In 2022, the Cannes Film Festival – which has come under increasing pressure over the years due to a lack of female representation among the filmmakers in its lineup – broke its record for female directors in competition.
However, the news of five names from 21 films vying for the Palme d’Or wasn’t really anything to get too excited about.
2023 looks different. Following Thursday’s official announcement by Thierry Frémaux, a record six female directors will compete for the top prize, this time from a condensed total selection of 19 films (for a record 32 percent of the total competition lineup).
The lineup includes established names and Cannes returnees, including Alice Rohrwacher La Chimera (her fourth film bowing at the festival), Jessica Hausner with Club Zero (her fifth Cannes premiere), doc-drama Daughters of Olfa by Kaouther Ben Hania (made her main competition debut after previous screening in Un Certain Regard), Catherine Breillat with Last summer (her return to filmmaking after 10 years and her first film at Cannes since 2007) and Justine Triet, another regular festival guest, with Anatomy of a fall. In Ramata-Toulaye Sys Banel and Adamathe main competition also includes a rare feature film debut.
While it may not be the kind of dramatic progress promised in 2018, when prominent industry feminists marched to the Palais and Frémaux pledged to work towards gender equality, it is progress nonetheless. And the new record is a big step up from 2015, when only two female directors were in competition, and comes after the festival’s appointment last year of its first female president in Iris Knobloch and, in 2021, Julia Ducournau who won the became the second female filmmaker to win the award. Palm.
When asked in 2019 about the gender equality pledge he signed in 2018, Frémaux said he never intended to program a lineup with 50 percent of the film directed by women.
“People ask Cannes to do things they don’t ask other festivals,” he said. “The Cannes Film Festival is asked to be flawless and perfect. No one asked me to have 50 percent of the films made by women. That would show a lack of respect.”
The 2023 Cannes Film Festival will run from May 16 to 27.