This year, the Cannes Film Festival will witness a higher participation of women in the jury. While this is indeed a landmark moment, members, including French actress Melanie Laurent, has admitted that she’s dreamed of a time when female representation would not be considered news, but rather a norm.
The world’s most renowned movie festival, along with competing events, has come under scrutiny for a while now with regards to the low number of women directors primed to bag top awards at the festival, or hold positions of influence.
The 2021 festival is set to kick off on July 13 with the premiere of Leos Carax's musical, Annette, starring Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard. American Director Spike Lee is said to head up the jury that will select the winner of the top Palme D'Or award, and is making history by being the first Black person to do so.
However, the 2021 festival will have five women on the nine member-strong panel featuring names like Laurent, actress Maggie Gyllenhaal, film directors Jessica Hausner and Mati Diop, and singer Mylene Farmer.
In a statement to the press during a conference on the French Riviera, while she was flanked by jury members wearing face masks amid tight COVID-19 controls, Laurent said, “My dream would be for this to be the first and last festival where there is a debate about women.”
Diop, whose debut feature, Atlantics, won a top award at the festival back in 2019, reiterated Laurent’s sentiments. “I don't know if in our lifetime we'll get to the stage when we'll no longer have to put ‘woman’ before ‘director’,” she said.
This year, from among 24 entries vying for the Palme d'Or, only four films directed by women were select. However, according to organisers, there’s been an increase in a number of female directors in similar festivals and competitions.
Austrian director, Hausner, whose Little Joe feature film was chosen to compete for the Palme d'Or in 2019, said, “This is mirroring that our society is now ready for a certain change that should have happened earlier.”
Gyllenhaal, however, asserted the female gaze mattered in films and other art forms. “[There's an] extra little muscle you have to exercise to turn it into something that as a woman I could relate to.”