For the past week, women’s media has pretty much been dominated by talk of Lena Dunham’s new show “Girls.” But newsflash! There’s other crap going on! Like the fact that this year’s prestigious Cannes Film Festival features absolutely zero films by women. That’s right: of the 23 films up for Cannes’ Very Important Palm D’Or Award, zero were made by women. And in the Un Certain Regard category — reserved for films made by up-and-coming young directors — only two were made by women.
Not that this is much better, but last year four films made by women competed in the festival. Melissa Silverstein, who writes the blog “Women and Hollywood” reacted to the news with anger and shock.
Cannes is the most prestigious world competition and to have no female directors is just a slap in the face. I cannot believe there were no films worthy of inclusion. I just don’t believe it. The whole process is fucked up that women can’t even get into the conversations about films that people are even thinking about will be included in lineups.
But the problem, of course, is bigger than Cannes. According to the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University, only 15 percent of all narrative films made in the United States in 2011, and five percent of the 250 with the highest grosses at the box office, were directed by women. And that’s got to do with a general lack of support for women in the filmmaking industry.
And, explains Jacqui Barcos, a board member of the Alliance of Women Directors, the Cannes problem is only reflective of what’s going on in Hollywood, where women are unable to secure financing to make complex, compelling movies. “The only way to get them financed is to have a big-name director, because then the investors are assured it’ll be a masterpiece,” she explains. “And many of the most talented female directors are still relatively unproven, so investors don’t want to take a chance.” So female directors are locked in a horrible Sisyphean cycle. That pushes many women to make “micro-budget” movies that don’t get the acclaim or draw of their bigger budget, major studio counterparts.
But as Silverstein notes in her blog, Cannes is the festival people watch and know. And its inclusion or exclusion of women is as much a statement on the status of women as anything else. “For an industry that professes to examine questions about life, that challenges conventions, that pushes the envelope, the total neanderthal approach to women is breathtaking,” she writes.” How can this industry say it is progressive or forward thinking in any way when it constantly shunts aside the perspectives of half of the world?” [Huffington Post]