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The Powerful Women of Cannes
Across 69 editions, the Cannes Film Festival has long recognized the work of auteurs from around the globe. One problem? The majority of them are men. Only 10 women have served as Jury President: Olivia de Havilland (the first woman to do so in 1965), Sophia Loren (1966), Michele Morgan (1971), Ingrid Bergman (1973), Jeanne Moreau (1975 and 1995), Francoise Sagan (1979), Isabelle Adjani (1997), Liv Ullmann (2001), Isabelle Huppert (1999), and Jane Campion (2014). One female director (Campion) has won the festival's top prize, the Palme d'Or, since the event's inception, despite top industry voices consistently calling for equal gender representation on what is arguably the world's most influential stage for international filmmakers.
Of the 21 features competing for the 2016 Palme d'Or, three were directed by women: Maren Ade's Toni Erdmann (which received stunning reviews), Andrea Arnold's American Honey, and Nicole Garcia's From the Land of the Moon. Still, women have captured some of the biggest headlines coming out of this year's event, including Susan Sarandon taking a stand against the festival's unwritten rule requiring women to wear high heels to screenings, the high-profile premiere of (and sustained standing ovation for) Jodie Foster's fourth directorial effort, Money Monster, the critically-lauded performance of Ruth Negga in Jeff Nichols' Loving, and Kristen Stewart starring in two festival titles: Woody Allen's Cafe Society and Olivier Assayas' Personal Shopper.
Though the Cannes competition has yet to feature an even split between films directed by men and women, the festival has recognized the work of select female directors and actresses in the past. Check out the powerful women who've made a memorable impression at Cannes over the years, ahead.
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Jane Campion became the one female director to win the festival's top prize with her 1993 film The Piano, starring Holly Hunter as a mute woman sent to New Zealand with her daughter (Anna Paquin in her first film role) to participate in an arranged marriage, though she forms a mysterious relationship with another man. Screening in competition alongside 22 other films, The Piano received strong notices from the festival jury, headed that year by Louis Malle, though they ultimately awarded both The Piano and Farewell My Concubine the Palme d'Or in a rare tied vote. In addition to Campion winning the Palme d'Or, Hunter also won the festival's Best Actress prize for her performance in the film.
The Piano would go on to be nominated for eight Academy Awards in 1994, winning three — including one for Campion, who also wrote the film's screenplay. Since then, Campion has notably directed Nicole Kidman in The Portrait of a Lady (1996), Meg Ryan in the 2003 thriller In the Cut and Abbie Cornish in the 2009 period drama Bright Star. She also created the Sundance Channel's mystery series Top of the Lake, which is set to premiere its second season in 2017.
Campion later returned to Cannes on the other side of the competition, moving on from nominee (and eventual winner) to head of the festival's jury in 2014. Campion led a jury of five women and four men, including Sofia Coppola, Gael Garcia Bernal, and Leila Hatami. "There is some inherent sexism in the industry," she said at the festival that year, noting that only seven percent of the 1,800 films submitted to the festival were directed by women. "Time and time again we don't get our share of representation. Excuse me gentlemen, but the guys seem to eat all the cake."
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In 1997, 27-year old up-and-coming Japanese filmmaker Naomi Kawase became the youngest person ever to win the festival's Camera d'Or, a prize awarded to directors showing their first feature in one of Cannes' competitive categories.
Since winning the Camera d'Or for Suzaku, Kawase has become a regular presence at the Cannes Film Festival. Her drama The Mourning Forest scored the festival's second-highest honor, the Grand Prix, in 2007. Her 2011 film Hanezu screened in competition, and Kawase herself served on the festival jury alongside Steven Spielberg, Nicole Kidman, and Ang Lee in 2013.
Kawase returned to the Cannes Film Festival shortly thereafter, screening both Still the Water (main competition) and An (Un Certain Regard) at the 2014 and 2015 editions, respectively. Kawase was later announced as the president of the Cinéfondation and Short Films competition in 2016. "Short films are exceptionally difficult, facing the question of how much of a story can be experienced in their short duration, while they also contain myriad possibilities yet unseen," Kawase said of her position on the Cinefondation and Short Films jury. "Among films created by students there will be the discovery of hidden brilliance like a gemstone, which makes me very much look forward to participating in this jury, a journey of adventure."
