For more than 70 years, the Cannes Film Festival has been the pinnacle of glamour and prestige for the international film industry, with its grand entrances on the Promenade de la Croisette, full of couture gowns and major jewelry (not to mention a strict shoe policy). But this year’s two-week event, which began Tuesday, comes with some baggage that is putting the festival in a different light.
It is the first Cannes since the #MeToo movement began last year and, more specifically, the first Cannes since Harvey Weinstein’s purported sexual assaults were exposed in October 2017. The film producer was a mainstay on La Croisette, hosting the annual amFAR gala. Cannes was also the location for two of his alleged assaults: of actress Asia Argento at the Hôtel du Cap Eden Roc in 1994 and Kadian Noble at Le Majestic Hotel in 2014.
The French film industry has been slow — and even resistant — to accept the growing #MeToo movement. In January, 100 Frenchwomen, including legendary actress Catherine Deneauve, signed a letter in France’s Le Monde denouncing the movement.
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But Cannes is making its own attempts to change the climate of the festival this year, introducing a sexual harassment hotline and hosting an event with gender-equality group 5050×2020. And on Saturday, 100 women, including actresses and directors, will walk the Cannes red carpet as a show of solidarity and to affirm their presence at the event. “The entire world has changed,” festival creative director Thierry Frémaux said Monday at a press conference at Cannes. “We were deeply shocked [by Weinstein’s allegations]. We indeed condemned his behavior … We questioned ourselves and our own practices.”
What’s more, the judging panel is majority-women and led by a woman for the first time in the festival’s history, with actress Cate Blanchett heading up the panel as jury president, joined by actresses Léa Seydoux and Kristen Stewart, director and producer Ava DuVernay and Burundian singer Khadja Nin. Blanchett was adamant, though, that neither the majority presence of women on the panel nor the current climate of the #MeToo movement would sway the judging process.
“There are several women in competition,” said Blanchett at the Cannes opening press conference. “They are not there because of their gender; they are there because of the quality of their work. We will assess them as filmmakers as we should.”
As for Cannes high-heel policy (which was introduced in 2015)? The controversial rule still seems to be in place, for now.