Alice Rohrwacher is one of six record-making women directors showing films at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival. (Credit: Simona Pampallona, Wikimedia Commons)

This year’s Cannes Film Festival marks a “first” for women directors

After years of castigation for its lack of representation, the Festival will see a record-breaking six women-led films competing for the festival’s highest prize, the Palme d’Or. With 19 films under consideration in all, their works comprise 32% of the movies vying for the title. Last year, women directed just five of the 21 features being considered by judges. 

The lineup, announced last week, features Cannes mainstays such as Alice Rohrwacher, showing her archaeological drama “La Chimera;” Jessica Hausner with “Club Zero,” a thriller set in a prestigious school; and Justine Triet and her murder mystery, “Anatomy of a Fall.”

This step forward comes after years of criticism for the lack of gender parity – not to mention, a 2018 star-studded protest led by 82 prominent women in film. “Women are not a minority in the world, yet the current state of our industry says otherwise,” actress Cate Blanchett, who co-organized the demonstration, said at the time. 

She added: “We demand that our workplaces are diverse and equitable so that they can best reflect the world in which we actually live – a world that allows all of us in front and behind the camera, all of us, to thrive shoulder to shoulder with our male colleagues.”

In some regards, Cannes took the matter to heart – upping representation to 50/50 among its selection committee members, building breastfeeding stations for nursing parents and paying more attention overall to the demographic breakdown of honored directors. 

The news of this year’s record-setting line-up also comes after last year’s appointment of Cannes’ first-ever woman president, Iris Knobloch. 

Still, representation among directors continues to lag, despite new attention to the matter – but Cannes director Thierry Frémaux attributes that, in large part, to a larger pipeline problem. “Cannes and any festival, we are the last stage of that journey,” he told The Hollywood Reporter in 2019. “The journey of having more female directors starts in cinema school and university.”

This year’s festival will be held next month.