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Cannes 2019: This director perfectly sums up why you shouldn't ask this question about sexism

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Hollie Richardson
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Cannes 2019 film festival judging panel

In the wake of the #MeToo movement, keeping the conversation about sexism in the film industry going is just as important as ever before – but who should we really be directing the questions to? 

The Cannes 2019 film festival got underway on Tuesday (14 May) and things kicked off with a political start – including a powerfully articulated analogy on sexism in the film industry.

Speaking at a press conference where the jury was announced, Happy as Lazzaro director Alice Rohrwacher criticised the film industry for failing to promote female film makers.

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Rohrwacher, who was one of just three female directors in competition last year, superbly said: “People keep asking us what it’s like to be a woman director. It’s a bit like asking someone who’s survived a shipwreck why they’re still alive. Well, ask the person who built the boat. Ask the people who run film schools. Ask the people behind the scenes. It’s not at the very end that we need to raise these issues – it needs to happen at the very beginning.”

Basically: these questions need to be directed at the people who actually hold the cards in the film industry. 

Her spot-on comment came the day after artistic director Thierry Frémaux defended the festival against claims that it failed to include enough female film-makers. Frémaux’s argument was that the festival’s percentage of films directed by women – 20 % – was significantly higher than the 7% of female directors working in the film industry overall. He did, however, agree that the finger of blame should be pointed at the film schools, universities and production houses.

Cannes 2019 film festival female judge Alice Rohrwacher
Cannes 2019 film festival judge Alice Rohrwacher

Last year, the prestigious film festival saw a female-majority panel for the first time since 2014. At the time, head judge Cate Blanchett said the increase in female representation across the board was evident of Cannes’ commitment to being more inclusive. However, she also argued that films selected should be chosen on merit and not gender parity. “There are several women in competition, and they’re not there because of their gender, they’re there because of the quality of their work, and we’ll be assessing them as film-makers, as we should be,” Blanchett said, according to The Guardian.

This year there are four female judges on the panel, alongside five male judges. Joining Rohrwacher are Maimouna N’Diaye, Kelly Reichardt and Elle Fanning. 

Images: Getty

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