In the Wake of #MeToo, Femme-Centric Events Take Hold at Cannes

May 2018
Originally published in Cannes Market News

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When asked about the fact that only three of the films competing for the Palme d’Or this year were directed by women, Cannes Film Festival Artistic Director Thierry Fremaux maintained that films were chosen for their quality, not to fulfill a quota. But this all-too-common response illustrates a dangerous blurring of the line between gender and ability.

The issue isn’t that women should be favoured in competitions, but rather that not enough is being done in general and in the industry to support women in completing their projects, competing with men both in Cannes and beyond.

This year, thanks to the many women-lead organisations that are hosting multiple femme-centric events, facilitating panels and spearheading initiatives at the festival, it feels like the tide is turning.

One of the most prominent is film director Nina Menkes’ talk titled Sex & Power: The Visual Language of Oppression, on Friday May 11 at 12.00 at The Members Club, The Grand Hotel Beach @Plage45. Menke focuses on the ways in which the systemic sexual abuse and assault revelations that have emerged, most recently around the Weinstein case, are directly related to the way films are shot to perpetuate the male gaze and female oppression on-screen.

The voices that have been privileged in cinema for so long are largely male and largely white, and these perspectives have shaped our collective consciousness. Menkes aims to illustrate that it is not just important to increase the number of women represented in film, but to pay particular attention to how these women are represented. This event is sure to inspire and educate people behind the camera (hopefully many of them female) to film women in ways that are empowering, not demeaning. Following the talk, Menkes will be in conversation with journalist Liza Foreman.

In order to ensure that women are represented on the screen, they first need to get their projects off the ground. But in an industry that has favored the male voice (and gaze) for so long, this can be an uphill battle. The goal of Breaking Through the Lens, held on May 13 at 15.00 is to change that dynamic.

Organised by Daphne Schmon and Deva Palmier of Seek Films, a panel of 15 female filmmakers will present their projects to financiers and producers. The panel will be moderated by choreographer, actress and talent mentor Mia Frye.

“Statistics show that 8 percent of the top 100 films in the US were directed by women in 2017,” Frye said. “That’s a situation that needs addressing, clearly, and dealing with from the bottom up.” Breaking Through the Lens aims to be a supportive space that will give female directors a seat at the table.

“Funding female directors hopefully leads to a greater diversity of projects told from a female perspective, giving voice to women on screen,” Frye said. “To put top finance players in a room with 15 pre-selected female projects at our event is moving in the right direction.”

Many of the other events at Cannes grapple with the future of the industry in the wake of #MeToo. Among them are Take Two, an event hosted by the Swedish Film Institute, and The Girl’s Lounge, a week of events hosted by The Wrap.

“The Croisette has traditionally been a place for male directors, with women largely relegated to the oppressive beauty-zone of movie-stardom,” Nina Menkes said. #TimesUp indeed.