Cannes We Not? The Film Festival Is Off To A Rocky, Sexist Start

Photo: Andreas Rentz/Getty Images.
Cannes has never exactly had a glowing reputation when it comes to women in film. First and foremost, only one woman has ever received its highest honour, the Palme d'Or, and only two women have ever won the award for Best Director. In fact, an analysis by AFP found that only eleven of the 268 winners of Cannes' top prizes have been women. Fur! Ther! More! Women were reportedly denied entry to some of the events in 2015 when they weren't wearing heels, a sexist standard that Kristen Stewart pushed back on last year.
"People get really upset at you if you don’t wear heels or something, whatever," she told The Hollywood Reporter. "But I feel like you can’t ask people that anymore—it’s just kind of a given. If you’re not asking guys to wear heels and a dress, you cannot ask me either."
So you'd think, in this year of #MeToo, and in this year when inequality is ever present and called out, the festival would be making some attempts to turn its image around. However, the women in attendance have still reported feeling unwelcome, and actresses have continued to field sexist questions from reporters.
"I always have a lot of anxiety when I go [to Cannes]," Women And Hollywood founder Melissa Silverstein tweeted last week. "A big part of it is how unwelcome female filmmakers are there and also how women are sexualised and commodified and made to seem ancillary."
Her feeling was echoed by Time's Up's Kate Muir, who told The Guardian that "Cannes itself is a two-week celebration of male brains and female beauty, as a walk down the Croisette in the evening will attest. Many wheelers, dealers and producers still parade with paid-for models or prostitutes on their arms, which makes female film-makers deeply uneasy about what, precisely, is valued by the money men."
This was all written before the festival kicked off, but their predictions seem to be right on the money, as actresses once again found themselves answering belittling questions, despite changed like the majority-female jury with Cate Blanchett as president.
During a press conference for the jury members, Blanchett sarcastically addressed a reporter who asked the four men on the jury why movies still mattered.
"So actresses, don’t answer that," Blanchett reportedly cut in. "Because you have no idea how to answer that.
Then on Thursday, Carey Mulligan was met with multiple bizarre and sexist moments during The Kering Women in Motion Talk. When the discussion was opened up to questions from reporters, Mulligan was asked how she felt about the red carpet selfie ban — even though, Vulture reports, she had just talked about not liking social media. She was also asked by a French reporter what "she would think if I told her she was very beautiful." Pardon?
Later, the outlet also reports she was asked if she'd work with Lars Von Trier after his producer Peter Aalbaek said he would "stop slapping assess." I don't even know what the purpose of that question was, and neither did Mulligan.
"That’s great for him," she replied.
While there is good news — Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem were paid the same amount for Everybody Knows, which opened the festival — it keeps getting lost in sexist murk. Although Cannes the festival isn't prompting these questions and moments, it does mean it still fosters an environment where women aren't taken seriously and men can pseudo-hit on a women during a Q&A (I'm still not over that!). As Blanchett told reporters, this change isn't going to "happen overnight." But for a festival that's had this reputation for more than just the past few years, it might be worth stepping on the gas a little harder.
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