Cannes 2014 - Women Filmmakers

thefilmbook by Benjamin B

This post gathers my impressions of a theme I took away from the 2014 Cannes International Film Festival.


I have been attending the Cannes Film Festival for many years, it offers a wonderful snapshot of world cinema, with a curious mixture of art and commerce.

Some years Cannes leaves me with the impression of a dominant theme, this year I saw the issue of women filmmakers emerge.

Cannes 2014 Women Jurors photo call-

The Cannes women jurors: actresses Leila Hatami, Carole Bouquet & Do-yeon Jeon, directors Jane Campion & Sofia Coppola -- Iranian, French, Korean, New Zealander, American.


women directors

This year the Main Competition jury president was New Zealander Jane Campion, who is the only woman director to have received the Palme d'Or, for The Piano, 21 years ago, and the first woman director to preside over such a jury. She joked that "my biggest problem at the Cannes Film Festival is what to wear". The jury was composed of 5 women and 4 men, and included 4 directors: Campion, Sofia Coppola, Nicolas Winding Refn and Jia Zhangke.

During the jury press conference, Campion was outspoken about the lack of women directors: "you would have to say that there is some inherent sexism in the industry." She added that Festival Director Thierry Frémeaux had told her that 7% of the films submitted to Cannes were by women, "and he’s proud that 20% of the films selected are by women... But the guys seem to eat all the cake."

Jane Campion during press conference-

President Jane Campion during press conference

The figures in Cannes bear her out. Only 2 of the films in the Main Competition were directed by women. The proportion was better in Un Certain Regard (the sidebar competition), where 4 out of 18 films had women directors. Frémeaux has said that the organizers do not consider gender when making their selections. This brings up the question of whether there should be some form of "affirmative action".

What is true of directing is also true of cinematography, although I am heartened by the rising number of women cinematographers, notably in France.


women filmmakers

In the Main Competition, Josée Deshaies shot Saint Laurent by Bertrand Bonello in 35mm. The film recounts the life of the French designer with 3 different lighting looks. (There is another, earlier Saint Laurent movie, which is the "authorized" version)

Excerpt from Saint Laurent by Bertrand Bonello, DP Josée Deshaies

watch on YouTube

In Cannes there were also several examples of upcoming women director/cinematographer duos. Girlhood (Bande de Filles) opened the Directors' Fortnight, to widespread acclaim. The film by Céline Sciamma was shot in colorful anamorphic on an Alexa 4:3 by Crystel Fournier, AFC, and follows a group of black teenage girls partying and struggling in the poor French suburbs.

Teaser for Girlhood by Céline Sciamma, DP Crystel Fournier

Watch on YouTube

Jeanne Lapoirie, AFC, shot The Trial of Vivian Amsallem for Ronit and Sholmi Elkabetz -- an Israeli directing duo -- with an Alexa. The story is about a woman who fights to get her marriage dissolved without her husband's consent. The film was also in the Directors' Fortnight.

French trailer for The Trial of Vivian Amsallem

The jury for the Camera d'Or was headed by director Nicole Garcia. It awarded the prize for the best first feature to Party Girl, the trio of directors include 1 man and 2 women: Marie Amachoukeli, Claire Burger and Samuel Theis. The film about a bar hostess growing old was shot by Julien Poupard.

The filmmakers discuss Party Girl by Marie Amachoukeli / Claire Burger / Samuel Theis, DP Julien Poupard

watch on YouTube

Campion's jury awarded the second highest prize to a young woman director: the Grand Prix went to Alice Rohrwacher for The Wonders, with cinematography by Hélène Louvart, AFC. This charming Italian film follows a country girl in a family of beekeepers who is enthralled when a television show starts shooting nearby. The filmmakers fought to shoot the film in Super 16.

Italian Trailer for Le Meraviglie by Alice Rohrwacher, DP Hélène Louvart

Watch on YouTube

During the post-awards press conference, Campion also emphasized the interesting woman characters in some of the awarded films, implying that the kind of stories told about women are as important as the number of women telling them.


cultural clashes

The issue of women's places in other cultures came up both on and off screen during the Festival. Timbuktu by Abderrahmane Sissako, with cinematography by Sofian El Fani, tells the powerful story of the domination of a town by Islamic fundamentalists. The film was produced by Sylvie Pialat, and featured some non-professional actors. It won the Ecumenical award.

