Since the inception of the Cannes Film Festival in 1946, the festival has become known as a showcase for fine European film, premiering highly-regarded films like Blue Is The Warmest Color, Pulp Fiction, and The Piano.
Throughout the festival’s 72-year history, only one woman, Jane Campion, has won the festival’s highest honor, the Palme d’Or. (And she had to share it with a man.) Women are also often made to feel “unwelcome” at the festival, and, this year, only three out of 21 films selected by the festival were directed by women.
Now, some (very famous) women are looking to change the odds. On Saturday, a group of 82 women — including Kristen Stewart, Cate Blanchett, Ava DuVernay, Jane Fonda, Salma Hayek, and Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins — took to the Cannes red carpet in protest, walking in silence arm-in-arm down the carpet before stopping halfway up the stairs that lead up to the conference center that holds the festival’s events. The move was meant to symbolize the difficulties many women face when climbing the social and political ladder.
On the stairs, Blanchett (who serves as the jury president of this year’s Cannes festival) and French documentary filmmaker Agnes Varda delivered a statement they had written together.
“Women are not a minority in the world, yet the current state of our industry says otherwise,” the statement said. “As women, we all face our own unique challenges, but we stand together on these stairs today as a symbol of our determination and commitment to progress. The stairs of our industry must be accessible to all. Let’s climb.”
Another symbol of protest comes in the form of some of the women’s outfits.
The Cannes festival takes pride in its strict dress code, and although those without an invitation aren’t privy to its exact details, it supposedly bans women from wearing pants and heels. In 2015, some women were allegedly banned from a screening of Carol because they were wearing flats.
So, while Stewart’s outfit for the protest appears to be yet another one of her enviable designer getups, the look — a Chanel pantsuit and boots— may be another quietly subversive act of protest. Agnes Varda subverted the rules as well by walking the red carpet in flats.
Hopefully, this protest ensures that we’ll see more women represented — either in protest or not — next year at Cannes.
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