Cannes Film Festival showcases Women in Motion

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Susan Sarandon, left, and Geena Davis star in 1991's "Thelma & Louise." MGM photo

Susan Sarandon, left, and Geena Davis star in 1991′s “Thelma & Louise.” MGM photo

 

A year after the biggest news involving women at Cannes Film Festival was the controversy over a rule requiring women to wear high heels on the red carpet, there have been some strides made for women at France’s esteemed film fest, which continues through May 22.

“Flatgate” sort of overshadowed last year’s launching of Women in Motion, a series of talks with high-profile talent and executives and an awards presentation designed to highlight women’s achievements in film and encourage more diversity within the industry, according to Variety.com. The inaugural Women in Motion award was given last year to Jane Fonda and producer Megan Ellison.

François-Henri Pinault’s Kering, one of the world’s most powerful luxury companies, is partnering again with the Cannes Film Festival for the second edition of Women in Motion.

“To this day, women remain underrepresented in the film industry. This is a state of affairs that affects us all. Beyond mere injustice, it leads to the cultural impoverishment of each of us, as films shape the way we think and the way we act. Promoting openness and diversity on the silver screen encourages a shift in mentality. This is the goal of Women in Motion,” according to the Women in Motion website, which outlines an impressive agenda of femme focused events for Cannes.

On Sunday, Thelma & Louise stars Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon received Women in Motion award at Cannes’ “presidential dinner.” The classic Ridley Scott film, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary, screened at the 1991 edition of the fest, reports Variety.com. Davis is founder and chair of the nonprofit Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, which researches the imbalance of female characters on-screen and behind the camera. Sarandon is a human rights activist involved with various nonprofits and organizations worldwide.

In addition to the Women in Motion spotlights, three women are competing for the prestigious Palme d’Or at the 69th annual Cannes, according to The Guardian. They are the road trip feature American Honey, the first U.S. film by influential British director Andrea Arnold; the postwar romance From the Land of the Moon, starring Oscar-winner Marion Cotillard, by French director, actress and screenwriter Nicole Garcia; and award-winning German filmmaker Maren Ade with Toni Erdmann, about a father who tries to restore his daughter’s sense of humor with a series of pranks.

However, Mike D’Angelo of The A.V. Club notes that those three films are the only ones directed by women out of the 21 films in competition at Cannes this year.

“Thierry Frémaux, the fest’s head honcho, always insists that he and his team have selected the best films made available to them and that any gender imbalance reflects the lack of opportunities available to female filmmakers at the production stage,” D’Angelo writes. “That’s not hard for me to believe (ignoring rabid disagreements about what constitutes “best”), because while many of my favorite contemporary directors are women—in addition to Maren Ade, I’d cite Julia Loktev, Kelly Reichardt, Lucrecia Martel, Clio Barnard, Debra Granik, Ursula Meier, Nina Paley, Pascale Ferran, and Annette K. Olesen—it’s likely that few of them would happen to have a film ready for Cannes in any given year.”

Again, it’s the same sad story we’ve heard over and over about the representation of women in front of and behind the camera. Still, we plug away in the hopes that raising awareness can eventually turn the tide.

Sasha Lane stars in Andrea Arnold's new film "American Honey." Parts & Labor and Pulse Films photo

Sasha Lane stars in Andrea Arnold’s new film “American Honey.” Parts & Labor and Pulse Films photo

More from Cannes

Here are more interesting notes regarding women in film at Cannes:

- Focus acquires American Honey. Focus Features has acquired the majority of key international territories to Arnold’s Cannes competition film American Honey, according to Variety.

Written and directed by Arnold, who won the jury prize at Cannes for Red Road in 2006 and three years later for Fish Tank, American Honey stars Shia LaBeouf, Sasha Lane and Riley Keough in the story of Star (Sasha Lane), an adolescent girl from a troubled home. Star runs away with a traveling sales crew who drive across the American Heartland selling subscriptions door to door. Finding her feet in this gang of teenagers, one of whom is Jake (LaBeouf), she soon gets into the group’s lifestyle of hard-partying nights, law-bending days and young love.

As I reported last year on my BAM’s Blog, Arnold filmed the road trip tale in part in Muskogee, Okla. According to IMDB, other filming locations included Mission Hills, Kan.; Missouri Valley, Iowa; and Grand Island, Neb.

“I was quite upset about some to the towns I went to, and some of the poverty I saw. It seemed really different to me than in the UK. When people don’t have money they can’t have health care and they can’t do things like go to the dentist. Those kind of things really shocked me,” Arnold told The Guardian.

- Jodie Foster says Hollywood is scared of women. Two-time Oscar-winning actress and acclaimed director Jodie Foster said a Women in Motion talk at Cannes that Hollywood’s obsession with big-budget tentpoles is holding the movie business back when it comes to creating more films by and for women, reports Variety.com. Films that once traditionally starred women, such as romantic comedies and mid-budget dramas, are now migrating to television, as studios back superhero movies and special-effects-driven action films.

“They’ll make enormous movies tentpole films and they’ll be all in, kind of like a casino bet,” Foster said. “That’s a really dangerous bet.”

Because of the enormous costs, studio executives are hesitant to take chances on new directorial voices.

“You’re going to go with the guy that looks like you,” she said. “Studio executives are scared period. … This is the most risk-averse time that I can remember in movie history.”

