LA BARBE’S OPEN LETTER ON WOMEN & CANNES
The French feminist collective known as La Barbe (French for “The Beard”) printed an open letter in France’s daily newspaper Le Monde earlier this week addressing the complete absence of films directed by women in the Competition section at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. La Barbe is made up of actress Fanny Cottençon, writer/director Virginie Despentes and director Coline Serreau, who have also set up an online petition which has been signed by numerous luminaries, including feminist icon Gloria Steinem and filmmakers such as Ry Russo-Young, Gillian Armstrong and Ava DuVernay.
The British newspaper The Guardian ran a translation of the open letter, which reads as follows:
“What has changed in cinema? Everything has changed!” exclaimed Gilles Jacob, president of the Cannes film festival, during the presentation of the 65th Cannes festival film nominations. Everything?! For one second, we trembled. But for no reason, it turned out, as the 22 officially selected movies – happy coincidence – were directed by 22 men. This 65th festival will end up giving the precious award to a male director for the 63rd time, defending the masculine values that give the seventh art its nobility.
Only once did the Cannes film festival lose heart. In 1993, the Palme d’Or was indeed awarded to Jane Campion. And last year, doubtless due to a lack of vigilance, four women somehow sneaked in among the 20 people nominated in the official competition. Thierry Frémeaux, the festival’s director general, correctly remarked: “It is the first time that there are so many women.” How weak! All the more unforgivable as in 2011, the Césars set an example by not selecting any women in the categories of best movie or best director.
Sirs, you came to your senses and we are glad. The Cannes film festival 2012 applauds Wes, Jacques, Leos, David, Lee, Andrew, Matteo, Michael, John, Hong, Im, Abbas, Ken, Serguei, Cristian, Yousry, Jeff, Alain, Carlos, Walter, Ulrich, Thomas, all of whom show us once again that “men are fond of depth in women, but only in their cleavage.”
This exemplary selection sends a powerful message to professionals and audiences all around the world. Because what else if not the movies, what event other than Cannes, the most prestigious festival in the world, could promote this unchanging message? With great understanding of the monumental importance of such an event, you were able to dissuade women from aspiring to set foot in this closely-guarded world. Above all, never let the girls think they can one day have the presumptuousness to make movies or to climb those famous Festival Palace steps, except when attached to the arm of a prince charming.
Is it not enough for them to aspire to be mistress of ceremonies one day, on the festival’s opening night? Bérénice Béjo in 2012, Mélanie Laurent in 2011, Kristin Scott-Thomas in 2010: women are perfect hostesses, who are perfectly happy with a simple, “you have beautiful eyes, you know”, or other flattering compliments. They become disturbing icons who you manage to leave where they belong: on display on the festival posters. This year, we celebrate Marilyn Monroe, in 2011 it was Juliette Binoche, in 2009 Monica Vitti, and in 1989 the republican Marianne . In 1976, the naked buttocks of a woman were honoured. What could our muses complain about? They are celebrated for their essential qualities: beauty, grace, lightness … Let us preserve them from the torments of bossing around a film crew, let us spare them the painful confrontation with the technical puzzles of a film set. Why allow them to bore themselves in the festival steering committee, where important decisions are made, where only male presidents have ruled since its creation? Let us go on only giving men the heavy load of onerous duties. Let us be even better than Hollywood, where men make up 77% of Oscar academy voters.
Women, mind your spools of thread! And men, as the Lumière Brothers did before you, mind your film reels! And let the Cannes film festival competition forever be a man’s world!