Timbuktu press conference

Sissako comforted by his actors during the Timbuktu press conference

During the press conference, Sissako's eyes started to tear up, "I'm not crying for me, he said, I'm crying for the people who have to live through this". In the excerpt below, the fundamentalists tell a fishmonger that she must wear gloves. She refuses and defiantly tells them to cut off her hands, before they take her away.

French excerpt from Timbuktu by Abderrahmane Sissako, DP Sofian El Fani

Watch on YouTube

The clash of European and Middle-Eastern cultures came up on the red carpet, when Iranian jury member Leila Hatami was greeted by the 83-year-old founder of the Cannes Film Festival, Gilles Jacob, with a kiss on the cheek, as is the French custom. This innocuous European gesture raised a furor in some circles in Iran, and Hatami issued a public apology, explaining that her offered handshake was ignored by cinema's elder statesman.

controversial kiss

Controversial kiss


Jacques & Juliette

Every year the Festival hosts a Master Class with a filmmaker. This year the event featured French director Jacques Audiard and was moderated by critic Michel Ciment, who founded the infuential film magazine Positif. Audiard is arguably the best director working in France today. He won the Cannes Grand Prix for A Prophet. His other credits include Read My Lips, Rust and Bone, and my favorite, The Beat My Heart Skipped.

Audiard Master Class with Ciment -thefilmbook-

Director Jacques Audiard speaks with critic Michel Ciment

Ciment asked Audiard about his early work as an assistant editor. It was interesting to hear Audiard speak about one of his filmmaking mentors, editor Françoise Bonnot. Her credits include Z by Costa-Gavras (which earned her an Oscar), The Tenant by Roman Polanski and Jean-Pierre Melville's masterpiece, Army of Shadows. "She has a way of editing that's extraordinary. With her I went to another level, I saw montage as a grammar of construction. I saw that editing is another form of writing."

Audiard Master Class with Ciment 2-thefilmbook-

Jacques Audiard reflects as Michel Ciment signals the projectionist

Juliette Welfling accepting her Cesar-

Ciment pointed out that Audiard has collaborated with the same editor, Juliette Welfling, on all his features. Welfling has won 5 Cesars, the French Oscar, 4 for films done with Audiard.

Audiard said of his editor: "Juliette and I learned together. She did her first feature with me. We learned to make cinema together."

As I listened to a leading French director explain how much he owes to women editors who have taught him and collaborated with him, I realized the obvious: many of the "missing" women filmmakers have been working in the edit rooms. Historically that is one place where women found an opportunity to create films.

And now it's high time for more women directors and cinematographers to also appear on the set.

As an experienced moderator, Ciment brought Audiard in for the conclusion of the Master Class, just as the director finished speaking about his desire to work with an actor. "So, Ciment asked, in the end cinema is about desires?".

Audiard responded,"No my friend, cinema is about ideas."



Festival de Cannes: website

(select from 1 of 8 languages on upper right)

Festival de Cannes: Jury Press Conference

Festival de Cannes: Press Conference for Timbuktu

Al Jazeera: Iran's Hatami apologises for Cannes kiss

Festival de Cannes: Jacques Audiard Master Class moderated by Michel Ciment

Wikipedia: Editor Françoise Bonnot

imdb: Editor Juliette Welfling


Women filmmakers mentioned in this post:

Marie Amachoukeli - Screenwriter/Director

Françoise Bonnot - Editor

Carole Bouquet - Actress

Claire Burger - Director

Jane Campion - Director

Sofia Coppola - Screenwriter/Director

Josée Deshaies - Cinematographer

Do-yeon Jeon - Actress

Ronit Elkabetz - Actress/Director

Crystel Fournier - Cinematographer

Nicole Garcia - Actress/Director

Leila Hatami - Actress

Jeanne Lapoirie - Cinematographer

Hélène Louvart - Cinematographer

Sylvie Pialat - Screenwriter/Producer

Alice Rohrwacher - Screenwriter/Director

Céline Sciamma - Screenwriter/Director

Juliette Welfling - Editor


Cannes 2014 Men Jurors with Campion photo call-

The male jurors with their president: Actor Willem Dafoe, directors Nicolas Winding Refn & Jane Campion, actor Gael Garcia Bernal, director Jia Zhangke


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