Cannes Film Festival sets up sexual harassment hotline, asserts 'time has come to speak out' in statement


May 08, 2018 17:29:59 IST

Nothing is the same anymore in Cannes.

The 71st edition of the world's premier film festival, which opens with Iranian auteur Asghar Farhadi's Spanish-language drama starring Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz today, has put in place a screening schedule that has sent a section of critics and journalists covering the event into a tizzy.

Cannes Film Festival. Twitter

Cannes Film Festival. Twitter

Morning press shows ahead of Competition films several hours ahead of their red-carpet galas have been done away with while protracted post-screening embargoes have been imposed on reviews of films that screen late night.

As one senior film critic said in an informal chat: The festival is telling us that it isn't about the media; it is about the filmmakers. So be it.

So, when Cannes Film festival general delegate Thierry Fremaux walked into an impromptu press conference on, a day ahead of the festival opening, many among the press corps expected him to address the media's misgivings.

He did, but that wasn't the only theme of his interaction with the press. Fremaux addressed a slew of other issues -- #MeToo, the raging row with Netflix, the ban on red-carpet selfies and the legal cloud over the closing film, Terry Gilliam's The Man Who Killed Don Quixote.

In light of the storm unleashed by the Harvey Weinstein scandal, Fremaux dwelt upon the festival's move to come down heavily on sexual harassment.

He announced the setting up of a hotline to receive complaints from people who experience or witness cases of inappropriate advances at the festival.

"We are setting up a phone number and an email address for people to reach out. A team will be dedicated to receiving and acting upon the information," he said.

Fremaux added: "It isn't only the Cannes Film Festival that has changed following the Harvey Weinstein scandal, the entire world has."

That change is clearly being seen and felt across the festival this year.

In a formal statement issued hours later, the festival said: "Because the time has come to speak out, and because there must be zero tolerance with sexual harassment or abuse of any kind, the Festival de Cannes, in partnership with the French Ministry of Gender Equality, has decided to take a firm approach to preventing sexual harassment, and to stand shoulder to shoulder with victims."

At the press conference, Fremaux also referred to the allegation that the gender ratio in Cannes film selections tends to be skewed. This year, only three of the 21 films in the main Competition have been helmed by women, but the festival's 18-film Un certain regard selection features as many as seven women directors.

Moreover, the nine-member Competition jury of 71st Cannes Film Festival is not only headed by Cate Blanchett, it also has four other women on it filmmaker Ava Duvernay, actresses Lea Seydoux and Kristen Stewart and Burundian author and composer Khadja Nin.

Fremaux asserted that the festival is doing its best to improve the gender ratio in its selections and committees. He said that films directed by women account for over 20 per cent of the titles in the festival's programme across sections when only 7 per cent of films are helmed by women globally.

He also regretted not being able to programme Alfonso Cuaron's film Roma, about the director's growing-up years in Mexico.

The festival tried until the very last minute to have the film premiere in the Competition but Netflix, which has decided not to bring any of its titles to Cannes this year, refused to yield. The bone of contention was the Cannes rule that a Competition film has to mandatorily receive French theatrical distribution, which the streaming video giant has been holding out against.

Updated Date: May 08, 2018 17:29:59 IST