Female directors seize the limelight at Cannes film festival

Exciting times to be at Cannes this year, if you are a woman!

Marion Cotillard in a scene from the film From the Land of the Moon, which is in line for the Palme d’Or.

Marion Cotillard in a scene from the film From the Land of the Moon, which is in line for the Palme d’Or.

Female directors seize the limelight at Cannes film festival

As the inequality row rages on, three women, including the British director Andrea Arnold, are in the running for the Palme d’Or

via theguardian.com by Vanessa Thorpe

When actresses kicked off their high heels in anger to walk the red carpet in flats at the Cannes film festival last spring it was a sign of a wider dissatisfaction with women’s chiefly decorative role at the glamorous annual pageant on the Côte d’Azur.

It was a small protest at reports that others were barred from a premiere for not wearing heels, but when this year’s festival starts on Wednesday gender inequality in the film industry is likely to be scrutinised still more thoroughly.

The issue flared again last week after new figures showed the number of British films made by women increased by just 0.6% from 2004 to 2014, and only 13.6% of working film directors in the UK were women. Susanna White, director of the new John le Carré thriller Our Kind of Traitor, claimed it was “shocking to see the extent of this relentless bias laid out in black and white”.

Yet when the 69th festival gets under way on the legendary Croisette there should be a better gender balance on display.




 Andrea Arnold is in competition for the Palme d’Or. Photograph: David Fisher/REX/Shutterstock

The influential British film director, Andrea Arnold, is one of three women competing for the Palme d’Or. American Honey, the first US film by the former actress from Dartford, Kent, is in competition with the postwar romance, From the Land of the Moon, starring Oscar-winner Marion Cotillard, by French director, actress and screenwriter Nicole Garcia. Maren Ade, the German film-maker who won a Silver Bear at the Berlin film festival for Everyone Else in 2009, is in the running with Toni Erdmann, about a father who tries to restore his daughter’s sense of humour with a series of pranks.

Jodie Foster will also be in Cannes for the premiere of herMoney Monster, starring George Clooney and Julia Roberts and young British actor Jack O’Connell. “Studios still see women as a risk and I’m not sure why,” Foster said last month.

Arnold’s American Honey, starring Shia LaBeouf, is a road movie about a group of travelling magazine salespeople. Arnold, who came to international attention in 2009 withFish Tank, spoke last week about her journey through America while making the film. “Some of the poverty in some of the places really shocked me,” said Arnold, 55. “It seemed more intense than Britain. There was a town I went through in the south – and I was quite upset by what I saw: closed factories and shops, huge poverty … And drugs … loads of drugs.”


Other female directors likely to attract attention are the French sisters, Delphine and Muriel Coulin, whose See the World, or Voir du Pays, is in the more adventurous section, Un Certain Regard. The sisters, acclaimed for their 2011 film, 17 Girls, grew up in Lorient, Brittany. Muriel studied at the national film school in Paris, while her sister became a novelist, and they have worked together on a series of short films that “dealt with femininity and the body”.

“In cinema history, there are quite a lot of films made by brothers but never any sisters, so I think we are kind of a premiere,” Muriel has said. The Coulins split their writing and directing “fifty-fifty”, they say. “We share everything and are very close to each other, so there is no problem sharing the direction,” Muriel explained.

She worked with director Krzysztof Kieślowski on The Double Life of Véronique, and the Three Colors trilogy, BlueRed and White. “I remember shooting Veroniqueat night and he was listening to opera and trying to get the technicians to do their best,” she has recalledsaid. “It’s like a conductor for music and if he’s good, everybody’s good. You want to do your best. He was a fantastic human being, very humble, and I learned a new lesson every day.”

Delphine’s novel, Samba Pour la France, was recently made into a film starring Charlotte Gainsbourg.

Also competing in Un Certain Regard are two female newcomers, the Israeli filmmaker, Maha Haj, with Personal Affairs, and Stéphanie Di Giusto, from France, with The Dancer.

Calls for a greater number of female directors in the Cannes programme were voiced long before Jane Campion spoke out passionately in 2012 at the premiere of Bright Star. Last year just two women competed for the main prize and, although organisers denied there was a rule on heels, many women were outraged at reports that those in flats at the premiere of Todd Haynes’s Carol were asked to step aside.

This year four of the nine Palme d’Or judges are women: Kirsten Dunst, Vanessa Paradis, Valeria Golino, an Italian actress and film director, and Iranian film producer Katayoon Shahabi.


It is great to see how more and more players in the industry jump on the band wagon to move toward equality for women in Hollywood. Thank you Indigenous Media!



