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Cannes By the Numbers: Festival Big on Female Filmmakers, Canadians, English-Language Pics

It doesn’t feel accidental that the Cannes Film Festival should deliver an unusually strong showing for female filmmakers the same year that Jane Campion is serving as jury president. But festival topper Thierry Fremaux, who’s typically loath to discuss his program in terms of gender representation, insists that featuring the work of 15 women helmers in the official selection — two of them (Naomi Kawase and Alice Rohrwacher) in competition — was not a conscious decision.

“We’ve always shown films directed by women,” Fremaux said, adding that diversity in the movie biz is an issue that needs to be addressed year-round.

Certainly there’s more than one way to measure the inclusiveness of the competition program unveiled at the fest’s April 17 press conference. The youngest director in competition is 25 (Xavier Dolan); the oldest, 83 (Jean-Luc Godard). As always, French helmers are plentiful, including Godard (“Goodbye to Language”), Michel Hazanavicius (“The Search”), Olivier Assayas (“Clouds of Sils Maria”) and Bertrand Bonello (“Saint Laurent”). Unprecedentedly, there are three Canadian filmmakers in the mix: David Cronenberg (“Maps to the Stars”), Atom Egoyan (“The Captive”) and Dolan (“Mommy”).

Eight of the 18 films up for the Palme d’Or are English-language productions, including two American titles, Tommy Lee Jones’ “The Homesman” and Bennett Miller’s “Foxcatcher.” Fox/DreamWorks’ “How to Train Your Dragon 2” is receiving the token Hollywood blockbuster slot, while Ryan Gosling’s directing debut, “Lost River,” and Ned Benson’s Toronto-tested “Eleanor Rigby” will screen in Un Certain Regard.

And there may still be at least one American-directed film added to the lineup: Abel Ferrara’s sure-to-be-controversial “Welcome to New York,” starring Gerard Depardieu as Dominique Strauss-Kahn. The film is said to be making one more pass through Ferrara’s editing suite before a final decision is reached.

“We want to see the film once again, but if we choose it, we don’t want to announce it here and now,” Fremaux said after last week’s press conference. “We’d rather have people talk about Jean-Luc Godard today.”

Elsa Keslassy contributed to this report.

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