Why this year’s Cannes Film Festival was a step forward for gender equality | Harper’s Bazaar

They come for the sun, the hospitality and the shimmering cerulean waters. For A listers, a chance to soak up the European sensibility; for followers of fashion, a chance to see Hollywood stars parading an endless array of the world’s most beautiful couture gowns. Quite simply, the Cannes Film Festival has never gone out of style.

Despite enjoying a fortnight-long display of dazzling dresses, the festival could never reasonably be accused of having an overtly feminist agenda. This is, after all, the place that reportedly laid down a mandate for high heels and barred women from entering a screening because of their “rhinestone flats”. So too has it been criticised for the woeful shortfall of women film-makers in competition. In 2012, a group of industry insiders including Gillian Anderson, Rachel Ward and the high priestess of feminism herself Gloria Steinem presented a petition to Cannes officials entitled ‘Where are the women directors?’. And things got off to a shaky start this year when it emerged that an archive image of the Italian actress Claudia Cardinale on the official poster had been airbrushed.

This season, however, change was in the air, as Cannes started to question what female empowerment could look like, both in front of and behind the camera. After years of stalling on the issue of gender parity, a new poll by Women in Hollywood showed the number of female film directors was at long last on the rise. Finally, film’s glitziest gala was ready to reenergise an important conversation about the representation of women in film.

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