When it comes to women in Hollywood, the statistics aren’t pretty.   Women may be 51% of the population but they are an appalling minority when it comes to serving as directors or showrunners. In 2014, only 19 percent of the top shows had female showrunners and only 2 percent of the films were directed by women.

At Indigenous Media, we believe that diversity is crucial to good storytelling and we have always believed that enabling women to get their voices heard is also good business.

That’s why we are teaming up with some of the most successful women in the industry, as well as a coalition of female-oriented storytelling organizations, to launch an incubator aimed at producing dramatic series written and directed by women.

Our team of mentors includes Lesli Linka Glatter (Homeland), Kasi Lemmons (Eve's Bayou), Sarah Treem (The Affair), Betty Thomas (Private Parts) and Mimi Leder (The Leftovers).  They will be working hands-on with talented new filmmakers submitted by the PGA’s Women’s Impact Network (West), the Women’s Project Lab, the Alliance of Women Directors, Film Fatales, The Kilroys, Women In Film (Los Angeles) and The Lillys.

Indigenous Media will pair five female storytellers with established mentors. Each mentor will guide and encourage each new voice through the process of creating and bringing her project to life. For each pair, Indigenous Media will finance a short pilot, with the potential to produce and fund a full-length version. 

This is just the first step in bringing diversity back to storytelling. As we grow, so will the opportunities for new and undiscovered talent.

- Jon Avnet and Rodrigo Garcia -


Lesli Linka Glatter

Lesli Linka Glatter is a DGA Award winning, Oscar and Emmy-nominated director of film and premium television drama series. Lesli began her directing career through AFI's Directing Workshop for Women. Some of her most recent credits include Executive Producer/Director of Homeland and director of The NewsroomThe Walking Dead,JustifiedRay Donovan and Masters of Sex.

Betty Thomas

Betty Thomas is an Emmy-winning director and producer. Her film credits include The Brady Bunch Movie28 Days and Dr. Dolittle. She's currently finishing an Untitled Pilot for Disney.

Mimi Leder

Mimi Leder is an Emmy-winning director, producer and the first woman accepted to study cinematography at the American Film Institute. In 1997, Mimi directed DreamWorks' first theatrical release, The Peacemaker, and followed it the next year with another action hit, Deep Impact. Currently, Mimi is Executive Producer/Director of the HBO hit series, The Leftovers.

Kasi Lemmons

Kasi Lemmons is an actor and film director. In 1997, she wrote and directed her first feature film, Eve's Bayou, for which she won an Independent Spirit Award for Best First Feature as well an award for Outstanding Directorial Debut from the National Board of Review. Some of her other credits include The Caveman's ValentineTalk to Me and Black Nativity.

Sarah Treem

Sarah Treem is a television creator-writer-producer and playwright known for incorporating many female roles into her work. Along with writing and producing for HBO's In Treatment and Netflix's House of Cards, Sarah is the creator, writer and executive producer for the Golden Globe-winning Showtime hitThe Affair.


Alliance of Women Directors fosters a community of professionals to advance the art, craft and visibility of women directors in the world of film, television and new media.

Film Fatales is a global network of women filmmakers who meet regularly to mentor each other, share resources, collaborate on projects and build a supportive community in which to make their films.

The Kilroys are a gang of playwrights and producers in Los Angeles who are done talking about gender parity and are taking action. 

The Lilly Awards Foundation is a non-profit organization whose mission is to celebrate the work of women in the theater and promote gender parity at all levels of theatrical production.

Producers Guild of America, Women's Impact Network, West (PGA WIN West) provides education and access for female producers, as well as raising awareness through research and information-sharing with industry decision makers. 

Women in Film, Los Angeles, is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting equal opportunities for women, encouraging creative projects by women, and expanding and enhancing portrayals of women in all forms of global media.

Women's Project Theater Lab (WP Theater) supports female-identified theater artists and the world-class, groundbreaking work they create, and provides a platform where their voices can be heard and celebrated on the American stage.


Beginning February 17, Indigenous Media will team up with an esteemed group of mentors and a coalition of female-oriented storytelling organizations to launch an incubator aimed at producing a dramatic television series, created by women.

Each organization will hand select three candidates, and Indigenous Media will narrow down this list of candidates and assign them to the mentors. Based on the writing samples, each mentor will select a final candidate. 

The mentors will guide and encourage their candidates through the process of creating a pilot script for their series. Indigenous Media will then finance a short based on each mentor pairs' pilot script, with the potential to produce and fund a full-length version.