Regret but no surprise Cannes lacks women directors

Thu May 17, 2012 6:31am EDT
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By Mike Collett-White

CANNES, France (Reuters) - The absence of female directors from the 22-strong competition in Cannes this year is a "great pity", but reflects a global problem rather than sexism specific to the world's biggest film festival, jury member Andrea Arnold said on Wednesday.

The British film maker, who has won acclaim in Cannes for "Red Road" and "Fish Tank", is one of nine jurors who will decide which movie wins the coveted Palme d'Or for best picture at the end of this year's festival.

The fact that it cannot be a woman -- all competition movies this year were directed by men after four women featured in the main lineup in 2011 -- has led to accusations of sexism in the French press and further afield.

In a letter published last week in Le Monde newspaper, a group of feminists backed by a French actress and two female directors complained about the sexual imbalance.

"Don't allow young women to think that they might one day have the gall to direct films and to go up the steps of the Palais except on the arms of a prince charming," they wrote, referring to the red carpet entrance to the main cinema in Cannes.

Thierry Fremaux, who as general delegate of the festival is charged with selecting the films each year, responded by saying that he would never allow a system of quotas to be introduced in order to promote female film makers.

He did concede that the lack of female directors was a problem, but not one particular to Cannes.

"NOT OUT OF CHARITY"   Continued...

Jury member Andrea Arnold arrives at the opening ceremony of the 65th Cannes Film Festival May 16, 2012. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann