Cannes 2018 showcases truly international talent – but where are the women?

Content warning: sexual assault

It’s that time of year again, when the red carpet steps roll out and the film industry’s greatest titans, newcomers, and journalists step into the scintillating sun for one of the biggest events in film: the Cannes Film Festival.

The 71st annual festival will take place from May 8 to 19 and will feature a roundup of many exciting things to look forward to. Cannes has always been a leading festival for new innovations in arthouse cinema, as the mission statement goes: “to draw attention and to raise the profile of films, with the aim of contributing towards the development of cinema, boosting the film industry worldwide and celebrating cinema at an international level.”

Cannes seems to be the top festival in terms of international diversity in the Official Selection. Last year, over 120 countries were represented, and artistic director Thierry Fremaux says they are excited to announce an even higher number for this year’s selection. This year will see the greatest number of South American countries than ever before. This is particularly rousing considering some of the amazing cinematic work to come out of South America last year, including the Academy Award winner for Best Foreign Language Film A Fantastic Woman from Chile.

With greater diversity in country representation, it will be interesting to uncover what kinds of filmic stories will be presented as different filmmakers get new chances to tell the stories of fascinating experiences. As the Cannes Festival has grown and developed, those working for the festival have set out a number of new initiative programs to seek out new talent by hiring talent scouts to scour each end of the festival and search for new trends that are coming to change the future of cinema.

While the festival seems austerely focused on being up-to-date and focusing on the future of film, it has not entered the post-Harvey Weinstein era without vitriolic criticism. Many of Weinstein’s accusers claimed he used to perambulate ceaselessly around the palm treed streets of Cannes, searching for a victim to non-consentually frottage with. As the motherboard of locations for Harvey Weinstein’s salacious acts, one would assume Cannes would be taking extra precautions to avoid any scandal and would enter into a new era, towards equality in the industry, with grace and candour.

Instead, however, Cannes has garnered a great amount of rancour, while Fremaux has remained problematically lackadaisical about the whole thing. He commented early after the Weinstein allegations that “Cannes will never be the same again,” and vowed to examine the gender discrepancy amongst female panel judges. He did not, however, say anything to help the situation regarding the overwhelming lack of female representation in the leading categories for the prestigious competition. His suggestion that change can only happen at the production level, and that “it’s not a festival’s place to consider anything but a submission’s merit” was greeted poorly by many female critics wishing the social movements towards female equality and anti-gender based discrimination would usher in change for the much-adored film festival.

Despite this criticism, Cannes 2018 is not an event to ignore. Much buzz has been circulating around the official jury selection, featuring some of this year’s favorite filmmakers and artists including the amazing Ava DuVernay, actress Cate Blanchett, Kristen Stewart, Denis Villeneuve, Andrey Zvyagintsev and more.

At the end of the day, the Cannes Film Festival is first and foremost a French festival, and with French parties, comes French attitude, and new French traditions. Perhaps one of the most ridiculous details about this year’s festival is Fremaux’s newly added rule: to ban all selfies. It has been more than 10 years since the first iPhone came out, and it seems that 10 years has been far too long for the art director to allow the selfies at his prestigious festival. He called the tradition of selfie taking “trivial,” and criticised it for slowing down the process of celebrities gracefully waltzing down the red carpet.

Some critics, including Vanity Fair film critic Richard Lawson, have said this is rather inconvenient, as journalists have now relied upon selfies taken by celebrities to include as part of their “insider” reporting of the festival’s varying events. It is even more important for those of us attempting to catch up with the excitement of the festival from our own homes. It seems we’ll just have to wait and see how everything rolls out – tuning into The New York Times, instead of, say, Snapchat. Nonetheless, it’s bound to be an exciting event packed-full of innovative moves for the future of film and the best of celebrities indulging in their sybaritic habits for all of us to see!

Image: Gil Zetbase via Wikimedia Commons

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