After years of opening the glitziest film festival in the world with big films like “Midnight in Paris” (2011) and “The Great Gatsby” (2013) the 68th edition of the Cannes Film Festival will be opening with French filmmaker Emmanuelle Bercot’s film “La Tête Haute” (Heads Up). But more than the choice of a home-grown film that hasn’t been the trend since 2005, the news is startling because the authorities picked a female director—an occurrence that had happened only once before in 1987 when Diane Kurys “Un homme amoureux” (A Man In Love) opened the festival.
The Cannes film festival has been unanimously held as the film maker and aficionado’s ultimate pilgrimage. The festival has made a reputation for itself to showcase the ‘higher art’ instead of downgrading its standards with mainstream commercial constraints. Despite such a history it’s shocking to know that the Cannes Film Festival is not over the purview of sexism.
“La Tête Haute” stars Benoît Magimel and Catherine Deneuve besides Rod Paradot in the role of a delinquent called Maloney. Deneuve plays a judge in this comedy-drama who attempts to save Maloney from his aberrant ways. The film has broken the practice of big-billed and well-known films opening the festival. It might have been a conscious decision after 2014’s opening film “Grace of Monaco” fizzled out both before critics and festival-goers alike.
The director of the festival, Thierry Frémaux has welcomed censure for not making the programming of the festival more liberal and festival. Retorting to such charges Frémaux pointed that Bercot’s film was chosen for it is “a different piece” that manages to make “important statements about contemporary society, in keeping with modern cinema.”
However, there is merit in the wheels of sexism directing the motions of the festival as the only time that a woman won the highest reward in the festival, Palme D’Or, was in 1993 for New Zealand based director’s film “The Piano”. She had spoken out about the inadequate representation of women in the selection and jury stages.
The trend seems to be turning towards a brighter side, as Campion herself noted that the in 2014 the statistics paint a different picture. Though out of all the 1,800 film submissions only 7 to 8 percent were directed by women, however 20 percent of the selected films were made by female directors. In spite of the assuring numbers the struggle that a film maker on the account of being female has to undergo still remains a big impediment.
In this light, it is comforting to know Emmanuelle Bercot isn’t a rookie in the Cannes business having been awarded the Jury prize for her short film Les Vacances in 1997. She has also appeared in the festival in the capacity of a screenwriter and actor. Her debut feature “Clement” opened in the Un Certain Regard official selection in 2001 and the script she had co-written for Maiwenn’s “Polisse” won the Jury Prize at Cannes in 2011.
The Cannes jury will be chaired by the cult American brother duo Joel and Ethan Coen with Isabella Rossellini—Ingrid Bergman’s daughter—heading the jury of Un Certain Regard category. The festival will be open from 13th May to 24th May.