CANNES RECK­ONS WITH FALL­OUT FROM #METOO

A NEW AT­TI­TUDE TO­WARD GEN­DER EQUAL­ITY, AND THE ABUSE OF POWER CON­SPIC­U­OUS THROUGH­OUT FES­TI­VAL

National Post (National Edition) - - POST MOVIES - Farah Nay­eri The New York Times

Any­one from Os­car­wor­thy ac­tresses to stargaz­ing fans can call the Cannes Film Fes­ti­val’s new sexual ha­rass­ment hot­line, where three women are on hand to field calls until 2 a.m. each day.

Tote bags come with fly­ers warn­ing that mis­con­duct can lead to prison or a hefty fine. “Let’s not ruin the party,” the hand­outs say in French. “Stop ha­rass­ment!”

The main jury has more women than men and is led by Aus­tralian ac­tress Cate Blanchett. And on Satur­day, 82 women — one for ev­ery fe­male-di­rected film ever se­lected to com­pete for the main prize, or less than five per cent of the to­tal — took over the red car­pet for a rally.

“Women are not a mi­nor­ity in the world, yet the cur­rent state of our in­dus­try says oth­er­wise,” Blanchett told the crowd in a mes­sage that was read out in French by film­maker Agnès Varda. Stand­ing on the fes­ti­val’s car­peted stair­case, lined with pho­tog­ra­phers and cam­era crews, Blanchett added, “Ladies, let’s climb!”

The re­ver­ber­a­tions of #Metoo are shak­ing up Cannes, now in the midst of its an­nual 11-day jam­boree, where glit­ter and megay­achts abound. But if the world’s most pres­ti­gious cin­ema com­pe­ti­tion is reck­on­ing with the in­dus­try’s dark past, Cannes also must deal with its own present-day deficits. Of the 21 films vy­ing for the Palme d’or this year, for ex­am­ple, pro­gram­mers picked only three di­rected by women.

The fes­ti­val, now in its 71st edi­tion, is not just a launch pad for high­brow films. It’s also a free­wheel­ing mar­ket­place for movie deals, and a place of par­ties and ex­cess that for years served as a com­mer­cial and recre­ational play­ground for Hol­ly­wood pro­ducer Har­vey We­in­stein. We­in­stein is cur­rently fight­ing al­le­ga­tions of sexual mis­con­duct made by dozens of women, at least two of them re­lat­ing to episodes that took place dur­ing past edi­tions of the fes­ti­val. (We­in­stein has de­nied all ac­cu­sa­tions of non­con­sen­sual sex.)

While he was ab­sent this year, the sex­u­al­ized at­mos­phere of his hey­day re­mains. Out­side the fes­ti­val’s seafront head­quar­ters, young women in hot pants roller skate around, dis­tribut­ing copies of a fash­ion mag­a­zine. As­pir­ing ac­tresses appear on and off the red car­pet in seethrough or low-cut dresses in the hopes of at­tract­ing the at­ten­tion of male pro­duc­ers, di­rec­tors, tal­ent scouts and pho­tog­ra­phers.

It is well-known among fes­ti­val at­ten­dees that es­corts ply their trade in the lob­bies of Cannes’ up­mar­ket ho­tels. Within 10 min­utes of en­ter­ing one, a reporter was ap­proached by two women, one of whom told him she would go back to his apart­ment in ex­change for 600 eu­ros.

“Cin­ema is a world that is founded on de­sire: the de­sire of pro­duc­ers and di­rec­tors to make movies with this or that ac­tress, the de­sire of spec­ta­tors to watch those movies — and that de­sire is based, also, on phys­i­cal at­trac­tion,” Mar­lène Schi­appa, France’s ju­nior min­is­ter for gen­der equal­ity, said in an in­ter­view. When com­bined with “power, vis­i­bil­ity, no­to­ri­ety and money,” she said, the re­sult is “a cock­tail of fac­tors” that could lead to ex­cesses.

The re­ports about We­in­stein were em­bar­rass­ing to Cannes when they sur­faced in Oc­to­ber. The or­ga­ni­za­tion’s pres­i­dent, Pierre Les­cure, and artis­tic di­rec­tor, Thierry Fré­maux, said in a state­ment at the time that they were “dis­mayed” by the charges against some­one who was “a fa­mil­iar fig­ure” at the fes­ti­val.

“These ac­tions point to a pat­tern of be­hav­iour that mer­its only the clear­est and most un­equiv­o­cal con­dem­na­tion,” they said, adding that they hoped the case would “help us once again to de­nounce all such se­ri­ous and un­ac­cept­able prac­tices.”

But French re­ac­tion to the en­su­ing #Metoo move­ment has not been as un­am­biva­lent. In Jan­uary, the renowned French ac­tress Cather­ine Deneuve and more than 100 other women pub­lished a let­ter in the news­pa­per Le Monde say­ing that the move­ment had gone too far. While rape was a crime, they said, “in­sis­tent or clumsy flirt­ing is not a crime, nor is gal­lantry a chauvinist ag­gres­sion.”

