Women Set To Take The Spotlight At This Year's Cannes Film Festival

Rex USA
It's been nearly three decades since the annual Cannes Film Festival opened with a movie directed by a woman — and despite the fact that women have come a long way both in front of and behind the camera since then, they're still often left out of the spotlight. But, on the eve of the fest's 68th anniversary, there's change in the air: This year, Cannes is shining the light on women's contributions to film — and paying more attention to the overall role of women in the industry.

Standing Tall — directed by Emmanuelle Bercot and starring Catherine Deneuve — will officially launch the festival on May 13, setting the tone for a strong female directorial presence to follow. From Valérie Donzelli's Marguerite and Julien and Alice Winocour's Maryland to Natalie Portman's inaugural behind-the-lens endeavor, A Tale of Love and Darkness, a myriad of women's work will be shown this year. And, of course, leading ladies like Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Marion Cotillard and Naomi Watts will all grace the silver screen and the red carpet, where selfies are being all but banned.

Cannes is also breaking the mold by launching Women in Motion, an initiative aimed at highlighting women's achievement and presence within the film industry. Hosted as morning sessions throughout the festival, this new programming will address the ways women are represented in Hollywood, how female characters are portrayed on screen, and how gender shapes narrative and storytelling, among other things.

"Women's contribution to the film industry, be it on screen or behind the camera, is essential and invaluable. By putting this topic on the agenda, we hope to work toward greater recognition of their work and input to cinema," Cannes general delegate Thierry Fremaux told Variety. Women in Motion is also meant to point the spotlight on women's contribution to the industry in general, and will award two prizes. The first will go to a prominent man or woman within the industry who has contributed to the cause of women; the second will be given by that recipient to an up-and-coming female director of their choosing. 

But, despite the shift in focus, some things seem to never change — or at least change very slowly. The coveted Palme d'Or prize features only two female directors in the running, the same number as last year. Even while Cannes becomes more woman-inclusive, the fest is still a far cry from truly representing the work and achievments of women in film.