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Cannes chief deflects gender-inequity criticism: Attack the Oscars, not the festival

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Gisela Schober/Getty Images

Cannes director Thierry Frémaux defended the French film festival from accusations of gender bias—in the arts and on the red carpet—pointing to the selection of Emmanuelle Bercot’s Standing Tall as the opening-night film. “Attack the Oscars, not the festival,” he said. “Cannes is part of the chain, not the only ring.”

Frémaux answered questions regarding the festival’s female representation at a Women in Motion event Thursday, noting that Cannes has taken great care to recognize female directors. In addition to Bercot’s Standing Tall, the festival presented an award to French filmmaker Agnes Varda. “We made quite a good effort in terms of selection,” said Frémaux, in remarks translated from French by Indiewire.

As the festival’s General Delegate, Frémaux is responsible for selecting 50 films from nearly 2,000 submissions. He commented that Cannes has become the subject of unprecedented scrutiny when it comes to the gender makeup of its filmmakers, a debate he doesn’t mind being part of, but one that he wished extended to other festivals, such as Berlin and Venice, as well. “This debate always takes place around May,” he reportedly said. “Why not talk about this issue in November?”

Frémaux’s statements follow the “Flatgate” scandal from earlier in the week, sparked by reports that some women not wearing high heels were prevented from attending film premieres. “The rumor that the festival requires high heels for women on the steps is unfounded,” he tweeted in response to the controversy. On Thursday, he blamed the uproar on one guard’s “excess of zeal.”

Though Frémaux—who said his mother was a feminist—remained staunch in his defense of gender representation at Cannes, he admitted that more women should be included within Cannes’ operational structure. “When I first got to Cannes there were more women in the selection committee,” Frémaux said. “Cannes is but a mirror.”

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