∞ Organised by Kering and the Festival de Cannes for the second year running, the ‘Women in Motion’ programme brought together a large number of film industry figures over ten days to discuss the issue of women in cinema. Exploring subjects such as representation, visibility, contribution, wage inequality, funding difficulties and potential solutions, a great number of topics were discussed at the 2016 ‘Women in Motion’ Talks, which welcomed more than 500 guests.
∞ The highlights of the programme included the ‘Women in Motion Awards’, which were presented to actresses Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon, who had travelled to Cannes to mark the 25th anniversary of cult film Thelma & Louise, as well as to three young female directors: Leyla Bouzid, Gaya Jiji and Ida Panahandeh.
The Women in Motion Talks: from awareness to action
- Actress, film director and producer Jodie Foster opened the 2016 edition of the ‘Women in Motion Talks’. In Cannes to present her film Money Monster (out of competition), Jodie Foster discussed the evolution of her own career, which has been marked by an increasingly strong presence of women on film sets, as well as the lack of funding given to women for their productions.
“Everything changed when women came on to movie sets; Suddenly, it felt more like real life (…) it felt more like family. Movie sets became healthier, and I remember that drastic change.”
“I think studio executives are scared, period. (…) It’s a financial issue honestly; it’s where art and commerce are coming together, and commerce is winning.”
“There is a democratisation that technology has brought that’s wonderful, that women can really take advantage of, and more diverse faces can take advantage of, in ways that they were never able to before.”
Vittorio Zunino Celotto / Getty Images pour Kering
- Meanwhile Keri Putnam, Executive Director of the Sundance Institute, film producer Celine Rattray and agent Rena Ronson touched on the insufficient representation of female film directors at independent film festivals, particularly as far as large-budget films are concerned.
“When money comes in, women move out (…). It’s not equitable at the Festival front (…) 25% still isn’t 50%.” Keri Putnam
“Anyone in a position to hire should be looking at 50% of people they interview as women.” Celine Rattray
- The We Do It Together team, who were in Cannes to present their first film Together Now, were guest speakers at the ‘Women in Motion Talks’. Founder Chiara Tilesi, actress Juliette Binoche, producer Marianne Slot and director Patricia Riggen, all members of the organisation’s executive board, stressed the importance of projects such as theirs, which advocate a sharing economy so that more films directed by women and about women can be produced for the largest audience possible, thus helping to transform the perception and situation of women around the world in the long term.
- During their Talk, Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon, the iconic stars of cult film Thelma & Louise, addressed the impact that films have on individuals in terms of identification and on society in general, as well as on perceptions that are considered to be the norm. In regard to that, Susan Sarandon expressed her delight at the current interest being shown in definitions of gender and identity, which she considers to be a step forward towards redefining the limitations that are commonly imposed on both men and women.
Geena Davis then explained, “Research from my Institute show that women doing something makes it familiar, makes it something women want to aspire to and that men can accept more (…). Images have a tremendous impact.”
- At a Talk hosted by the Managing Director of UniFrance Films Isabelle Giordano, scriptwriter and director Alice Winocour and director Houda Benyamina, who was awarded the Caméra d’Or for Divines, discussed the depiction of women in film, the myths surrounding female and mother figures, and the narrative outlines that result from them. The importance of family, the difficulty of combining family life with professional ambitions, the extreme reluctance of women to discuss family and professional issues in comparison to men, and the need for better solidarity between women were just some of the many topics that came up for review.
- Looking at the specificities of the Chinese market regarding film, Kering and the Festival de Cannes, in partnership with ELLE China, invited Ge Wei, Vice President of the Chinese leading online video platform Youku, to address the business opportunities for women thanks to the Internet. At a Talk hosted by Lena Yang, CEO of Hearst Magazines China, she presented the successful career of a young Chinese women, ex-model, now content producer and entrepreneur thanks to the Internet. Additionally, during a private session, ELLE China interviewed the Chinese actress Chris Lee about her career and the importance of female characters on screen.
- At a Talk held with Amy Emmerich, Content Officer at Refinery29, an American online content platform aimed at women and Chloë Sevigny, actress, director, former model and stylist, Sevigny highlighted the personal difficulties she faced – notably a lack of self-confidence and a feeling of intimidation – that prevented her from directing sooner. Through their respective careers in fashion and the media, the two speakers also insisted upon the need to establish new, more diverse ideals of beauty to enable more women to identify with content, particularly in women’s magazines.
Amy Emmerich added, “I can tell you, based on the audience that we have, that they want it, they’re yearning for it. They want a story that is told through a different lens, a more diverse story that eventually speaks to the community and the environment in which they live. And that doesn’t always happen if it’s just a white man behind the camera”
- One of the Talks organised with the Kering Foundation, which combats violence against women, brought together the actress, director and producer Salma Hayek Pinault, who also sits on the executive board of the Kering Foundation, the director, producer and scriptwriter Lisa Azuelos, the President of the Hong Kong Women’s Foundation Su-Mei Thompson, and Zainab Salbi, President of the Women for Women organisation and creator and presenter of the television programme the Nida’a Show. All long-standing activists of women’s causes, the speakers discussed their own convictions and their most recent projects to explain how film, the media and the entertainment industry can reinforce the impact their commitment has and help to improve the lives of women around the world.
- The last Talk of this year’s edition put the spotlight on two women who are also committed to fighting for a more balanced representation of women in the film industry: Francine Raveney, Head of Research, press and public relations for EWA – European Women’s Audiovisual Network, and Melissa Silverstein, writer, founder of the Women in Hollywood platform, Artistic Director and co-founder of the Athena Film Festival in New York.
Francine Raveney lamented, “There are 44% of female directing students. When it came to getting a job in the industry and being an active director the figure drops to 24%.”
“It’s not only about equal pay, it’s about trusting the vision of women (…) it’s about making it clear we’re half the world! Our stories matter and we count”.
Melissa Silverstein added “When you think of a film director, you think of a guy, with a hat (…) that is the definition of leadership. So what we need to do is making people understand that we need to change to definition of what leadership is so that we can have more people understand that women can lead in the same way as men.”
The Women in Motion Awards: a dinner held in honour of women
Having travelled to Cannes to mark the 25th anniversary of cult film Thelma & Louise, actresses Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon were presented with their ‘Women in Motion Awards’ by Pierre Lescure, Thierry Frémaux and François-Henri Pinault.
François-Henri Pinault, Chairman and CEO of Kering stated, “Our partnership with the Festival is designed to give a louder voice to women in an industry that massively influences the way people think and behave every day.”
Inviting Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon on stage, Thierry Frémaux, General Delegate of the Festival de Cannes, emphasised: “They are part of the legend of this festival because the reception that was given to Thelma & Louise is one of the most memorable and extraordinary. The walls of this palace still remember it.”
As part of the ‘Women in Motion’ programme, Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon, as role models for their exemplary careers and commitment to social issues, chose to present the Women in Motion Young Talent award to three young film directors: Leyla Bouzid, Gaya Jiji and Ida Panahandeh.