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The Guardian has been taking the lead in coverage of the controversy surrounding the complete absence of work by female filmmakers in this year’s Cannes Competition section. Last week, it published the English translation of an open letter by the French feminist group La Barbe, and over the weekend interviewed Trudie Styler (who runs Maven, a production company specifically supporting women in film) and Lucy Walker, the Academy Award-nominated documentarian who was one of Filmmaker‘s 25 New Faces in 2002, about gender imbalance within cinema.

Here’s an extract from Walker and Styler’s conversation about the difficulties facing women in the industry:

LW: If you look at this row at Cannes, I suspect the bigger problem is that there are not enough films being made by women. That has a lot to do with the fact that, when women have the great hits, they’re not rewarded concurrently with men. Look at Sharon Maguire, who directed the first Bridget Jones movie. She never heard back for the second and has only made one film since. In the same way, male directors can behave abysmally but it’s hard to imagine how bad they’d have to behave before they were described as too difficult to work with, which is an excuse commonly used against female directors. We also haven’t talked about women stepping off to have kids. A lot of women have real trouble stepping back in.

LW: I hope the business can’t help but right itself eventually, but now it’s getting worse. I sometimes think, should I keep crashing my head against a glass ceiling or find something else a bit friendlier to people of my gender?

TS: To slam the festival this year is being overly simplistic about a problem that is deeper, more complex and wider reaching than saying Cannes are the bad boys.

LW: This outcry about Cannes is very useful in terms of forcing us to discuss this. But it’s not just an issue for Cannes, it’s an issue for the world.

Incidentally, New Yorkers can catch Walker’s The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom when it headlines a night of international documentary shorts at Rooftop Films on June 2. More details here.

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