A few good women: Female filmmakers at Cannes

The five women in Cannes' majority-female jury, from left to right: actress Kristen Stewart, director Ava DuVernay, actress and jury president Cate Blanchett, actress Lea Seydoux and singer-songwriter Khadja Nin

Cannes (France) (AFP) – In a year dominated by the #MeToo movement, the Cannes film festival is feeling the heat to address glaring gender imbalances in the competition for its top prize, the Palme d’Or. 

But the numbers show the festival still has some way to go in the battle of the sexes.

– And the winner is… –

Of the 268 filmmakers who have claimed one of Cannes’ top three prizes, only 11 — or four percent — have been women, an analysis by AFP shows.

New Zealand’s Jane Campion remains the only female director to have received the highest accolade, the Palme d’Or, awarded for her masterpiece “The Piano” in 1993. 

Iranian prodigy Samira Makhmalbaf snagged the prestigious Jury Prize twice, first for her 2000 breakthrough feature “Blackboards” and again three years later for “At Five in the Afternoon”.

The last major prize winner was Italian director Alice Rohrwacher, who took home the Grand Prix for “The Wonders” in 2014. She’s back in the running this year with “Happy as Lazzaro”.

– Director’s cut, or not –

Women have made up barely 3.5 percent of the best director and best screenplay winners over the past seven decades.  

Only four of the 111 winners have been female — and two of them were last year when Sofia Coppola became only the second woman to secure the best director trophy with her American Civil War drama “The Beguiled”.

Meanwhile, Briton Lynne Ramsay’s “You Were Never Really Here” scored best screenplay.

– Struggle to get in –

If only one woman has won the Palme d’Or it’s likely because very few ever get nominated.

Since the festival’s launch in 1946, only 82 films by female directors have been shown in competition — a number dwarfed by the nearly 1,700 male contenders.

In other words, women made less than one in 20 of the films.

This year’s festival doesn’t buck the trend, with just three female directors among the 21 main competition contenders.

This is still better than the 2010 and 2012 festival editions, which had all-male lineups.

While Cannes organisers acknowledge the gender inequality, they insist this merely reflects the underrepresentation of women directors in the cinema industry as a whole.

– On jury duty –

Australian actress Cate Blanchett heads this year’s starry majority-female jury, which also includes Kristen Stewart and Lea Seydoux.

While Blanchett is the 12th chairwoman in the festival’s 71-year history, only one woman director, Jane Campion in 2014, has had the honour.

Campion has said that Cannes needs to have an all-female jury one day to counter the decades of male domination.

Apart from the president, the jury is composed of four women and four men — a parity ratio observed since 2013.

Overall women fare slightly better as judges at Cannes, although it is still relative. One in five jury members have been women in its seven-decade history.