The issue of diversity at the Cannes Film Festival has not been solved, but the number of women directors with films in the competition has inched up this year. It is most likely the luck of the draw, as it were, and not an enlightened response to those who have been complaining over the past years. Nonetheless, why not take a look at this year’s female contenders.
British filmmaker Andrea Arnold made her third trip on the red carpet this year with her latest film “American Honey.” Two of her previous films, “Red Road” (2006) and “Fish Tank” (2009) were also shown in the competition here.
“American Honey” is Arnold’s first film made in the U.S. and it goes right to the heartland, telling a story of young misfits who travel around selling magazine subscriptions to unsuspecting suburbanites. She cast a combination of newcomers (the excellent Sasha Lane) and veterans (Shia LaBeouf acquits himself quite well).
“Toni Erdmann” is German director Maren Ade’s third feature, but it is her first film in the Cannes competition. She has wowed everyone with her outrageous comedy about a father trying to get his Type A daughter to loosen up.
The press are especially enamored with this audacious look at current social mores as well as familial relationships. Neither lead character is particularly lovable, but they both grab our attention. The film also features a curious and creepy yeti-like creature (but from a warmer climate), which also made guerilla-like appearances on the Croisette and among the festival market stands.
Getting lost in the competition is Nicole Garcia’s film “Mal de Pierres.” Starring Marion Cotillard and Louis Garrel, the film focuses on life in a small farming community where a mentally unstable young woman (Cotillard) who is forced into marriage and later falls in love while taking a rest cure.
This is a serviceable film that seems to rely heavily on the craft and star power of the cast, particularly Cotillard and Garrel. It seems that every year there is at least one film in the competition that makes everyone ask, what is that doing here? And it is usually a French film, which sort of answers that question.
I would say if there is such a spot on the competition, why not have it go to a mediocre film by a woman. Then again, I recall a few years ago that same slot was claimed by another so-so film directed by a woman – Valeria Bruni Tedeschi’s “A Castle in Italy.” In that case, it is a bad trend to start.
There is also representation of women directors in the other sections of Cannes (some better than others, but none in a position to claim the diversity crown). However, it is the competition that draws the most attention, and therefore the section that we hope will get on the diversity bandwagon soon. It’s simply a matter of rethinking your world-view. And that’s easier than you think. Really.