Cannes president Jane Campion calls for more recognition of women in film

Cannes president Jane Campion calls for more recognition of women in film
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POSTED: Sunday, May 18, 2014 - 1:00pm

UPDATED: Sunday, May 18, 2014 - 1:04pm

(CNN) -- Against the stunning backdrop of the French Riviera, hundreds of photographers lie in wait. As the sun shines gloriously on La Croisette Promenade, some of the film industry's most famous faces including Gael Garcia Bernal, Sofia Coppola and Zhangke Jia -- three of whom make up this year's festival jury -- are stepping out for a photocall.

Screams of "Sofia! Sofia!" can barely be heard over the jostle of photographers wildly gesticulating towards the panel in the hopes of getting the best shots.

As the 2014 Cannes Film Festival gets underway, the President of the Jury and former Palme D'or prize winner, director Jane Campion has criticized the film industry for failing to recognize the contribution of women.

The prestigious event has been held annually since the 1930s and yet Campion is the only woman to have won the coveted top prize, the Palme d'Or.

Speaking at a press conference for the festival jury earlier this week, Campion said: "I think you'd have to say [there is] inherent sexism in the industry. Thierry [Fremaux, artistic director of the festival] told us only 7% of the 1800 films submitted to the Cannes Film Festival were directed by women and we have 20% [women] in all the programs.

"Nevertheless, it does feel very undemocratic. Women do notice that time and time again we don't get our share of representation. Excuse me gentlemen, but the guys do seem to eat all the cake."

Even Cannes has had its problems: No female directors made the list of Palme d'Or contenders at the festival in 2010 or 2012 and only one was nominated in 2013 -- Valeria Bruni Tedeschi for "A Castle in Italy."

In April, Fremaux announced at a press conference that 15 women directors would have movies featuring at this year's event.

Both Naomi Kawase with "Still the Water" and "Le Meraviglie" from Alice Rohrwacher are up for the top accolade. Meanwhile, the festival jury is majority-female for the first time, with five women to four men judging the competition.

For the artistic director in charge of the annual event, the problem is not with Cannes specifically, but rather the entire film industry. Fremaux recently told France 24: "We have more women in the official selection than we saw in the selection process. Cannes is much more in favor of women than cinema itself."

But Melissa Silverstein, founder and editor of the Women And Hollywood blog says that she's "tired of having to be grateful for people doing the right thing."

"It is the right thing for a jury to be evenly split among men and women and to include diversity at all levels. That makes for better discussions and brings other people's perspectives into the mix. So while it is great that there are equal men and women this should be the norm," she says.

As for those up for the awards, Silverstein is also critical of the lack of progress when it comes to women behind the lens. "This year there are 15 total women directors counted on 49 films while there are 58 male directors on those same 49 films. There have to be consistent upticks on a yearly basis for there to be improvement."

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