Eighty-two women are set to walk the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival on Saturday (May 12) to highlight the limited number of female filmmakers who have been selected for the festival’s competition lineup over its 71 years.
Among those expected Saturday are Salma Hayek, Jane Fonda, Wonder Woman filmmaker Patty Jenkins and the French director Agnes Varda, a recipient of an honorary Palme d’Or prize. Also joining are the five female members of this year’s Cannes jury: Cate Blanchett, Kristen Stewart, Ava DuVernay, Lea Seydoux and Burundian singer Khadja Nin.
The number 82 corresponds with the number of films directed by women to ever play in the festival’s prestigious Palme d’Or competition — in contrast to the 1,645 films directed by men that have.
The silent, symbolic protest will be held ahead of the premiere of French filmmaker Eva Husson’s Girls of the Sun, which is about a Kurdish battalion of entirely female soldiers.
Husson is one of three female filmmakers out of the 21 movies in competition for the Palme d’Or this year. The other two — Nadine Labaki’s Capernaum, and Alice Rohrwacher’s Happy as Lazzaro — are to premiere next week.
Cannes has come under increasing scrutiny in recent years over the number of female directors selected into its main slate, considered one of the most esteemed achievements in cinema. Jane Campion is the only female filmmaker to ever win the Palme.
Festival director Thierry Fremaux earlier this week hailed Saturday’s event as a way for women “to affirm their presence.”
Fremaux has repeatedly insisted that the festival choses its films purely based on quality. But he’s also signaled that the festival is reanalyzing its procedures and is making its selection committees gender balanced.
Jessica Chastain last year served as a jury member in Cannes and was critical of the female representation in the festival’s main slate.