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Cannes festival organizers sign pact for gender parity

May 14, 2018

The Cannes Film Festival has long been criticized for gender imbalance on its juries and in its film selection. Now, on the heels of a red-carpet protest, the festival's director has pledged to strive for equality.

Thierry Fremaux signs a pact as audience members look on
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/J. Ryan

The leaders of the Cannes Film Festival signed a charter Monday promising to push for an equal number of men and women on its decision-making boards, as well as calling for greater transparency in the film selection process.

Their signatures hit the page just two days after 82 female film industry figures staged a red-carpet protest at the world-famous French film festival, demanding an end to gender imbalance in the film industry.

Cannes Director Thierry Fremaux signed the pledge along with Edouard Waintrop and Charles Tesson, two of Cannes' artistic directors. Looking on from the front row were members of this year's nine-person jury, among them Kristen Stewart and jury president Cate Blanchett, both of whom took part in Saturday's protest.

Read more: The issues rocking the Cannes Film Festival

Film industry women protest on the steps of Cannes, raising their fists in the air
On Saturday 82 women protested at Cannes for better gender equality in filmImage: Reuters/J.-P. Pelissier

'The world has changed'

Fremaux said he hoped that Cannes would embrace the new initiatives, which include a pledge to compile statistics tracking the gender of filmmakers and major crew members on all the films submitted to the festival.

"We hope that it will reinforce the realization that the world is not the same anymore," Fremaux said. "The world has changed."

"We must question our history and our habits," the Cannes festival director added, calling on other international film festivals to follow suit.

Read more: What a history-making Oscar nomination reveals about gender equality in Hollywood

Fremaux's promise to make selection committees transparent in order "to rule out any suspicion of a lack of diversity or parity" marks a significant step for the prominent film industry figure, who is also the head of the French-focused Lumiere Film Festival and the Institut Lumiere. He had previously insisted that Cannes should choose its films based purely on quality. 

Cannes has been criticized over the years for the gender imbalance in films selected for screening at the festival.

Only 82 female directors have ever competed for the festival's top prize, the Palme d'Or, since 1946 compared with almost 1,700 male directors. Only one woman has ever taken home the top prize: Jane Campion for "The Piano" in 1993.

In 2018 only three out of the 21 directors in the competition for the Palme d'Or are women.

The signing of the pledge coincided with 2018 jury head Blanchett's birthday. The attendees broke into a rendition of "Happy Birthday" for the Hollywood actress after the signing. 

cmb/rls (AP, AFP)