In over seven decades only 82 female directors have had films featured at the festival.
Cate Blanchett and legendary French director Agnes Varda brought a poignant protest to the Cannes red carpet last night, where they were joined by 80 other women working in the film industry to stand up for equal pay and better representation in their field of work and in all others, and to stand in solidarity against the sexual abuse scandals that have engulfed Hollywood in past months.
Blanchett and Varda were joined by the likes of Kristen Stewart, Salma Hayek, Marion Cotillard, A Wrinkle In Time director Ava DuVernay and Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins, at the first protest of its kind to hit Cannes. The number of protestors – 82 – was particularly significant, standing for the 82 female directors whose films have been selected to feature in official competition at the festival in over seven decades. For comparison, 1,645 male directors have held that same honour in the same time period.
WATCH: Cate Blanchett lead the Cannes red carpet protest for gender equality
All 82 women slowly walked up the red-carpeted steps of the Grand Theatre Lumiere, a representation of just how hard it can be to climb up the ladder as a woman working in film, before standing in silence to face Cannes’ Grand Palais. The timing, too, was also significant, with the protest taking place ahead of the premiere of Girls of the Sun, the only film in this year’s competition which has been directed by a French female director, Eva Husson. A statement was then read out by Blanchett (in English) and by Varda (in French).
“Women are not a minority in the world, yet the current state of our industry says otherwise,” they said. “As women, we all face our own unique challenges, but we stand together on these steps today as a symbol of our determination and our commitment to progress. We are writers, we are producers, we are directors, actresses, cinematographers, talent agents, editors, distributors, sales agents, and all of us are involved in the cinematic arts. And we stand today in solidarity with women of all industries.”
The statement went on to ask for “parity and transparency” in the film industry’s executive bodies, and to demand “safe environments in which to work.”
“We expect our governments to make sure that the laws of equal pay for equal work are upheld,” they continued. “We demand that our workplaces are diverse and equitable so that they can best reflect the world in which we actually live. A world that allows all of us in front and behind the camera, all of us, to thrive shoulder to shoulder with our male colleagues.”
“The stairs of our industry must be accessible to all,” concluded Varda. Her rallying call? “Let’s climb.”