In 2015, Kering, a partner of the Cannes Film Festival, launched the Women in Motion Program to highlight female contributions in cinema. More than a celebration, the program works to advance gender equality throughout the industry.
“The cinema is the most influential way to touch people,” Kering chief communications and image officer Valerie Duport tells Variety. “When we started Cannes, it was a huge opportunity to push the visibility and to use this fantastic leverage, which is the cinema. I think as a luxury group, one of our key roles is really to give visibility to conversations which can make the change.”
Kering’s platforming of women in film is a larger reflection of the company’s commitment to them.
Looking at the Cannes Film Festival’s past 71 editions, just 82 women in total were selected for awards, in comparison to over 1,600 men. It mirrors a larger issue in the industry, in line with the fact that only two women have ever won the Academy Award for director in its 93 years.
“It gives the impression that a woman, because she’s a woman, she’s less an artist than a man,” Duport says. “I cannot believe that, nobody can believe that. So we have to evolve. We have to wait to give a voice to this conversation and I think it’s really one of our jobs.”
Women in Motion fosters safe, stable spaces for newcomers to be ambitious in film and for industry veterans to reflect upon their careers. The program regularly organizes talks, many of which take place at the fest, that feature entertainment leaders including Jodie Foster, Geena Davis, Salma Hayek-Pinault and Emilia Clarke. It also presents annual awards, one of which recognizes the careers and commitment of leading women in cinema, such as Jane Fonda, Susan Sarandon and Patty Jenkins.
Paving the way for a more equal industry also requires nurturing new talent, as Women in Motion does with its Young Talent Award. The prize is given to a promising female director, who is chosen by the award’s previous winner, and includes a €50,000 ($59,000) prize.
“I think what is extremely important is to give the right visibility to women, like we do with the Young Talent Award,” Duport says. “When you give visibility to a conversation, when you give viability to a young director, you open the door to a new [opportunity].”
Despite the cancellation of Cannes in 2020, the festival and Kering forged ahead with granting Maura Delpero with the Young Talent Award. The Italian filmmaker debuted “Maternal,” her first full-length fiction film about an Argentinean refuge for adolescent mothers run by nuns.
The 2021 Young Talent Award is set to be given to Australian film director Shannon Murphy, who made her feature film debut in 2019 with “Babyteeth.”
“It gave me a little more sense of peace, ‘OK I have time,’ ” Delpero says of winning. “I’m happy the awards exist because they make people talk about that there are minorities in cinema, and not just women.”
When Delpero reflects on what it means to be an award recipient, she describes such filmmakers as courageous, watchful and determined. She knows this kind of recognition is important because it serves as a catalyst for people to talk about the larger inequality issue in the film industry.
“Cinema reflects the world but also generates the world because what we see in cinema can influence society,” Delpero says. “Until now, cinema has not reflected the reaches of the world. … We have a duty to try to solve it.”