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Cannes Festival Toppers Sign Pledge to Ensure Gender Equality

Two days after the march which gathered 82 women on the stairs of the Palais in Cannes, film festival chief Thierry Fremaux, Critics’ Week head Charles Tesson and Directors’ Fortnight incoming topper Paolo Moretti signed a pledge Monday promising greater gender equality and transparency.

The signing of the pledge took place during an international conference that brought together feminists and pro-equality movement members, including Time’s Up U.S., Time’s Up U.K., Italy’s Dissenso Comune, Spain’s IMA and Greek Women’s Wave. The onstage discussion, moderated by filmmakers Celine Sciamma (“Girlhood”) and Rebecca Zlotowski (“Planetarium”), was put on by the organization 50/50 for 2020, as well as the French culture minister, Françoise Nyssen, and the president of the national film board, Frédérique Bredin. Among the panelists were Ginevra Elkann, the London-born Italian film producer, and Sarah Calderón, the founder and CEO of The Film Agency.

The pledge calls on the festivals (Cannes Film Festival, Critics’ Week and Directors’ Fortnight) to issue statistics on the number of films submitted; be transparent about the members of the selection and programming committees in order to prevent any doubt about a lack of diversity or parity, while allowing festivals to make their editorial and strategic choices; set up a timetable of goals to ensure an even gender ratio within the respective terms.

“I would like to say that the event of the stairs of the Palais last Saturday was extraordinary and should not be. It marks the end of a cycle which started this fall and the beginning of a new chapter,” said Fremaux, who has been criticized for the continued low level of female representation in Cannes’ official selection.

“Cannes is welcoming all these initiatives to hopefully feed into the consciousness-raising. The world is not the same and that’s a good thing. Now we’re examining our own practices, our history. The statistics speak for themselves – only one woman has won the Palme d’Or and only 82 films directed by women have played in competition – and even if there is a higher proportion of women showing films at Cannes, we’re aware that it’s not enough,” said Fremaux.

Speaking on the panel, Elkann said that “the gender gap in Italy has unfortunately worsened between 2015 and 2017.” “On average, women are earning 22,000 euros per year while men are making 44,000 euros. As much as 90.8% of films were made by men in Italy in 2017,” Elkann said.

Sciama called out France for its “culture of backlash” when it comes to women’s issues. “This last fall we’ve been hearing some people saying there’s no more freedom of speech,” she said. “That’s right: You can’t say stupid things anymore, and that’s actually a good thing.”

Sciamma said that while France boasts one of the world’s highest proportion of female directors and productions, it has been stagnating. “We need to move forward,” she said.

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