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Women on Cannes red carpet -- but not in directors' chairs

May 16, 2012 |  6:31 pm


This post has been corrected. See the note below for details.

Jane Fonda and Alec Baldwin were there on the red carpet. Marilyn Monroe made an appearance -- if only on a poster. There was even an improbable camel.

But one thing was glaringly missing at the Cannes Film Festival as it kicked off Wednesday in a glamorous blitz of tuxedos, ballgowns and the flashing of cameras.

Not a single film competing at the rarefied French festival was directed by a woman -- a fact that French feminists lamented in an open letter published in Le Monde and the Guardian.

“Never let the girls think they can one day have the presumptuousness to make movies or to climb those famous Festival Palace steps, except when attached to the arm of a Prince Charming,” the letter said, sarcastically lauding their “exemplary selection” that relegated women to the festival posters.

Glamorous starlets are a staple of Cannes, as the Marilyn Monroe poster hints, but only one female director has ever won the top prize: Jane Campion, who snagged the Palme d'Or award in 1993 for "The Piano." The all-male lineup is a shift from last year, when four female directors were included.

"Women, mind your spools of thread! And men, as the Lumière Brothers did before you, mind your film reels! And let the Cannes film festival competition forever be a man's world!" the sardonic letter from the feminist group La Barbe concluded.

Festival artistic director Thierry Fremaux told the Associated Press that although men are dominating the event, “it's not the fault of Cannes.” A San Diego State University study found that women directed only 5% of the 250 highest-grossing domestic films last year, a drop from two years ago.

“It wouldn't be very nice to select a film because the film is not good but it is directed by a woman,” Fremaux argued to the Associated Press.

In response to his argument, a lengthy list of female writers, directors and producers from around the globe created an online petition calling for Cannes to "commit to transparency and equality in the selection process of these films" and to open up a dialogue about women in cinema.

"Mr. Fremaux is correct in stating that women's rights must be addressed year round," the petition says.

[For the record, 10:38 p.m., May 16: A previous version of this post said Jane Campion won the Palme d'Or for "The Piano Lesson." The title is "The Piano."]


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Photo: Actors Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward, director Wes Anderson, actors Tilda Swinton, Bruce Willis and Edward Norton arrive for the opening ceremony and screening of "Moonrise Kingdom" at Cannes in southern France on Wednesday. Credit: Lionel Cironneau / Associated Press