Isabella Rossellini to discuss on and off camera sexism in cinema at Cannes’ Women in Motion event; other female-focused Cannes events include #SeeHerNow twitter campaign.

Isabella Rossellini

Film-maker and actress Isabella Rossellini will kick off the inaugural edition of the Women in Motion programme in Cannes on Thursday (May 14).

A joint initiative between the festival and its new sponsor the luxury goods group Kering, the new event is aimed at highlighting women’s contribution to the film industry.

Alongside French producer Claudie Ossard, the Italian-American actress will discuss the subject of female representation in the film industry and sexism in cinema, both on screen and behind the scenes.

The Blue Velvet actress is in Cannes this year as the president of the Un Certain Regard jury.

Industry veteran Ossard has produced numerous films over the last 30 years including Jean-Jacques Beineix’s Betty Blue and Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Amélie.

Other speakers at the inaugural edition of Women in Motion will include Agnès Varda, who is set to receive an honorary Palme d’Or from the festival this year.

She is the first woman and only the fourth person to receive the honour after Woody Allen, Clint Eastwood and Bernardo Bertolucci.

Actress Isabelle Huppert; actress, director and producer Salma Hayek-Pinault and Cannes Film Festival chief Thierry Frémaux are also scheduled to speak at the series of talks taking place at the Majestic each morning.

Number of female-directed films down

There has been much hype about the focus on women at the festival this year.

Aside from the selection of Emmanuelle Bercot’s Standing Tall as the opening film, the second time a female-directed picture has kicked off the festival since Diane Kury’s A Man in Love in 1987, the festival juries are peppered with high profile female directors and actresses. 

On the Un Certain Regard jury, Rossellini will be joined by filmmakers, Saudi Arabian Haifaa Al-Mansour and Lebanese Nadine Labaki, while the Competition jury includes actresses Rossy de Palma, Sophie Marceau, Sienna Miller and singer-songwriter Rokia TraoréIsraeli filmmaker Ronit Elkabetz is president of Critics’ Week.

A survey of all the selections by Le Deuxième Regard,a Paris-based lobby aimed at increasing the representation of women in cinema, reveals, however, that the number of female directed films at the festival this year is actually lower than in 2014, in all the sections apart from Directors’ Fortnight.

Its tally showed that female-directed films accounted for 10.5% of the titles in Competition, the same as last year, and 20% of the titles in Un Certain Regard, down from 30% in 2014. There is not a single female-directed feature length work in Critics’ Week.

Films by women to have made it into Official Selection include Valérie Donzelli’s Marguerite and Julien, Maiwenn’s Mon Roi, Naomi Kawase’s An, Alice Winocour’s Disorder and Shun Su-Won’s Madonna.


Against this backdrop, there will be a number of events at Cannes focused on the anachronistic under-representation of women in cinema.

Among these is the Support Women Filmmakers campaign, aimed at highlighting the contribution of women to the film industry, including directors, producers, editors and cinema professionals.

The initiative - spearheaded by Melissa Silverstein, founder and editor of Women and Hollywood – involves a Twitter drive around the hashtag #SeeHerNow as well as a thunderclap campaign aimed at unleashing a mass group tweet in support of female filmmakers on Wednesday (May 13) as the festival kicks off.  

Silverstein, a leading campaigner for equality in the film industry, points out that over the last decade only 9% of the films in Competition have been directed by women.

Women Make Great Movies

France’s International Festival of Women’s Films in Creteil will also host a discussion on the strategic solutions to the improve the status of women in cinema, in an event entitled Women Make Great Movies.

“This year only two female directors saw their films selected for the official competition out of 17 films… the event will feature individuals and organisations putting forward strategic solutions to improve the situation of female filmmakers,” said festival organisers Anne Berrou and Jackie Buet in a joint statement.

The discussion will take place on May 18 at the pavilion of France’s writers’ union, the Societe des Auteurs et Compositeurs Dramatiques (SACD).