What would the Cannes Festival be without a little fracas? Some kind of polemic has been making the rounds of the French media this week concerning the lack of women filmmakers in the official selection at the Cannes Festival–twenty-two films, by male directors all, are vying for awards this year. Things turned nasty when Virginie Despentes, Fanny Cottençon, and Coline Serreau (a screenwriter-director, actress and director, respectively) published a letter in Le Monde decrying the situation.
Their tone is, to understate things, one of derision and sarcasm. And we should consider ourselves (and when I say “we” I mean the editorial “we,” not the brotherhood of men) lucky that they did not sit around a tiny man doll and savagely poke it while doing incantations.
Ladies, women make just as many bad movies as men do. Instead of so much defeatism, celebrate the festival programmers who manage each year to choose the twenty or so best films (out of thousands of not so good ones).
Not ones to be caught discriminating, in their “J’Accuse” the Sœurs Fachées manage to shoot down both the Cannes Festival and the Cesars (France’s answer to our Academy Awards) in flames by fingering both organizations for allegedly not inviting women to the party—at the last Cesar Awards, no woman was nominated in the best film or best director categories.
I wonder about this public scolding. Do it serve any purpose except to highlight further the problem being griped about? What’s the motivation behind this?
For starters, this is France, the country where protesting is a national sport, owing to the fact that socialism has strong roots here (and is stronger than ever from here on since François Hollande was elected) and the union mentality of us against them prevails. Every pretext is usually a good one to stop the presses, dismantle the machinery and lock the gates. And when you’re protesting, no work is getting done.
In their letter the Gallic dissenters declare, “gentlemen like depth in women, but only where plunging necklines are concerned.” This is the kind of cliché, however true it may be, that mitigates any pretense at seriousness. They then lament the fact that women are used to host movie awards and that that’s about the only job they can hope to get. Well, ladies, who do you want to host your next award show, Jack Palance? Yes, I know, he can do single-handed push-ups—but he’s dead (rest in peace, Mr. Palance).
Then they take us back in time to the seventies by bringing up the fact that women’s buttocks adorned posters then, and why would women bother even becoming filmmakers when their natural graces are so clearly in demand? Fair enough.
But if you’re going to write a convincing letter better not reference an ad published in 1976 in your conclusion–it’s a tenuous argument at best. And things haven’t changed much, women still bare a lot in ads nowadays. But your reference to 1976 is pertinent, for another reason.
The year before, France’s parliament voted the Veil Law making abortions legal. Two years later, International Women’s Day was recognized by the United Nations. That decade was the heyday of feminism, great advances were made for the cause of women.
The kind of self-pitying, unconstructive rant that was published in Le Monde belittles these accomplishments.
To the three I say, put your money where your mouths are: launch a fund and start a young women directors workshop, at La Femis (France’s most eminent film school) or elsewhere, in order to present one of your graduates’ projects at festivals.
Or better yet. Make a movie.