Petition Protesting Cannes Sexism Nears 1,000 Signatures

With no female directors in competition, a Facebook group and online petition aim to pressure festival

With the announcement of the Cannes Film Festival winners coming on Sunday, one thing is clear: a woman may have walked off with this year’s top Oscars, but one will not be left holding the Palme d’Or.

This year’s lineup features 18 films competing for the top prize. Not one was directed by a woman.

“So much for the Bigelow effect,” wrote Melissa Silverstein on the Women & Hollywood blog. “We are still going backwards.”

And that fact has led to an online petition that is nearing 1,000 signatures as the end of Cannes approaches.

The petition, which was launched before the festival began, was created by Ruth Torjussen, a writer/director and the founder ofFilmdirecting4women, a British organization and website which offers courses and festivals designed to empower female filmmakers.

Supported by a Facebook group, the petition reads:

     To: The Organisers of the Cannes Film Festival

     As people who care about and are interested in films we must protest
     the lack of female directors in competition for the 2010 Cannes Film
     Festival. Women make up over half of cinema audiences and we
     demand a fairer representation of female directors in the main
     competition. 



     We are raising our voices in protest in hopes that in the future this will
     never happen again. 

We are watching. We will not be silent.

     Sincerely,

     The Undersigned

As of Thursday morning, close to 900 people had signed the petition. By the time the awards are handed out at Sunday’s ceremony, the number will certainly be more than 1,000.

In an interview in the Guardian this week, Birds Eye View Film Festival director Rachel Millward said, "I’m not saying Cannes should right the wrongs of the film industry but it should be considered peculiar to have an all-male line-up … If we don’t point out the lack of women in the line-up at Cannes, it would go unnoticed by the majority because we are far too used to film directors being men so we are blind to the imbalance.”

When asked about the absence of women in competition, jury president Tim Burton said he could not address the issue because her didn’t know what the selection process entailed. Actress Kate Beckinsale, a member of the jury, said she didn’t know why it had happened, but added, “It’s important to have a female sensibility in the movies.”

Since 2000, 212 films have been entered in the main competition at Cannes; of those, 17 have been directed by women.

One woman, Jane Campion, has won the Palme d’Or. Hers came in 1993 for “The Piano.”