At a press conference for the kickoff of the Cannes Film Festival last week this year’s jury president Cate Blanchett was asked about the dearth of female directors in competition this year — three out of 21 to be exact.
“A few years ago there were only two, and I know the selection committee has more women on board than in previous years, which will obviously change the lens through which the films are chosen,” Blanchett answered, according to Vanity Fair. “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 is going to happen in the future? I hope so.”
But the Oscar winner, who demanded gender and racial parity on the jury before accepting the position, wasn’t done talking about the need to recognize more women behind the camera. This weekend she led a silent protest of 82 women — the total number of female directors in competition in 72 years at the festival—to demand Cannes recognize more female directors. Fellow jury members Ava DuVernay, Kristen Stewart, Léa Seydoux, and Khadja Nin, as well as legendary French New Wave director Agnès Varda, Jane Fonda, Salma Hayek, and Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins, were among those who locked arms with Blanchett on the steps of the Palais at Cannes in protest, according to Entertainment Weekly.
“On these steps today stand 82 women representing the number of female directors who have climbed these stairs since the first edition of the Cannes Film Festival in 1946. In the same period 1,688 male directors have climbed these very same stairs,” Blanchett said.
“In the 71 years of this world-renowned festival, there have been 12 female heads of its juries. The prestigious Palme d’Or has been bestowed on 71 male directors — too numerous to mention by name — but only two female directors: Jane Campion, who is with us in spirit, and the wonderful Agnès Varda, who stands with us today. These facts are stark and undeniable,” Blanchett added.
Following her remarks, which Varda interpreted into French for the crowd, Blanchett and Varda read a collective statement from 5050x2020, the group that organized the protest, which called on the industry to provide safer working conditions for women and equal pay, according to The Guardian.
“Women are not a minority in the world, yet the current state of our industry says otherwise. As women, we all face our own unique challenges, but we stand together on these stairs today as a symbol of our determination and commitment to progress,” the statement read. “We stand together on these steps today as a symbol of our determination and progress. The stairs of our industry must be accessible to all. Let’s climb."
The protest preceded the gala premiere of Eva Husson’s Girls of the Sun, one of the only films directed by a woman at Cannes this year, according to EW.