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Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos
In an unprecedented move, the 2013 Cannes Film Festival jury awarded the Palme d'Or not only to Blue Is the Warmest Color director Abdellatif Kechiche, but also to its stars, Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos. The threesome shared the festival's top award thanks to an executive decision by 2013 Jury President Steven Spielberg as a means to honor multiple elements of the film, as no main competition title can win in more than one category at the Cannes awards ceremony. The actresses became only the second and third women to have won the Palme in Cannes history, 10 years after director Jane Campion became the only female director to win the award for her 1993 film The Piano.
The French-language film tells the story of a teenager (Exarchopoulos) who undergoes a sexual awakening after forming an intense bond with a blue-haired artist (Seydoux). Though the film received critical praise, production was reportedly a nightmare, as Exarchopoulos and Seydoux told The Daily Beast they would "never" work with Kechiche again, specifically mentioning a fight scene where the director repeatedly forced Seydoux to actually hit her costar in the face for multiple takes. "It was horrible," Seydoux said. Exarchopoulos added: "In every shoot, there are things that you can’t plan for, but every genius has his own complexity. [Kechiche] is a genius, but he’s tortured. We wanted to give everything we have, but sometimes there was a kind of manipulation, which was hard to handle. But it was a good learning experience for me, as an actor."
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From actress to director, French filmmaker Maïwenn has played many roles throughout her career, with more than one taking center stage at the Cannes Film Festival over the years.
Following a successful presence on movie screens in France and beyond (American audiences likely know her as either Diva Plavalaguna from Luc Besson's The Fifth Element or as the heroine in Alexandre Aja's 2003 horror film High Tension), Maïwenn directed her first feature, Pardonnez-moi,in 2006.
The 40-year old's follow-up drama, Polisse, which she wrote, directed, and starred in, screened in competition at the 2011 edition of the Cannes Film Festival, subsequently winning the Jury Prize, essentially the second runner-up to the Palme d'Or. Polisse,about a journalist covering the juvenile division of the Paris police force, would go on to be nominated 13 times at the César Awards (the French equivalent to the Oscars), eventually winning two.
Maïwenn's next film as director, the romantic drama Mon roi, screened in competition at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival, with star Emmanuelle Bercot (who co-wrote the screenplay for Polisse) winning the Best Actress prize ahead of the film's nomination for eight Césars.
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Though her father, Francis Ford Coppola, is credited with making some of the best films of all time, Sofia Coppola has made a name for herself on the prestige movie scene, winning an Oscar for writing the screenplay for 2003's Lost in Translation in addition to screening several films at the Cannes Film Festival over the years.
Coppola's 2006 Kirsten Dunst-starring period drama Marie-Antoinette was nominated for the Palme d'Or ahead of winning an Academy Award for Best Costume Design the following year. Though it did not earn a major prize in the main competition, Marie-Antoinette won the festival's Cinema Prize of the French National Education System. Coppola subsequently screened the Emma Watson-starring film The Bling Ring within the Un Certain Regard section of the 2013 Cannes Film Festival.
In 2014, Coppola was selected to serve on the festival jury under president Jane Campion. The group chose Nuri Bilge Ceylan's Winter Sleep, a three-hour Turkish drama, to win the Palme d'Or.
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Bollywood actress and model Aishwarya Rai made Cannes Film Festival history in 2003 when she became the first Indian actress to serve on the competition jury.
Following her 1994 win at the Miss World pageant, Rai rose to prominence in India as the star of several high-profile movies throughout the late 1990s and 2000s, including Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (1999), Devdas (2002), Dhoom 2 (2006), and Jodhaa Akbar (2008).
Rai's English-language roles include the contemporary Jane Austen adaptation Bride & Prejudice (2004), The Last Legion (2007), and The Pink Panther 2 (2009).
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Olivia de Havilland
By 1965, Olivia de Havilland had already won two competitive Oscars for her work in To Each His Own (1946) and The Heiress (1949). That year, she added yet another honor to her long list of film industry accomplishments: he became the first woman in history to serve as Jury President at the Cannes Film Festival.
Presiding over a group that included Italian film producer Goffredo Lombardo, Mexican playwright Max Aub, and British actor Rex Harrison, de Havilland's jury selected Richard Lester's The Knack ...and How to Get It for the Palme d'Or.