And while Fré­maux, the artis­tic di­rec­tor, has ac­knowl­edged crit­i­cisms of gen­der im­bal­ance at Cannes, he also has said that films are cho­sen on merit and that he op­poses the idea of prowomen quo­tas and “pos­i­tive dis­crim­i­na­tion.”

The fes­ti­val has long been a show­case for ac­claimed male di­rec­tors like Martin Scors­ese, Quentin Tarantino and Pe­dro Almod­ó­var, and it is noth­ing if not tra­di­tion­bound. At this year’s event, self­ies were banned on the red car­pet for caus­ing dis­rup­tion, and Net­flix pro­duc­tions were kept out of com­pe­ti­tion be­cause the com­pany re­fused to fol­low the prac­tice of show­ing Cannes ti­tles in French the­atres (which, un­der French law, would pre­vent them from be­ing streamed on­line in France for three years).

Still, a new at­ti­tude to­ward gen­der equal­ity, and the abuse of power, has been con­spic­u­ous through­out the fes­ti­val.

At the Amer­i­can pav­il­ion, an in­de­pen­dently op­er­ated tent where ex­pe­ri­enced and emerg­ing film­mak­ers come to­gether, visi­tors were re­quired to sign an elec­tronic form warn­ing that their mem­ber­ship could be re­voked if they com­mit­ted ha­rass­ment.

The hot­line is an­other widely pub­li­cized new fea­ture. Op­er­a­tors would not say how many calls they had re­ceived, but ac­cord­ing to Schi­appa, the gen­derequal­ity min­is­ter, the ser­vice had al­ready ar­ranged for a woman to be ac­com­pa­nied to the po­lice sta­tion to file a com­plaint.

And the fes­ti­val’s choice of Blanchett as jury pres­i­dent was not ac­ci­den­tal: She is one of the cam­paign­ers who helped es­tab­lish the Time’s Up or­ga­ni­za­tion against sexual ha­rass­ment.

On Mon­day, Fré­maux and the heads of the fes­ti­val’s two side­bar sec­tions (Di­rec­tors’ Fort­night and Crit­ics’ Week) signed a char­ter com­mit­ting to gen­der equal­ity and vowed to pub­lish gen­der break­downs of the num­ber of films sub­mit­ted to the fes­ti­val each year and to reveal the com­po­si­tion of the se­lec­tion com­mit­tees. The or­ga­ni­za­tion be­hind the red­car­pet rally on Satur­day had been seek­ing such com­mit­ments since 2013.

The French film­maker Eva Hus­son, one of the three women vy­ing for this year’s Palme d’or, said it took her six years to make her first movie, Bang Gang, and that it had been tough to raise the 4 mil­lion eu­ros needed to make her lat­est movie, Girls of the Sun, the story of fe­male fighters in Iraqi Kur­dis­tan tak­ing on the Is­lamic State. A male film­maker mak­ing a war movie would raise twice as much, she said in an in­ter­view.

One ex­pla­na­tion of­fered for the lack of fe­male di­rec­tors at Cannes is that they sim­ply pro­duce fewer movies, a fact that has brought calls for gov­ern­ment sup­port for fe­male film­mak­ers in France. While 52 per cent of its pop­u­la­tion is fe­male, only 23 per cent of its di­rec­tors are women, ac­cord­ing to the group that staged the rally. “A so­ci­ety that doesn’t rep­re­sent it­self eq­ui­tably is a sick so­ci­ety,” Hus­son said.

Even so, she said that a lot of what she had seen at Cannes and beyond gave her some op­ti­mism. The day af­ter the red-car­pet rally — which in­cluded ac­tress Salma Hayek, who has ac­cused We­in­stein of ha­rass­ment — the French cul­ture min­is­ter, Françoise Nyssen, an­nounced at the fes­ti­val that she was ready to in­tro­duce rules mak­ing film sub­si­dies con­di­tional upon gen­der-par­ity and equal-pay targets.

“I’m su­per-en­thu­si­as­tic, be­cause the other way of look­ing at things is that ev­ery­thing re­mains to be done,” Hus­son said.

“A golden era could now be­gin. We must seize the mo­ment.”

CLUMSY FLIRT­ING IS NOT A CRIME, NOR IS GAL­LANTRY A CHAUVINIST AG­GRES­SION.

OLIVIER MORIN / AFP / GETTY IMAGES

From left, French di­rec­tor Zabou Bre­it­man, Colom­bian di­rec­tor Cristina Gal­lego, a guest, French ac­tress Amélie Daure, Bel­gian ac­tress Déb­o­rah François, Niger di­rec­tor Za­lika Souley, French ac­tress Mar­ion Cotil­lard and French di­rec­tor Vanessa Filho walk...

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