Cannes Film Festival, grappling with issues of gender equality and other winds of change, was declared open Tuesday, 8 May by Martin Scorsese and Cate Blanchett, arm in arm, before the premiere of Asghar Farhadi’s “Everybody Knows.”
The 71st edition of the glamorous French Riviera extravaganza of cinema and celebrity – and the first of the post-Harvey Weinstein #MeToo era – kicked off with the Spanish-language debut of Farhadi, the Iranian filmmaker, starring Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem.
On the opening ceremony’s carefully choreographed red carpet, one of the festival’s numerous modifications this year – a ban on selfies – was broken by some attendees who attempted to take photographs with their phones.
Scorsese, who won the festival’s top prize, the Palme d’Or, for “Taxi Driver,” was in Cannes for an anniversary screening of his 1973 breakthrough “Mean Streets.”
Brought out to officially open the festival, he gestured for Blanchett to join him in the middle of the Palais des Festivals’ stage. And much of the spotlight on opening day belonged to Blanchett.
A prominent member of the Time’s Up initiative, Blanchett told reporters that the #MeToo movement will play a role in this and every following Cannes festival, but won’t factor into their deliberations.
Competing for the Palme are 21 films, including new releases from directors Spike Lee, Pawel Pawlikowski (the Oscar-winning “Ida”) and Jean-Luc Godard. Three of the films in the competition are directed by women: Nadine Labaki, Eva Husson and Alice Rohrwacher.
Blanchett noted the festival has improved the gender parity of its selection committees. Juries, she noted, have in recent years been split equally, with the president tilting the scales.
Lasting change, Blanchett said, will only occur through specific actions over time to narrow the gender gap and improve diversity in the world of film making.
“Is (#MeToo) going to have a direct impact on the film in competition this year, six nine months on? Not specifically,” the Australian actress said.
Still, the shadow of disgraced film mogul Weinstein is looming over this year’s Cannes. For two decades, Weinstein had been an omnipresent figure at the festival, where several of his alleged sex crimes took place.
This year, Cannes has established a hotline for sexual harassment victims at the festival. It will also hold a special red carpet on Saturday with about 100 women attending, which festival director Thierry Fremaux said is “to affirm their presence.”
Those will include all five female members of the jury: Ava DuVernay, Kristen Stewart, Lea Seydoux and Burundian songwriter Khadja Nin.
Fremaux says the Weinstein sex abuse allegations came as a shock to Cannes, forcing the festival to examine its own practices and do more to improve gender equality.
“It isn’t just the Cannes Film Festival that’s going to change,” he said Tuesday. “The whole world has changed.”
Others have pressured Cannes to confront its role in the scandal. Weinstein is alleged to have raped Italian filmmaker and actress Asia Argento at the 1997 Cannes festival. Weinstein has denied any nonconsensual sex.
“What emerged in Cannes must be fought in Cannes,” said Marlene Schiappa, France’s secretary of state in charge of gender equality.
Asked if improving gender equality at the festival also means pulling back on the lavish red carpets that are part fashion show, Blanchett said no.