Why you should care

A year after its #MeToo pledge, we look at how the legendary festival is keeping up its end of the bargain.

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WHAT TO KNOW

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The Palme d’Or trophy of the 72nd edition of the Cannes Film Festival. - This year’s Cannes Film Festival is running from May 14th until May 25th.

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What’s happening? Today marks the opening of the 72nd Cannes Film Festival, one of the world’s most prestigious places a film can be exhibited. The lineup of films is, as usual, first-rate, with Jim Jarmusch’s neo-zombie flick The Dead Don’t Die opening the festivities, and new works by cult favorites Ken Loach and Rebecca Zlotowski on tap. But beyond that is a potentially sour note: Last year, Cannes committed to gender parity in its management, and some worry that as #MeToo and #TimesUp fade from the spotlight, so might the festival’s resolve.

Why it matters. Issues of gender inequality have rocked the festival in recent years in myriad ways. Only one female director — Jane Campion in 1993 — has ever won Cannes’ coveted Palme d’Or prize (pictured), and women were required to wear high heels to premieres until just four years ago. Harvey Weinstein was a longtime regular — in fact, actress Asia Argento described Cannes as “his hunting ground” when she claimed during last year’s closing ceremonies that he had raped her during the festival decades earlier, an allegation he’s denied.

HOW TO THINK ABOUT IT

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Kristen Stewart (left) and Cate Blanchett (third from right) are among cinema professionals walking the red carpet at last year’s Cannes Film Festival to protest the lack of recognition for female filmmakers.

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One year later. At the 71st Cannes Film Festival last year, 82 women representing the 82 female directors who’ve had films premiere in the competition (compared to 1,645 male directors) stood on the event’s iconic staircase and called for change. The festival adopted a new charter promising to close or at least narrow the gender gap. In some ways it’s made a difference: Cannes saw a selection committee that was 50 percent women for the first time in its history. The films in competition, however, are only 27.5 percent female-helmed, a discrepancy festival director Thierry Fremaux says is the industry’s responsibility to correct.

Excuses, excuses. Four films directed by women are competing for the Palme d’Or this year — out of a total of 19 — following a selection process whose details haven’t been disclosed. Three women-directed films were chosen in 2018. But Fremaux is dealing with other controversies: Legendary French actor Alain Delon, 83, is getting an honorary Palme d’Or this year, but an online petition urged the festival to cancel it due to statements made by Delon about having slapped women in the past. Fremaux said Delon is free to say what he likes, adding, “We’re not giving [him] the Nobel Peace Prize.”

For the win? The festival is full of heavy hitters this year, including previous Palme d’Or winners Ken Loach and Terrence Malick, and Bong Joon Ho, the Korean genius behind Snowpiercer. But there are some exciting newcomers too: Mati Diop, a French director who’s the first Black woman selected to compete at Cannes, and Ladj Ly, who’s making his feature debut and Cannes debut with political drama Les Misérables (not the musical).

A legend gone. One of the 82 women who protested last year was French New Wave pioneer Agnès Varda. She died two months ago at 90 years old, but she’s featured on the Cannes poster this year, which shows her filming her 1955 classic La Pointe Courte. Cannes’ embrace of Varda is an inclusive sign — but she might not be pleased about the lack of progress made when it comes to including female creatives.

Back in the fold. Some film buffs have worried in recent weeks that Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood wouldn’t be finished in time for the festival’s deadline. But the film, set in 1969 against the backdrop of the Charles Manson murders, will be presented after all. Absent from the discourse: accusations made last year by longtime Tarantino collaborator Uma Thurman, who told The New York Times that pressure and intimidation from Tarantino to do dangerous stunts left her with permanent injuries. She also claimed that she told Tarantino that Weinstein had tried to assault her — and he agreed to bring Weinstein on board with Thurman’s Kill Bill anyway.

WHAT TO READ

Cannes 50/50 Parity Pledge, One Year Later: Has the Festival Delivered? by Rebecca Keegan in The Hollywood Reporter

“‘Cannes and any festival, we are the last stage of that journey,’ says Frémaux. ‘The journey of having more female directors starts in cinema school and university.’”

The Cannes Film Festival — With Roger Ebert As Your Tour Guide, by Rico Gagliano in The Wall Street Journal

“What seemed like a cross section of the world’s population thronged the street outside Le Petit Majestic — a horse-betting bar by day, a designated meeting place for insomniacs by night.”

WHAT TO WATCH

72nd Cannes Film Festival Kicks Off

“[Tarantino] has always been connected to the independent cinema scene. Now he’s a studio director for the first time.”

Watch on France24 on YouTube:

How the #MeToo and #TimesUp Movements Impacted Cannes

“We stand together on these steps today as a symbol of our determination and our commitment to progress.”

Watch on The Washington Post on YouTube:

WHAT TO SAY AT THE WATERCOOLER

Crossing streams. Netflix-financed films are still absent from the festival, despite reports that the streaming giant continues to negotiate with Cannes behind closed doors for inclusion in the future. As of 2018, all films in the festival must be shown in French cinemas, but French law requires that films not be streamed until three years after their cinematic release. Rumors have flown that Netflix didn’t have any films in shape to show this year, but big upcoming Netflix projects from Martin Scorsese and Steven Soderbergh leave movie buffs wondering what might have been.

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