Foster was in Cannes to promote her new directorial effort Money Monster, a financial thriller starring Julia Roberts, George Clooney and Jack O’Connell. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Foster’s film came in ahead of expectations, earning $15 million from 3,104 theaters. It came in second at the box office to the Disney-Marvel tentpole Captain America: Civil War, which has now earned $296 million in North America and $645 million overseas, where it likewise came in No. 1 for the weekend with $84.2 million.

- Together Now to bring together seven short films. Robin Wright, Catherine Hardwicke, Freida Pinto and Juliette Binoche are joining forces for a new omnibus film Together Now, to be produced by the nonprofit production company We Do It Together. The company’s first feature, Together Now, will be comprised of seven short films, each of which will pair a woman director with a prominent actress to tell what producers promise will be an inspiring story, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The directors who have come on board include Wright, Hardwicke, Katia Lund (All the Invisible Children), Patricia Riggen (The 33), Haifaa Al Mansour (Wadjda), Malgorzata Szumowska (Elles) and Melina Matsoukas (Beyonce’s Formation). Pinto and Binoche are among the actresses who will appear onscreen.

Carol Polakoff, Shelby Stone and Chiara Tilesi will produce the film for We Do It Together, which is dedicated to financing and producing female-driven films, documentaries and TV. All profits from the film will be re-invested back into the company, which was featured in a Women in Motion showcase Sunday.

The We Do It Together advisory board consists of Wright, Jodie Foster, songwriter Diane Warren, director-actress Valeria Golino, Marvel Executive Vice President Victoria Alonso, producer Keri Selig, actress Leonor Varela, producer Lucas Akoskin, CAA agent Cameron Mitchell, producer Paula Vaccaro and entertainment attorney Orly Ravid.

- Oklahoma filmmaker shares his story of childhood in Romanian orphanage. Off the topic of women with film but still related to Cannes, check out my feature about 23-year-old filmmaker Iancu “Bunee” Tomlinson, whose autobiographical short film Bunee: The Boy from Constanta, has been selected for and will be screened Tuesday the American Pavilion Emerging Filmmaker Showcase.

The short chronicles Tomlinson’s childhood in the dreadful Romanian orphanage system of the 1980s and ‘90s. He lived in an orphanage until age 6, which Susan and Tommy Tomlinson adopted him and moved him to Edmond, Okla., where he discovered his love of filmmaking in middle school.

“I used to escape the orphanage when I was young. It was something that I knew there was a better world out there than inside. I was stuck behind this fence in this orphanage … and I knew behind the fences that there was a future out there, there was a world out there I didn’t know. So that’s another reason why I do filmmaking today,” Bunee told me.

That’s the power of movies.

Lynda Carter (TV’s Wonder Woman) will be honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 41st Annual Gracie Awards Gala on May 24 at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif. Photo provided

Lynda Carter (TV’s Wonder Woman) will be honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 41st Annual Gracie Awards Gala on May 24 at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif. Photo provided

Quick hitters

- Lynda Carter to be honored at Gracie Awards. Lynda Carter (TV’s Wonder Woman) will be honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 41st Annual Gracie Awards Gala on May 24 at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif., according to the Alliance for Women in Media Foundation. The Gracie Awards honor outstanding individual achievement and programming by, for and about women.

- Regina Hall to star in Girl Trip. Regina Hall, who was most recently seen in the fan- and critic-lauded Barbershop: The Next Cut, is set to star in Girl Trip, which is set up at Universal with Will Packer Productions. The project will reunite Hall with director Malcolm D. Lee, who helmed the latest Barbershop sequel, reports Deadline.com. Kenya Barris and Tracy Oliver, the same screenwriters of Lee’s Barbershop: The Next Cut, will pen the new project.

- Check out movies by women on Netflix. A network of female filmmakers called Film Fatales has compiled a handy-dandy list of all of the movies directed by women that are currently available on Netflix in the United States. The list, which you can visit here, ranges from Penny Marshall’s hilarious and heartwarming A League of Their Own to Kathryn Bigelow’s harrowing Oscar-winning war film The Hurt Locker.

Less than 5 percent of top box office films are directed by women, according to Film Fatales.

- Women in Film forms new music committee. More fun – and by “fun” I mean depressing statistics – women scored fewer than 2 percent of the top 500 films in 2015, a minuscule improvement from 1 percent in 2014, according to Billboard.

To help improve this particular gloomy stat, the advocacy group Women in Film has formed a new music committee, with music supervisor Tracy McKnight (The Hunger Games) as chairwoman. The committee launched earlier this month with a Los Angeles event featuring Oscar-winner Melissa Etheridge.

The event drew around 100 composers and songwriters, agents, music supervisors and studio executives. The goal is to provide support for female composers and songwriters not just in film, but in TV, gaming and all visual media. Joining her on the committee are Disney executive Kaylin Frank, ASCAP’s Loretta Munoz and Nettwerk’s Christine Belden.

“We’re here to start building bridges of opportunity for this community where women are not in the conversation,” McKnight told Billboard.

- Women underrepresented in red dirt and Texas country music, at music festivals. On the topic of women in music, check out this long-form feature Nathan Poppe, my excellent colleague at The Oklahoman, and I recently put together about the underrepresentation of women both in the red dirt and Texas country music scenes as well as in music festivals in general. The inspiration for the story was the recent announcement of the fourth annual lineup of the fast-growing Medicine Stone festival in Tahlequah, Okla., which for the second year in the row includes just one women artist, Texas singer-songwriter Jamie Lin Wilson. But Oklahoma festivals are hardly alone in this sad state of affairs: California’s Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in April marked its ninth straight year without a female headliner.

-BAM

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