How the Time’s Up Movement Reclaimed the World’s Most Prestigious Film Festival

Cannes was once a “hunting ground” for sexual predators—that’s changing

For the marginally interested (i.e. most of us), here’s why Cannes is a BFD: The French film festival has a history of premiering massively influential movies and launching the careers of auteurs like Quentin Tarantino, and it provides a space for filmmakers to land funding or distribution deals for more-ambitious-than-average projects.

Historically, it’s also functioned as a “hunting ground” for likes of Harvey Weinstein, according to Italian director and actress Asia Argento, who spoke at Cannes’ closing ceremony. Argento previously shared the story of her assault at Weinstein’s hands in the New Yorker during that first wave of #MeToo and Time’s Up momentum in October.

On Saturday night, she reiterated the claim that she was raped by Weinstein at Cannes in 1997, when she was 21 years old (an allegation Weinstein has denied). This year, just over two decades later, she was able to make a prediction: “Harvey Weinstein will never be welcomed here again. He will never disgrace the community that once embraced him and covered up for his crimes.”

Her words reflected the hope that even in a male-dominated industry resistant to reform, a sea change is afoot. “Even tonight, there are those that still need to be held accountable for his behavior,” she went on. “You do not belong in this industry. You know who you are. We are not going to allow you to get away with it any longer.”

And with that, Argento capped off a weeks-long conversation about women’s presence at the festival itself and in Hollywood at large. It was a conversation symbolically led by Cate Blanchett, who headed up the fest’s female-skewing jury.

The previous week, Blanchett led an 82-woman protest on the red carpet—82 being the number of female-directed films that have competed for the festival’s main prize over the course of its entire history. (That’s less than five percent.)

“Women are not a minority in the world,” Blanchett said, “yet the current state of our industry says otherwise. As women, we all face our own unique challenges, but we stand together on these steps today as a symbol of our determination and our commitment to progress.”

And tangible progress, it seems, is being made—even in an industry that masterfully monetizes pop feminism while reinforcing the systems that undermine women (oh hey there, I Feel Pretty). A week ago Cannes’s artistic director, Thierry Frémaux, signed a charter committing to the promotion of gender parity at the festival. Going forward, Cannes will publish gender stats for all films submitted to and selected by the festival and will actually tell us who is on their selection committees.

It’s a small step, but it’s a step in the right direction.

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