Since rising to prominence in the 1930s with film roles in several Warner Bros. titles, including A Midsummer Night's Dream (1935), Dodge City (1939) and Gone with the Wind (1939), de Havilland led a career that spanned over 50 years. She wrapped her on-screen run 23 years after her tenure as the Cannes Jury President with Aunt Bessie Merryman in the 1988 TV movie The Woman He Loved, though she narrated the 2009 documentary I Remember Better When I Paint. The now-99-year-old went on to receive the United States' highest honor for an individual artist, the National Medal of the Arts, from President George W. Bush in 2008.
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In the early days of the Cannes Film Festival, it was not uncommon for men to preside over the competition jury more than once. Often, men would serve consecutively, as Georges Huisman did for three iterations in the 1940s. In subsequent years, it was far less common to see multiple-term jury presidents. French actress Jeanne Moreau first assumed the role in 1975, but repeated the honor 20 years later in 1995. Moreau remains the only person to have held the title of Cannes Jury President twice since 1960.
Prior to her presidential duties on the jury, Moreau won the Cannes Best Actress prize in 1960 for her role in Peter Brooks' Seven Days... Seven Nights. She also won an honorary Palme d'Or for lifetime achievement at the festival in 2003.
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Alongside frequent collaborator Maïwenn, French actress, director, and screenwriter Emmanuelle Bercot has made a memorable imprint on the Cannes Film Festival throughout her career.
Having previously starred in several feature films, the 48-year-old's first major success as a director came in 2001, as her film Clément screened in the Un Certain Regard section at the Cannes Film Festival's 54th edition. In 2011, she co-wrote the drama Polisse, which scored the festival's Jury Prize, with Maïwenn.
Bercot's biggest year at Cannes, however, came in 2015, as her latest directorial effort, La Tête haute, became the first film directed by a woman to open the festival since Diane Kurys' A Man in Love kicked off the event in 1987. Though La Tête haute screened out of competition, Bercot won the Best Actress prize (though she tied with Rooney Mara's performance in Carol) for her role as Tony in Maïwenn's Mon roi, which competed for the 2015 Palme d'Or prize.
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Three women have won the Palme d'Or, but only two films directed by women have opened the Cannes Film Festival. French director Diane Kurys was the first, kicking off the festival with her 1987 romantic drama A Man in Love. The film stars Italian actress Greta Scacchi as a struggling performer, Jane, who takes a small, last-ditch part in an American movie opposite its handsome star, Steve Elliott (Peter Coyote). Though Elliott is married (Jamie Lee Curtis plays his New York City-based wife), he falls in love with Jane during production, causing her to leave behind a complicated relationship with Bruno (Vincent Lindon) in the process.
Kurys has yet to win a major award at Cannes, though her film Children of the Century screened at the festival as a special gala presentation in 1999. A Man in Love's Lindon, however, went on to win the Cannes Best Actor prize for his performance in The Measure of a Man in 2015.
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As a child actor, Kirsten Dunst captivated audiences and critics alike with roles in Hollywood films like Little Women, Jumanji, and Interview with the Vampire, but her later career encompassed big-budget studio roles (Spider-Man) and captured prestigious esteem among the Cannes crowd.
Dunst played the lead role in Sofia Coppola's 2006 Cannes competition film Marie-Antoinette, the director's follow-up to her 2003 Oscar-winning film Lost in Translation. For her performance in Lars von Trier's 2011 film Melancholia, however, Dunst won the Cannes Film Festival's Best Actress award, starring as a woman in the midst of a depressive episode as humanity faces destruction from a large planet on a collision course with Earth.
The 34-year-old actress later returned to Cannes as part of the 2016 festival jury alongside the likes of director George Miller and actor Mads Mikkelsen, voting on the main competition of films, including Xavier Dolan's It's Only the End of the World, Olivier Assayas' Personal Shopper, Pedro Almodóvar's Julieta, and Andrea Arnold's American Honey.
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Italian filmmaker Alice Rohrwacher has screened two films at Cannes, and both have garnered attention from their respective festival juries.
As the director and screenwriter of 2011's Heavenly Body, about a teenager's coming-of-age after receiving confirmation at a church run by a corrupt priest, Rohrwacher was nominated for the Camera d'Or, though she ultimately lost to Belgian director Bouli Lanners' Les Géants. The 33-year old returned to the festival in 2014 with her feature The Wonders, which was critically lauded and received the Grand Prix award from a jury that included Jane Campion, Sofia Coppola, Willem Dafoe, Gael Garcia Bernal, and Jia Zhangke.