A sexual harassment hotline will be set up at this year’s Cannes Film Festival with the help of the French government in the hopes of discouraging and combating sexual misconduct at the prestigious event.
On Thursday, French equality minister Marlene Schiappa explained that the hotline is meant for the protection of all people working in and around the industry, French news outlet AFP reports. “One of the rapes that Harvey Weinstein is accused of happened at Cannes, and so the festival cannot not act,” stated Schiappa, directly linking Cannes to decades-long open secret which became public knowledge last October. Weinstein continues to deny any wrongdoing, though he has been accused of sexual harassment and assault while at the film festival by multiple women. The French minister is referring to the alleged rape of Italian actress and director Asia Argento in 1997.
“The world is not the same since the Weinstein case; it has woken up. And it’s fortunate,” shared the artistic director of the festival Thierry Frémaux with Variety last month when discussing the impact of the Weinstein scandal and subsequent emergence of the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements. “The Cannes Film Festival must be irreproachable on all these topics.”
Additionally, Schiappa says that attendees of the festival, which takes place on the French Riviera, will be warned as they arrive that misconduct will not be tolerated. Attendees are encouraged to report harassment not just when it happens to them, but if they witness it happening to anyone else. According to Deadline, the festival also intends to arrange a series of events and panels addressing diversity and sexual harassment. This is a huge step forward for the festival that just a few years ago demanded that all women attending wear high heels.
The messaging remains mixed at Cannes. While this hotline is a considerable step forward, they are forgetting who else they are letting in. The festival continues to welcome and celebrate the work of accused abusers like Woody Allen and Roman Polanski. This year, they have invited back Danish director Lars von Trier after publicly sympathizing with Hitler during a press conference. There has to be a tipping point when talent and notoriety no longer makes up for inexcusable behavior, and that tipping point should be much earlier than it is currently. Cannes also continues its exceptionally low selection rate of female filmmakers for its high profile competition. This year, only three of the 21 films selected were directed by women. While Cannes strives to keep the women inside the festival safe from harassment, they are forgetting these two important ways they can advocate for them.
While a hotline is a huge step in the right direction, knowingly welcoming people who are part of the problem is a step back. It’s one thing to saying that you will protect people from harassment at your festival, but what about just not inviting known harassers in the first place?
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