Can Cannes change?
*The author is a popular culture reporter at the JoongAng Ilbo.
The 71st Cannes Film Festival’s director Thierry Frémaux said that the festival would improve the male-to-female ratio of the selection committee and select more films directed by women. At an unscheduled press conference on May 8, he said that he would keep up with the worldwide changes ignited by the Me Too Movement.
Among the 21 films competing for the Palme d’Or prize this year, only three are directed by women.
Jane Campion, who directed “Piano” in 1993, is the only female director to win the top prize in the past 70 years. The Cannes Film Festival has been criticized as being male-oriented and backward.
Frémaux’s press conference did not clear up the controversy. Roman Polanski has long been a film festival favorite. The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences in the United States kicked him out on May 3 for sexual assault of a minor. A reporter asked if Cannes would do the same, but Frémaux said that there were complicated matters. Polanski fled the United States in 1977 before the sentencing on a statutory rape case, and has stayed in France for over 40 years. Yet the Cannes Film Festival invited him to the non-competition selection last year.
Lars von Trier, who made sympathetic remarks about Hitler in 2011, returned to the Cannes after seven years. Björk, who starred in “Dancer in the Dark,” revealed last year that she had been sexually harassed by a Danish director, implying Von Trier. The director denied the allegations, and the film festival invited him. Earlier this year, the Oscars snubbed James Franco, who won the Golden Globe, as he was embroiled in a sex scandal.
This year’s Cannes Film Festival set up a hotline for sexual crimes. Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, who faces a string of sexual abuse allegations from actresses inspired to come forward by Me Too Movement, is accused of four separate incidences of sexual abuse in Cannes alone. Yet the festival is still unwilling to take on famous names accused of terrible crimes.
Nevertheless, there is a hope for change. This year’s nine-member jury includes five women. Cate Blanchett, the jury president, said, “For profound changes to occur, it needs to take place through specific actions.”
JoongAng Ilbo, May 10, Page 29