Vive La Barbe! Why Cannes matters

“Just make better movies.”

That’s an easy response to the Cannes situation, for sure. And it seems fairly logical: jury selects best films, women feel they ought to be selected, therefore women should make best films. It’s a frigging syllogism, fer chrissake.

But the thing is, we feel like the “best film” part is rigged.

If you have a look at, say, this recent study by Martha Lauzen, a professor in the School of Journalism and Media Studies at San Diego State University, you’ll see that women don’t play very big roles in the “best films.” They make up about 33% of all characters in 2011’s top-grossing North American films. And only 11% of all full-fledged leads are female characters.

We are accustomed to watching movies about men. That’s what we get, and that’s what we expect. And it starts at an early age: actress Geena Davis founded the Geena Davis Institute on Gender and Media when she noticed that all of the G-rated family films available for her kids were mostly about males. So, she commissioned a few studies, and found that, yeah, male characters in family films outnumber female characters by about three to one.

Men make films about men: the Geena Davis Institute also found that 7% of all directors, 13% of all writers, and 20% of all producers are female. (Heck, if you get even one female writer working on a film, screen time for female characters goes up by 10.4%.)

So we’re worried that, with all of that going on in the background, an unconscious requirement for “best film” is that it should be about a man, and that it’ll probably also be directed by a man.

And that, we think, sucks.

Melissa Silverstein over at Women and Hollywood just put together a great petition calling for industry-wide discussions with the leaders of festivals like Cannes about the status of women in film, and we were honoured to sign it.

Marian Evans, at Wellywood Women, wrote a great post about possible solutions to the problem of under-representation of women in film.

The Guardian just re-printed La Barbe’s letter to Cannes, translated from the original French.

Flavourwire just posted a great (but brief) history of women nominated for a Palme d’Or at Cannes.

The Toronto Sun just wrote about it. The BBC’s on the case. Cannes jury member Andrea Arnold told the Telegraph that the situation is a “great pity and a great disappointment.”

Even CTV is reporting about it.

Here’s hoping it works.

If you agree with all this, please sign the petition here.

  • This is what’s gonna happen next year: They’re going to make a female directed film win (doesn’t matter if it’s the best), so that way they can continue to do what their doing and not feel obligated to include women every year.  
    Just like the Academy Awards did after Kathryn  Bigelow. 

  • Thanks! And I’m pleased to see these links I’ve missed! Elsa, you could be spot on there! Can’t wait to see what happens next!