The 8 Female-Directed Films at Cannes You Need to See
It’s mid-May in France, meaning it’s time for an essential artistic event: the Cannes Film Festival. Since 1946, the festival has been an epicenter for pretty and talented film stars, directors, producers, and other industry executives, all of whom spend mid-May into the city of Cannes, which sits pretty on the French Riviera.
Today marks the start of the film festival that’s been giving movie lovers celluloid (and now digital) gold for decades. Films like Blue is the Warmest Color, Amour, Tree of Life, Pulp Fiction, Taxi Driver, and dozens more have passed through, racking up the high honor of winning the festival’s Palme d’Or award, the most competitive field in the festival (like the Cannes equivalent to “Best Picture”). Dozens more have won in the festival’s other competitive field, Un Certain Regard, which celebrates fresh new faces in film. It’s where the industry’s staunchest critics cast their magnifying glass to find tomorrow’s biggest stars in front of and behind the camera.
While the festival is a great taste of the best of the global film industry, it also falls victim to the usual Hollywood gender gap. Only one woman, Jane Campion, has won the Palm d’Or and that in 1993 for The Piano. Last year was known as the “Year de la Femme” after the festival began to finally pay attention to their gender divide, but progress has merely inched forward. A female-directed film opened the festival (the first time since 1987), two female-directed films were up for the Palme d’Or, and four women were up for the Un Certain Regarde.
This year, we dug deep into the 49 films to find the handful that were directed by women. While it’s dismaying to know that the film opening Cannes is Café Society by Woody Allen, which is a pretty problematic move given the director’s personal history, it was nice to find some female directors thrown in. Three female directors will compete for the Palme d’Or, four female directors will compete for the Un Certain Regard, a female director will screen a film outside of the two competitions, and we’ll still be left wondering why glaciers melt at a faster pace than it takes the film industry to stop being sexist. To celebrate the slow march toward progress, here are the eight female film directors you need to know about at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.
Andrea Arnold’s American Honey — Palme d’Or
The director is no stranger to Cannes, with her previous films Fish Tank and Red Road winning Jury prizes in years past. Her new film features newcomer Sasha Lane as a teenager that runs away from home with a traveling sales crew including Shia Labeouf, who’s probably thinking of a traveling salesmen-themed performance art piece to unleash on everyone.
Nicole Garcia’s From The Land of the Moon — Palme d’Or
The film stars French favs Marion Cotillard and Louis Garrel in a post-WW2 period piece about twenty years of passion, love, and tragedy. After sweating nervously in the presence of Garrel last month when we talked to him about his film work, we’re excited to see what Garcia does with him and Cotillard in this dramatic period piece.
Maren Ade’s Toni Erdmann — Palme d’Or
When a father visits his daughter in Romania, he’s shocked to discover that her corporate lifestyle has taken away her sense of humor. He takes on a persona called “Toni Erdmann” and pulls pranks on her to shake her out of the shackles of capitalism. It’s Ade’s third feature, after receiving widespread acclaim for her 2009 film Everywhere Else.
Stéphanie Di Giusto’s The Dancer — Un Certain Regard
Proverbial It Girl Lily Rose-Depp stars as dance prodigy Isadora Duncan in this 19th-century drama about the life of American performer Loie Fuller, who’s played by French musician-turned-actor Soko. The directorial debut of Di Giusto, it’s one of the most promising films heading into Cannes not only for the story, but also because of the cast, which also includes Saint Laurent’s Gaspard Ulliel.
Delphine and Muriel Coulin’s The Stopover — Un Certain Regard
Five years after making their Cannes debut with 17 Girls, the filmmaking sisters are back. Ditching pregnancy pacts but staying true to their focus on women stuck in strict social roles, the new film is about two female soldiers who take a leave from Afghanistan to go to Cyprus. Like The Dancer, it stars French musician Soko, as well as Greek New Wave darling Ariane Labed.
Maha Haj’s Personal Affairs — Un Certain Regard
The Palestinian Christian filmmaker makes her directorial debut with a Hebrew film set in Israel about an old couple and their family’s affairs across the border in Ramallah. Little is known about the film, but it’s mix of family and politics as well as her perspective as a female Israeli director, should give a much-needed shift in perspective to the festival.
Francisco Marquez & Andrea Testa’s The Long Night of Francisco Sanctis — Un Certain Regard
The film, based off the book of the same name, rounds out the female-directed films in this year’s Un Certain Regard category. It’s the only Argentinian film in the festival and it’s coming in with major buzz after winning the top prize at the 18th edition of the Buenos Aires Independent Film Festival. Set in Buenos Aires in 1977 during the Argentinian dictatorship, it follows a man who must decide if he he wants to help two people wanted by the military.
Jodie Foster’s Money Monster — Not Competing
Not featured in either category, the most Hollywood film of the bunch is directed by actor Jodie Foster, and stars George Clooney and Julia Roberts. It’s our annual financial thriller (see: The Big Short and Wolf of Wall Street) with a twist. Clooney plays a financial TV personality whose program is taken hostage by a gunman, with Roberts playing the producer. This marks the return of Foster to Cannes after her Mel Gibson-starring film The Beaver in 2011.
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