The 70th edition of the Cannes Film Festival has once again set up camp on the Croisette this week. With enough stars to outshine a constellation descending on the French Riviera, Cannes continues to assert its dominance on the film festival calendar. Although a number of old-favourites we love to see will return across the two competition categories (we’re looking at you Michael Haneke and Yorgos Lanthimos) there are also a considerable number of surprising additions competing for the prestigious Palme d’Or.
One issue Cannes has been consistently called up on its often shocking lack of representation of female directors, not only across the event, but specifically within competition categories. It was only five years ago that no female directors were in the running for the top prize, following a pattern stretching back to 2005 and 2010. This year, a total of 12 films directed by women will screen across the week, (up from last year’s nine), and three of these will screen in competition – this year’s jury led by Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar.
The most highly-anticipated of these must surely be Sofia Coppola’s The Beguiled. Her third film to debut at Cannes is a feminist-retelling of Thomas P. Cullinan’s novel of the same name (previously adapted by Clint Eastwood). Set during the American Civil War, an injured soldier excites an increasingly dangerous sexual tension and rivalry within an all-female boarding school. Coppola has already conquered teenage ennui, rewritten history, and taken us behind the scenes of the wannabe-valley-girl crime of the century, its about time she took on some weighty southern gothic.
Scottish director Lynne Ramsay, the woman behind the taut and masterful adaptation of We Need to Talk about Kevin, brings Jonathan Ames’ novella, You Were Never Really Here, to the big screen. The thriller follows a war veteran, played by Joaquin Phoenix, who has taken on the job of rescuing women from sex trafficking, but his attempts to save a young girl from a New York brothel go horribly wrong. Ramsay has proven she is a deft hand at handling darker and more disturbing issues, particularly facing young men and women, so it’ll be interesting to see how she handles such a difficult, but incredibly relevant one.
And finally, Naomi Kawase, the renowned Japanese director who has established herself as a powerful force of both documentary and fiction brings her latest offering to the festival. The one-time winner of Cannes’ la Caméra d’Or (best new director), returns with a romantic, uplifting drama. A photographer whose eyesight begins to fail him, strikes up a relationship with a bright and passionate young writer producing scripts for film voiceovers. This year’s festival will mark exactly 20 years since the director’s debut there.
Although a promising start, women director’s still only make up 16% of the films in competition. Well, 15.789% to be exact – but who’s counting. Given the strength and diversity of this year’s contenders, it might be too early to call it, but if one of these women did win, she would be the first to do so since Jane Campion in 1993, and only the second ever in the Palme d’Or’s history. So, let’s get behind these female creatives as they show the world why their offerings can rival any man’s…
Words: Gurnesha Bola