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Cannes Diary #1

By Eugene Hernandez on May 15, 2014

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Cannes Jane Campion jury president

In recent years, the Cannes Film Festival has weathered considerable criticism for failing to welcome female filmmakers. Yesterday, two women made their mark in the press yesterday: competition jury president Jane Campion, the only woman to win the Palme d’Or, and Nicole Kidman, whose Hollywood image has been complicated by films that have premiered at the festival.

With Campion’s role this year, journalists and critics are wondering whether she will bring attention to a female filmmaker come awards night. Twenty-one years on, Campion’s win is a feat that is yet to be achieved by another woman. Only two out of the 19 films in competition this year were directed by women: Alice Rohrwacher’s The Wonders and Naomi Kawase’s Still the Water. This is an improvement from last year, where only Valeria Bruni Tedeschi's A Castle in Italy was in competition, or 2012, which had no female directors. The drought is striking given that in 2011 the festival had a whopping four women in competition.

“I think you’d have to say there’s inherent sexism in the industry,” Campion said, alongside fellow jurors Gael García Bernal, Carole Bouquet, Sofia Coppola, Willem Dafoe, Leila Hatami, Jeon Do-yeon, Jia Zhang-ke, and Nicolas Winding Refn. “It does seem very un-democratic. The guys seem to be eating all the cake.”

Yet as Campion explained yesterday, only seven percent of the 1,800 movies submitted for this year’s festival were directed by women. Quoting festival head Thierry Frémaux, she also noted that 20 percent of this year’s Cannes selections were by women.

Meanwhile, Kawase has high hopes for her entry, saying in a recent interview: “There is no doubt that this is my masterpiece… This is the first time I have said this about a film. After [winning] the Camera d’Or and the Grand Prix, there is nothing I want more than the Palme d’Or. I have my eyes on nothing else.”

Nicole Kidman Grace of Monaco

Nicole Kidman also drew attention from the press. “I’m always looking for things that put me on a high wire,” Kidman said of her role in the Cannes opening-night film, Grace of Monaco—which was greeted with a wave of negativity. In addition to the critical bashing, the Grace Kelly portrayed in the film—an actress attempting to treat her noble title as just another performance—is a version of Kelly that has been rejected by the Grimaldi royal family in Monaco, leaving Kidman and director Olivier Dahan to further defend their movie in front of the international press. “I feel sad because I think that the film has no malice towards the [royal] family or towards Grace or Rainier,” Kidman explained. “It’s fictionalized; we’ve said that. The performance was done with love and if they did see it they would see it was done with an enormous amount of respect.”

But Kidman is no stranger to controversy at Cannes. In the past 15 or so years, I can’t think of an actress who has more routinely drawn attention to her film roles at this festival—along with Lars von Trier’s inflammatory Dogville in 2003, she also caused a sensation two years ago in Lee Daniels’s The Paperboy, in which she urinated on High School Musical star Zac Efron.

The loudly publicized tensions between director Olivier Dahan and distributor Harvey Weinstein have also been making news. Weinstein distanced himself from the film, and apparently created his own cut for its U.S. release. A trade report prior to the Cannes opening even speculated that the movie might be shelved altogether stateside. But Dahan tamped down talk of multiple versions of the movie yesterday, saying that the conflict with Harvey Weinstein has been resolved. “Harvey will use [this] version,” he said. “If some changes need to be made, we will do them together.”

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