Donald Clarke

Whingeing about cinema and real life since 2009

Female directors (sort of) surge in Cannes

There are 15 female directors in the official selection. But the news is not quite so good as it sounds.

Fri, Apr 18, 2014, 16:06


The continuing dearth of top female directors remains an embarrassment not just for Hollywood, but also for those who maintain the art-house sector. The Cannes Film Festival has suffered as much justified criticism as anybody else in this area. Last year, there was just one film by a woman in the official competition and that picture, A Castle in Italy, was a bit of a stinker (directed by Carla Bruni’s sister). Still this was a better result than 2012 when no films by women made it into the race for the Palme d’Or.

This year two of the 18 films are by women. One of those, Naomi Kawase’s Still the Water, is expected to be contender. Alice Rohrwacher, selected for Le meraviglie, is more of an unknown quality.

That’s still a fairly grim total. The people at Cannes have, however, managed to generate a few headlines suggesting that “15 women” have made it into the official selection. Good grief! This must mean that about half of the films in Un Certain Regard, the “alternative competition”, are by female directors. Hats off! Sadly, this is not the case. The statistic requires further parsing.

That number takes in special screenings and one film included in that list, the portmanteau flick Bridges of Sarajevo, features 14 directors spread fairly evenly among the genders. So we shouldn’t get too carried away here. That said, Un Certain Regard genuinely does include a host of terrific female film-makers.

Jessica Hausner’s Lourdes was one of the very best films of 2009 and I was among many who hoped her latest, Amour Fou, would make it into the main competition. In the event, we will be chasing up her study of Heinrich von Kleist in the top sidebar. Asia Argento (pictured above, while serving on the jury in 2009), also a storming actress, has done mad work to compare with that of her mad father, Dario, and now surges forward with Misunderstood. Karen Yedaya has done a great deal of interesting work critical of her own Israeli government and is expected to disturb feathers with Harcheck mi Headro. Much buzz has also been gathering around Party Girl — co-direted by Marie Amachoukeli, Claire Burger and Samuel Theis — since, to everyone’s surprise, it was announced as the opening film in UCR. It seems as if the programmers were properly blown away by this study of an ageing socialite. “The film is a portrait of a free woman who has chosen to live on the margins of conventional society, and delves deep into a France that is often underrepresented. With total realism, the lead role is played by the real-life Angélique,” the press release tells us. Sounds delicious.

Jane Campion, still the only female winner of the Palme d’Or, must have mixed feelings about the situation. We have moved on, but we still have miles to go. Might it be an idea, in future years, to actively promote potential UCR features by woman into the main competition? Hard to say. But there should be plenty of meat to chew in the releases listed below.


Amour fou, Jessica Hausner
Bird People, Pascale Ferran
The Blue Room, Mathieu Amalric
Charlie’s Country, Rolf de Heer
Dohee-ya, July Jung
Eleanor Rigby, Ned Benson
Fantasia, Wang Chao
Harcheck mi headro, Keren Yedaya
Hermosa Juventud, Jaime Rosales
Incompresa, Asia Argento
Jauja, Lisandro Alonso
Lost River, Ryan Gosling
Party Girl, Marie Amachoukeli, Claire Burger and Samuel Theis (OPENER)
Run, Philippe Lacote
The Salt of the Earth, Wim Wenders and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado
Snow in Paradise, Andrew Hulme
Titli, Kanu Behl
Tourist, Ruben Ostlund