Organizers of the prestigious Cannes Film Festival signed a pledge committing to policies promoting more gender equality, in response to activism from women in the film industry.
“The world is no longer the same. We must examine our own practices, our habits and our history,” said festival head Thierry Fremaux, who has faced criticism for the annual event’s inclusion of an abysmally low number of female-directed movies.
The adoption of the pledge came two days after a powerful protest organized by a group of French filmmakers pushing for gender equality, 5050 by 2020. Hollywood’s Time’s Up movement against workplace sexual harassment also advocated the commitment.
The demonstration featured 82 women, led by the Cannes festival’s jury president, actress Cate Blanchett. They marched along the festival’s red carpet on Saturday night, symbolizing the number of movies directed or co-directed by women that have competed in the festival’s main slate throughout its entire history.
Since the festival began in 1946, 1,645 movies directed by men have been featured, according to data compiled by 5050 by 2020. Some of the movies were co-directed by multiple men, amounting to 1,688 male directors.
The festival’s gender equity pledge has three main components, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Festival organizers will release statistics on the gender breakdown of film submissions, be transparent about members of the festival’s selection and programming committees, and will establish equal gender representation on the festival’s executive board.
The pledge also encourages festival organizers to develop goals “to achieve perfect parity.”
While modest and incremental, the pledge could encourage larger, long-term changes, as film festivals like Cannes play an important role in championing emerging filmmakers and showcasing movies that go on to receive critical acclaim and awards recognition.
Organizers of the pledge hope that other prominent film festivals adopt similar commitments. Leaders of this fall’s Toronto Film Festival, which often marks the unofficial start of the movie awards season, have also promised to sign the pledge.
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