BY ANUJ RADIA

The red-carpet was rolled out. Paparazzi was ready and so were the celebrities. The 71st edition of the Cannes Film Festival was declared open and kicked off yesterday with the premiere of Asghar Farhadi’s Everybody Knows, starring Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz.

But unlike every year, this year is quite significant as it marks the first during post-Harvey Weinstein #MeToo era.

Opening the festival was Martin Scorsese (who won the festival’s top prize, the Palme d’Or, for Taxi Driver).

Accompanying the legendary Hollywood director was the award-winning actress, Cate Blanchett, who is a prominent member of the Time’s Up initiative and is the Jury President at the festival.

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.

“Would I like to see more women in competition? Absolutely. Would I expect and hope that that’s going to happen in the future? I hope so,” Blanchett said. “But we’re dealing with what we have that’s here. Our role is to, in this next, almost two weeks is dealing with what’s in front of us.”

Cannes Film Festival has been a subject of critique for many years, due to the lack of selecting more female directors. As such, only one female director – Jane Campion – has won the Palme d’Or award at the festival.

With regards to any such changes, Cate cited that this will only occur through specific actions over time to narrow the gender gap and improve diversity in the world of filmmaking. She said:

“Is (#MeToo) going to have a direct impact on the film in competition this year, six/nine months on? Not specifically. “There are several women in competition. But they’re not there because of their gender. They are there because of the quality of their work. We will assess them as filmmakers, as we should.”

Though he has been disgraced and ostracised, film mogul Weinstein’s shadow seems to be looming over this year’s Cannes.

For two decades, Weinstein was an omnipresent personality 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 an estimated 100 women attending, which festival director Thierry Fremaux said is “to affirm their presence.”

Those women will consist of 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,” Thierry Fremaux said yesterday. “The whole world has changed.”

With regards to women walking the red-carpet, four of Bollywood’s formidable actresses Sonam Kapoor Ahuja, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Deepika Padukone and Kangana Ranaut will also grace their presence at the festival this year.

In fact, Kangana will be making her Cannes debut and she is the perfect asset to this year’s programme. Not only is she a style icon, but she has brought issues like nepotism and sexual harassment in Bollywood, to widespread attention. 

Kangana, in particular, has also extended support to the #MeToo campaign against sexual harassment. She said:

“It’s a deliberate stand that I have taken against issues that I strongly condemn, issues like physical abuse, exploitation, sexual harassment and pay disparity. I am prepared for all the fights that would come my way.”

Featured Image Courtesy of Vianney Le Caer/Invision/A.

Still Image Courtesy of Variety.