×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Black Actresses Raise Cannes Cry Against Racism

Red-carpet protest, new book highlight bias in French industry

Frustrated with the lack of diversity and inclusion in the French film industry, 16 black actresses took to the red carpet in Cannes on Wednesday night, staging a protest against racism just days after 82 women, led by Cannes jury president Cate Blanchett, launched their own call for gender equality.

Led by actress Aïssa Maïga (“Bamako”), the group struck a defiant note while promoting a new book, “Noire N’est Pas Mon Métier” (My Profession is Not Black), which Maïga co-authored.

Speaking with Variety, the actress called it “a historic moment” as 16 black women linked arms on the red carpet outside the Palais for the first time. “It was beyond my wildest dreams,” she said. “For 20 years, I’ve been acting, and I’ve never felt like this.

“This was a statement we wanted to make to the entire world.”

The book features candid stories about the prejudice faced by black actresses in the French film industry. In one instance, Nadège Beausson-Diagne, who starred in French megahit “Welcome to the Sticks,” described how she’d been asked by a director if she spoke “African.”

She also recalled being told she wasn’t qualified to play a lawyer and was “not African enough to be African.” At one casting call she was told, “For a black, you are really very intelligent. You should have been white.”

Braving the rain and cold, the actresses were glamorously decked out in designs by Balmain creative director Olivier Rousteing, who recently dressed Beyoncé for her show-stopping Coachella performance. They were joined at the Palais by Burundian singer Khadja Nin, who’s sitting on the feature film jury at Cannes this year.

The group included Maïga, Beausson-Diagne, Mata Gabin, Maïmouna Gueye, Eye Haïdara, Rachel Khan, Sara Martins, Marie-Philomène Nga, Sabine Pakora, Firmine Richard, Sonia Rolland, Magaajyia Silberfeld, Shirley Souagnon, Assa Sylla, Karidja Touré, and France Zobda.

On Thursday, the group held a press conference in Cannes to discuss the bias they’ve experienced in the French film industry.

Maïga said she felt “extremely strong” to stand in solidarity with the other women, calling it a “strength that we were given from our parents, and the generations before them…that we can pass down to our children.”

She stressed the importance of using the Cannes platform to “change structures in society” and the French movie industry, calling for funding mechanisms that will promote diversity in film so “that we start to see the real France on the screen.” “For me, the most important thing is that this collective of 16 women will become a movement,” she said.

Maïga said the book, which was released earlier this month, has already sold out in France, while sparking a wave of support on social media. “We realize this is the moment,” she said. “Everybody’s out there rooting for us.”

More Film

  • ABA_062_DAU_0060_v0409.87501 – Rosa Salazar stars as

    Box Office: 'Alita: Battle Angel' Wins Dismal President's Day Weekend

    Fox’s sci-fi adventure “Alita: Battle Angel” dominated in North America, but its opening weekend win isn’t leaving the box office with much to celebrate. Tracking services estimate that this will be one of the lowest grossing President’s Day weekends in years. “Alita,” the cyberpunk CGI spectacle, earned $27 million when it debuted in 3,790 locations [...]

  • Bohemian Rhapsody

    'Bohemian Rhapsody,' 'Marvelous Mrs. Maisel' Among Cinema Audio Society Winners

    Queen biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody” won the Cinema Audio Society’s top prize for sound mixing at Saturday night’s 55th annual CAS Awards. The film is Oscar-nominated for sound mixing this year along with “Black Panther,” “First Man,” “Roma” and “A Star Is Born.” In a surprise over heavy-hitters “Incredibles 2” and “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” Wes [...]

  • Oscars Placeholder

    Make-Up and Hair Stylist Guild Applauds Academy's Stance on Airing Every Oscar Winner

    Rowdy boos were followed by triumphant cheers at the Make-Up Artists and Hair Stylists Guild Awards on Saturday in Los Angeles, as the Hollywood union touched on a week of controversy over a reversed decision to hand out four Oscars during the show’s commercial breaks. Hair and makeup was one of the four categories that would [...]

  • Marvelous Mrs Maisel Vice

    'Vice,' 'The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel' Lead Make-Up and Hair Stylists Guild Awards Winners

    Adam McKay’s Dick Cheney biopic “Vice,” starring Oscar nominees Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Sam Rockwell, won two awards at the sixth annual Make-Up and Hair Stylists Guild Awards Saturday night. The film won for best period and/or character makeup as well as special makeup effects. “Mary Queen of Scots” received the prize for period [...]

  • Bette Midler

    Bette Midler to Perform on the Oscars (EXCLUSIVE)

    Bette Midler will perform “The Place Where Lost Things Go” at the Oscar ceremonies on Feb. 24, Variety has learned. Midler, a longtime friend of composer-lyricist Marc Shaiman, will sing the song originally performed by Emily Blunt in “Mary Poppins Returns.” The song, by Shaiman and his lyricist partner Scott Wittman, is one of five [...]

  • Olmo Teodoro Cuaron, Alfonso Cuaron and

    Alfonso Cuarón Tells Why His Scoreless 'Roma' Prompted an 'Inspired' Companion Album

    Back around the ‘90s, “music inspired by the film” albums got a bad name, as buyers tired of collections full of random recordings that clearly were inspired by nothing but the desire to use movie branding to launch a hit song. But Alfonso Cuarón, the director of “Roma,” is determined to find some artistic validity [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content