The 2015 Cannes Film Festival has been named the “Year of the Women” for its focus on women-driven films.
Despite the branding, several of Hollywood’s female power players seem reluctant to embrace the idea that the fest, much like the industry, is ready to let go of its male dominance.That culture may slowly be changing, though.For the second time in its history, a woman director, Emmanuelle Bercot, opened the festival, and Agnes Varda will become the first female recipient of the honorary lifetime achievement award.
Still, many are rejecting a notion that their success is a victory of female empowerment.
“It’s the selection of the film that’s an honor,” Bercot said at a press conference, via AFP. “I don’t feel I’ve been given a gift because such a prestigious slot went to a woman.”
The most critically applauded entry thus far is Cate Blanchett’s film Carol, which tells the story of a suppressed lesbian love.
Blanchett told Variety that as much as she does not want to talk about the issue of gender discrimination anymore, it’s still important and conversations must be had, because these small successes are not enough.
Mad Max: Fury Road and the drug war thriller Sicario, like Carol, also have female protagonists, Charlize Theron and Emily Blunt, respectively.
Blunt spoke with reporters this week about the perception of her “tough” characters.
“I get asked a lot about playing tough female roles, but I don’t really see them is tough,” she said. “There are plenty of strong women out there and I don’t think they can be compartmentalized as one thing–oh, you’re tough. Why? Because I have a gun?”
Oscar-winner Natalie Portman has also been making rounds at Cannes to promote her directorial debut, A Tale of Love and Darkness.
According to Portman, productions helmed by women are still being written off as “vanity projects.”
“I remember as a kid when Barbra Streisand would make movies that she was in and people would say, ‘oh it’s vanity, it’s a vanity thing’,” said the actress, calling the industry “completely imbalanced.”
A report earlier this year stated that only around 4.6% of mainstream films were directed by women in 2014, and not one best picture nominee at the Academy Awards had a female protagonist.
Actress and producer Salma Hyatt addressed progression in the industry at Cannes this week, saying that actual change would come upon the realization that the industry can bank off of women.
“The only thing we can do is show them we are an economic force,” she said. “Nothing else will move them. The minute they see money, things will be instantaneously different.”
Scott Roxborough, a journalist with The Hollywood Reporter, believes a major shift is already in progress as sales have been focused on women audiences this year.
“It used to be all about action-driven things with a male demographic, the Stallone-Schwarzenegger type movie,” he said. “Everyone now is trying to get women on board to try to appeal to a female audience and not just grab teenage boys.”
“Teenage boys don’t go to movies-they either watch them on the Internet or play video games,” he added.