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Cate Blanchett defends Cannes Film Festival’s lack of female directors

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Susan Devaney
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Actress Cate Blanchett says the lack of female directors selected for the competition at Cannes Film Festival this year will soon change, but “not overnight”. 

For the first time since 2014, Cannes Film Festival is hosting a female-majority jury line-up – with Cate Blanchett as head judge.

Sitting alongside Blanchett on the judging panel, A Wrinkle in Time director Ava DuVernay and actress Kristen Stewart, along with French actress Léa Seydoux and musician Khadja Nin. And directors Denis Villeneuve and Chang Chen, and French film-maker Robert Guédiguian and director Andrey Zvyagintsev.

Which is why we were keen to hear what the actresses thought about the annual competition – which is undoubtedly a prominent fixture in the film industry – and it’s lack of selection of female directors.

Blanchett, speaking at an open-day press conference, said the increase in female representation across the board at this year’s event was evident of Cannes’ commitment to being more inclusive. However, the Australian actress 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

In recent months, the festival drew heavy criticism for its lack of female directors in official competition this year. Only three of 17 films up for the festival’s top prize, the Palme d’Or, have been made by women.

“A few years ago there were only two [female directors in competition],” Blanchett said, suggesting the festival were making great efforts to address the imbalance. “The selection committee now has more women on board than in previous years, which will obviously change the lens through which the films are chosen. But these things are not going to happen overnight.”

“Would I like to see more women in competition? Absolutely. Do I expect and hope that that’s going to happen in the future? I hope so. But we’re dealing with what we have this year, and our role in the next almost two weeks is to deal with what is in front of us,” she added.

Blanchett also shared her belief in the industry changing as a whole, suggesting it would “take place through specific actions, not generalisations, and not through pontification. It’s addressing the gender gap and it’s addressing the racial diversity, and equality and the way that we make the work.”

At the start of the week, Cannes artistic director Thierry Frémaux stressed his own belief that artistic merit comes first when film selections are made, but admitted that the festival would aim to select more films directed by women going forward, as well as adding more women to its selection committee.

“Cinema has always been in the hands of men. There will be more and more [female film-makers] in the future,” he said. “It isn’t just the Cannes film festival that’s going to change. The whole world has changed.”

We’re heading in the right direction.

Images: Twitter / Getty