Here's Why 82 Women Protested at the Cannes Film Festival
While 82 seems like a small crowd, the number has a huge significance.
The red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival is typically a site for fashion firsts, not a protest venue. But 82 women repurposed the carpet on Saturday, holding their own march to the iconic stairs of the Palais des Festivals in protest of gender inequity in the entertainment industry.
The protest was punctuated by a collective statement delivered by Australian actress Cate Blanchett, who led the march with French filmmaker Agnes Varda, as dozens of influential women in entertainment stood shoulder-to-shoulder on the steps before her.
“Women are not a minority in the world, yet the current state of our industry says otherwise,” Blanchett read. “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 ... We stand in solidarity with women of all industries.”
In comparison to the hundreds of thousands of women who recently participated in women’s marches around the world and lent their voices to the #MeToo movement, 82 seems unremarkable, but the figure is a symbolic one.
Just 82 films by female directors have premiered in competition for the Palme d’Or (“golden palm”), the festival’s top prize, over the past seven decades. And only one of those directors (Jane Campion, for her 1993 film “The Piano”) has ever been awarded the coveted prize, though Varda was awarded an Honorary Palme d’Or in recognition of her “entire career” in 2015.
In contrast, over the course of the festival’s 71-year history, men have directed 1,645 of the films that premiered in competition, according to the New York Times.
The protest was organized by 5050x2020, a French movement that aims to establish gender equality in France’s film industry by 2020. The powerful women, including the female members of this year’s Cannes jury — Kristen Stewart, Marion Cotillard, Ava DuVernay, Léa Seydoux, and Khadja Nin — joined the march that called for transparency, safe work environments, improved diversity, and equal pay.
Women’s rights champion and Global Citizen Salma Hayek participated in Saturday’s protest, but said at a panel on Sunday that change will need to happen at all levels.
“It is not just the producers” who will have to make changes to close the pay gap, Hayek said. “It is actors too ... If actors ask such inflated fees it will leave nothing for actresses. If the movie’s budget is $10 million, the [male] actor has to understand that if he is making $9.7 million, it is going to be hard for equality.”
Hayek was one of dozens of women who broke their silence last year and came forward with allegations of sexual harassment and assault by Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, a major catalyst of the #MeToo movement against workplace sexual misconduct.
Global Citizen campaigns in support of gender equality and against discrimination of all forms. Pervasive sexual harassment and assault in the world’s biggest entertainment industry shows just how endemic the behavior is globally. You can take action here.