What is The Cannes Position on Gender and Race?

A Journal of People Report

Jessica Chastain and Will Smith. Source: Internet

The 70th Cannes Film Festival came to an end on 28th May with questions being raised on the festivals and overall cinema industries gender and racial aspect.

At the closing press conference for the festivals this year’s jury, renowned American actress Jessica Chastain who served on the jury of the film festival said that she found the representation of women in the Cannes films “disturbing”, as reported by world media.

A longtime advocate of gender equality in Hollywood, the actress also said that, “The one thing I really took away from this experience is how the world views women, from the female characters that were represented. It was quite disturbing to me, to be honest — with some exceptions.”

This is not the first time Cannes has been criticized for its gender aspect. In the 70 years’ history of the festival only one woman director has won the prestigious Palme d’Or—Jane Campion for “The Piano” in 1993. Only two women directors have been awarded the ‘best director’ award in the festivals history—the second one being awarded at this year’s festival (Sofia Coppola for “The Beguiled”).

Taking into consideration the festivals history this year’s Cannes have been rather an exception for women participation. With Sofia Coppola being awarded for the best director, another woman Ms Lynne Ramsay won the prize for best screenplay (shared with Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthymis Filippou for their entry, “The Killing of a Sacred Deer”).

Albeit that the situation is far from satisfying was evident in the French actress Isabelle Huppert’s comment, quoted in an Economist report: “Seventy years of Cannes, 76 Palmes d’Or, only one of which has gone to a woman. No comment,”

The festivals position on the issue of race has also been questioned. The absence of people of color in the official selection was noted by the actor Will Smith who was quoted in a Guardian report: “A couple of black folks won’t hurt things next year.” It has been four years since a film by a black director has last run in the festival’s competition. The only film by a black director that has been screened in this year’s festival is Zambian-born Rungano Nyoni’s “I Am Not a Witch”.

It is hard for both women and black directors to hold a footing in the film industry. Chastain’s and Smith’s comments just reflect the harshness of this reality. International Film Festivals like Cannes must take a stand on gender and racial aspects to encourage the participation of women and black directors so that the film industry and the general audience get a chance to listen to new and diverse voices.

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