The Cannes Film Festival main competition jury was officially introduced to the press today and at tonight’s opening ceremony at the Grand Theatre Lumiere before the screening of Grace Of Monaco. (That’s one film they won’t have to worry about judging — it’s playing out of competition.) But there are 18 more that are in the running for the Palme d’Or and other prizes. President of the jury Jane Campion says they will meet about three times during the course of the next 10 days to compare notes, perhaps argue, and try to form a consensus as they keep the Murine by their side and watch a lot of cinema.
Campion remains the only woman ever to have won the Palme d’Or in the 67-year history of the festival, so it is perhaps appropriate that she is presiding over a jury where the female members are outnumbering the men 5 to 4. In addition to Campion, the women include writer-director Sofia Coppola, actress Carole Bouquet, A Separation star Leila Hatami, and Korean actress (and former Cannes winner) Jeon Do-yeon. The men include director Nicolas Winding Refn, actors Gael Garcia Bernal and Willem Dafoe and Chinese director-writer Jia Zhangke who won a prize here last year.
As Campion has told the members of the jury not to talk to, or read anything from, the media, there wasn’t much news out of this meeting except the usual platitudes you hear from Cannes juries about the honor of it all. It was all a bit low key with the group lacking the excitement quotient of last year’s team which included President Steven Spielberg, director Ang Lee and Nicole Kidman among others. But Campion, who won her Palme d’Or for 1993’s The Piano, was quite outspoken when the subject of employment for women in the industry came up. “I think you would have to say there is some inherent sexism in the industry. (Cannes programming chief) Thierry Fremaux told us only 7% of the 1800 films submitted to the Cannes Film Festival were directed by women… It does feel a little bit undemocratic,” she said. “Time and time again we don’t get our share of representation. It’s not that I resent the male-directed films but there is something women are thinking of doing we don’t get to know enough about.” She added that it is often a surprise when a film does come about that really offers a strong female vision.
Naturally there’s speculation that Campion and others on the jury might want to use the Palme d’Or to make a statement. And whatever the reasons, giving that award to one of two films in the main competition directed by women (Naomi Kawase’s Still The Water and Alice Rohrwacher’s The Wonders) could inevitably be interpreted in that way. You can see the headlines: “Only Female Winner Of The Palme Opens d’Or To Another Woman,” For her part — and the rest of the jury based on their statements — there is no agenda like that or any other. “I feel very unencumbered. I think that’s the point of the jury in many ways,” Campion said. “We are coming from different points of view but we can vote with our hearts and conscience for what we love the most. Maybe there will be a consensus or maybe we will have to discover a consensus. But we are not obliged to do anything. I think that would be a really ugly situation.”