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Cannes Diary: Festival opens to controversy over lack of female-directed films

Jury President Nanni Moretti arrives for a photo call as the Cannes Film Festival opened Wednesday. (AP/Francois Mori)

The 65th Cannes Film Festival opened to controversy Wednesday, raised by a provocative letter from La Barbe (The Beard), a French feminist group.

The letter, signed by three female French filmmakers and published in the daily newspaper Le Monde, points out that the festival – advertised with a poster featuring a luscious Marilyn Monroe blowing out a candle – has not a single female filmmaker in the competition. The group alos points out that only one woman filmmaker (Jane Campion for her 1993 film The Piano) ever won the Palme d'Or at Cannes. 

In presenting only films by male filmmakers, the writers said, the festival "show(s) once again that men love depth in women, but only in their cleavage.” Festival Director Thierry Fremaux responded by saying he agrees women lack opportunities to make films; however, he said, the problem exists year-round, not just during the ten days of the festival. Cannes could not, he said, start choosing films based strictly on the gender of the filmmaker. Undoubtedly this will not be the last word on the issue.

Meanwhile, muted applause greeted the first press screening of Moonrise Kingdom. The film’s director, Wes Anderson, whose career is built on quirky films like Bottle Rocket, Rushmore and The Life Aquatic, continues in the offbeat fantasy vein of his most recent film, Fantastic Mr. Fox. Moonrise Kingdom is set in the 1960s on an island off the coast of New England, in the world of 12-year olds Sam, an orphaned Boy Scout, and Suzy, a fantasy-reading-lonely girl. Fast-paced but long on exposition, the fantasy/adventure features wonderful performances by Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand and Tilda Swinton, and a really brilliant, period-picture-book-fantasy set design by Adam Stockhausen.

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