The battle for gender equality in the cinema industry is gaining ground but victory is a long way off, representatives of Time’s Up! UK, L.A.-based org ReFrame, France’s Collectif 50/50 and Brazil’s Mulheres group told a panel in Cannes on Friday.
“One of the reasons I was so excited to be here today is that we need to constantly talk across borders, we’re a global industry and we need to share these insights because the powers and the forces against us are very, very significant,” said Heather Rabbatts, chair of the UK’s Times Up Association.
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The panel, organized by the French gender equality group Collectif 50/50, took stock of what progress has been made in achieving gender parity in the film industry at the five-year milestone of #MeToo.
It also coincided with the fifth anniversary of the 2018 red carpet protest in which 82 women climbed the steps of Cannes’s Palais des Festivals to demand gender equality in the film industry.
The participants, who included then Jury President Cate Blanchett alongside her female jury members Kristen Stewart, Ava DuVernay, Lea Seydoux and Burundian singer Khadja Nin, each represented one of the 82 women who had made it into Competition across the festival’s 71-year history, against the 1,866 men who made the cut.
Five years on, the tally stands at 100 women versus 1,929 men, not counting 2020, when there was no Competition as a result of the cancellation of the festival due to the Covid-10 pandemic.
In a positive trend, this year a record seven women have made it into Competition, representing 33% of directors in the running for the Palme d’Or, the highest percentage ever.
However, Rabbatts warned against complacency.
“There’s a sense because we’ve got 33% that we can declare victory, absolutely not. We’re a long way from victory, my friends,” she said.
“Yes, it’s 33%, I’ve been in Cannes when it’s no per cent… Last time I looked women were at least 50% of the population, so we have to stay focused.”
Andria Wilson Mirza, president of ReFrame, the gender equity coalition founded and led by the Sundance Institute and Women In Film Los Angeles (WIF), echoed this sentiment.
Mirza acknowledged that progress had been made, pointing to the increase in popular films directed by women in the U.S. from 4% of the offering in 2015 to 16% in 2022, but she emphasized the need to keep the pressure up and energy that existed in the early days of the #MeToo movement.
“The feeling we’re experiencing now in the U.S., is this kind of “We’ve done enough”. It’s complacency in the best case scenario, and in the worst case scenario it’s a backlash with people saying, “Are we still talking about this?’ And we put the numbers in front of people and say would you be happy with 16% of anything, this is not equity.”
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