­oured group, which in­cluded Ro­man Polan­ski, David Lynch and Michael Haneke.

But that Cam­pion, who won for “The Pi­ano” in 1993, would stand out was a fore­gone con­clu­sion. She’s not just the only fe­male film­maker to win the Palme who was there Tues­day, she’s also the only fe­male film­maker to win the Palme, ever.

“Sev­enty years of Cannes, 76 Palme d’Or (win­ners), only one of them has gone to a woman,” said French ac­tress Is­abelle Hup­pert in her open­ing re­marks at the cer­e­mony. “No com­ment.” (Ac­tresses Adele Exar­chopou­los and Lea Sey­doux shared in the 2013 win for “Blue is the Warmest Color.”)

The next morn­ing, gen­der in­equal­ity in Cannes and be­hind the cam­era re­mained at the fore­front. Sofia Cop­pola, one of three fe­male film­mak­ers out of 19 in com­pe­ti­tion for the Palme this year, pre­mièred her lat­est, “The Beguiled.”

It’s a re­make of Don Siegel’s 1971 film but told with a more fe­male point of view. It’s a Civil War thriller star­ring Ni­cole Kid­man and Kirsten Dunst in which a wounded Union soldier (Colin Far­rell) is taken in by an all-girls school in Vir­ginia. Siegel’s film, star­ring Clint East­wood, had an un­de­ni­ably male point of view. Some have called it misog­y­nis­tic, whereas Cop­pola’s film was hailed as her most fem­i­nist work yet.

Kid­man used the film’s pre­mière to call at­ten­tion to sta­tis­tics that show the mam­moth gap be­tween male and fe­male di­rec­tors — a dis­par­ity that prompted a fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Hol­ly­wood hir­ing prac­tices by the Equal Em­ploy­ment Op­por­tu­nity Com­mis­sion. A study by San Diego State’s Cen­ter for the Study of Women in Film re­leased ear­lier this year found that just 7 per cent of 2016’s 250 top-gross­ing films were di­rected by women.

“We as women have to sup­port fe­male di­rec­tors, that’s a given now,” said Kid­man. “Every­one is say­ing it’s so dif­fer­ent now — but it isn’t. Lis­ten to the sta­tis­tics.”

The se­lec­tions of the Cannes Film Fes­ti­val couldn’t be fur­ther apart from Hol­ly­wood’s block­buster busi­ness. But the fes­ti­val’s in­clu­sive­ness to fe­male film­mak­ers has long been crit­i­cized. An all-male lineup in Cannes’ Palme d’Or com­pe­ti­tion in 2012 sparked protests.

Cannes or­ga­niz­ers have con­sis­tently ar­gued that they sim­ply pro­gram the best films they can, re­gard­less of the film­maker’s gen­der. The fes­ti­val’s run­down of Tues­day’s evening, in re­sponse to Hup­pert’s zinger, noted that Cannes has “year in and year out high­lighted the pro­files, sto­ries and views of women.”

There are quib­bles with Cannes’ se­lec­tions ev­ery year. This year’s fes­ti­val rep­re­sents an uptick, with 12 projects from fe­male film­mak­ers (in­clud­ing the episodes of Cam­pion’s se­ries “Top of the Lake”).

“I guess there’s three in­stead of two this year,” Cop­pola said in an ear­lier in­ter­view, re­fer­ring to the com­pe­ti­tion lineup. “I think they have more there than we do (in the U.S.). There’s al­ways been more of a tra­di­tion of fe­male film­mak­ers in France and in­ter­na­tion­ally.”

Yet some were still won­der­ing about the film­mak­ers who didn’t make it into the com­pe­ti­tion. Claire De­nis’ “Let the Sun­shine In” opened the fes­ti­val’s Direc­tor’s Fort­night sec­tion, but was re­ceived by many crit­ics as one of the fes­ti­val’s best.

“What does one of the world’s most highly re­garded film­mak­ers have to do to earn a com­pe­ti­tion slot at the Fes­ti­val de Cannes?” wrote Los An­ge­les Times critic Justin Chang.

“That was a ques­tion many were ask­ing in re­gard to Claire De­nis — and not for the first time.”

FO­CUS FEA­TURES

On the set of “The Beguiled,” called Sofia Cop­pola’s most fem­i­nist work yet. Top row, from left: Ad­di­son Riecke, Elle Fan­ning, Emma Howard and An­gourie Rice. Bot­tom row: Kirsten Dunst, direc­tor Cop­pola, Oona Lau­rence and Ni­cole Kid­man.

PASCAL LE SEGRETAIN, GETTY IMAGES

Sofia Cop­pola, flanked by Ni­cole Kid­man and Kirsten Dunst, at­tend “The Beguiled” screen­ing at the Cannes Film Fes­ti­val.

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