The Cannes Film Festival has a poor track record when it comes to highlighting films directed by women

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News broke this week  — via Indiewire and Variety — that the Cannes Film Festival will open with a film directed by a woman for the first time since 1987.


Emmanuelle Bercot's La Tête Haute stars veteran actress Catherine Deneuve, and tells the story of "a juvenile delinquent, Malony, and tracks his upbringing as a children's judge and social worker try to save him from himself." According to Indiewire, the Festival opted to forego a star-studded opener for a film that was more in line with the values of their global audience.

It is a clear reflection of our desire to see the Festival start with a different piece, which is both bold and moving. Emmanuelle Bercot's film makes important statements about contemporary society, in keeping with modern cinema. It focuses on universal social issues, making it a perfect fit for the global audience at Cannes.


It's great that they've found a way to be more inclusive, but it's really funny that Bercot fits so seamlessly into their brand considering their horrible track record when it comes to how few films directed by women have been included in the festival over the years.

This chart from Women and Hollywood illustrates how low the numbers have been over the past decade: No more than four films directed by women in any one year, and as few as zero films directed by women out of all the films screened.

The Cannes Film Festival is incredibly prestigious; it's an invitation-only festival that features films from around the world, and the international stage where many films are launched into great success. Different juries appoint the awards that are given out. This year women comprise almost 32% of the juries, but that's generally not the case. Last year, Palme d'Or winner and jury president Jane Campion made sure that five of the nine judges were women, even though only two of the eighteen contenders for the grand prix were women.


The strange counterpoint here is that the Festival is very good at showcasing actresses, and making sure the red carpet is full to the brim with beautiful, diamond-draped women. When you think of the Cannes Film Festival, that giant red carpet is the first thing that comes to mind, actually — as well as all of the dresses showcased.

In some archaic turn of misogyny, it seems like the ladies on the red carpet attract attention, but then the film awards are given to men. It falls in line with the larger problem of inequality plaguing Hollywood, where women are seeing drastic decrease in the amount of behind-the-scenes jobs like directing.


The festival runs from May 13 to May 24. Let's see if they can keep this equity train rolling.

Danielle Henderson is a lapsed academic, heavy metal karaoke machine, and culture editor at Fusion. She enjoys thinking about how race, gender, and sexuality shape our cultural narratives, but not in a boring way.