As the three male artistic directors of the Cannes Film Festival stepped into a charged tent full of women gathered on the beach Monday morning in Cannes, a hard rain began to fall. “Its raining men!” declared French director Rebecca Zlotkowski, a key organizer of Frances new 5050×2020 gender parity movement, which had orchestrated the dramatic gesture of 82 women marching together up the stairs of the festival Palais Saturday night.
The men—Thierry Frémaux, general delegate of the Cannes Festival; Edouard Waintrop, artistic director of the Directors Fortnight; and Charles Tesson, artistic director of the Cannes Critics Week—had arrived in the tent with a job to do: they came to sign a pledge promising to compile statistics on the gender of the filmmakers and key crew members of movies submitted to Cannes. They also promised to improve transparency around their selection processes by publicly listing the members of their selection and programming committees, and to work towards parity on their executive boards.
“The event that took place on Saturday… is something historic when it shouldn't be,” Frémaux said, speaking to the crowd in French. “And yet it also means that it is the end of an era, the end of a cycle.”
As the men signed the pledge, the majority-female Cannes jury, including jury president Cate Blanchett, Kristen Stewart, and Ava DuVernay, looked on from the front row. Someone announced it was Blanchetts birthday, and the crowd began to sing and cheer.
The signing was the culmination of a remarkable few days at Cannes, including an emotional discussion in the tent before the signing, as representatives of Times Up U.S., Times Up U.K., Italys Dissenso Comune, Spains CIMA, and the Greek Womens Wave shared statistics and stories from their countries. “In our country, this kind of behavior is accepted," a representative from the Italian group said. "We live in a system that is so macho.” She cited a statistic that in Italy, the average woman earns 22,000 Euro, and the average man 44,000 Euros. “Men, get off the sidelines!” said CAA agent Maha Dakhil, the Times Up U.S. representative. “When you hear those figures, you should feel as pained as we do. Dont be afraid of wearing a pin and some ex-girlfriends going to call and say you were awful to her one night. This isnt a spectator sport. Dont fear us; be one of us.” Anna Serner, CEO of the Swedish Film Institute, urged women from the audience, “Go home and be difficult!” Zlotkowski called for the creation of a global women directors guild.
5050×2020 came together quickly, and with the cooperation of the festival. Zlotkowski said she had been inspired by attending a secret meeting of the U.S. group Times Up in November and that she, French director Céline Sciamma, and members of the French directors guild began organizing #5050×2020 as Times Ups French counterpart. They planned the march up the Palais stairs, which was attended by 82 women to represent the scant 82 women who have had films in competition at Cannes throughout the festivals history. They created the pledge and coordinated the logistics of getting the women to the red carpet, often by messaging each other on WhatsApp, and reached out to Times Up to enlist Blanchett and the festival jurors in their plans.
Monday morning at Cannes, as espresso and Perrier were served and an overflow audience of mostly women crammed into the tent on the beach, the movement claimed its first substantive victory. As Sciamma looked out into the crowd, she declared, “Its messy, but its fun.”
Get Vanity Fairs HWD NewsletterSign up for essential industry and award news from Hollywood.Rebecca KeeganRebecca Keegan is a Hollywood Correspondent for Vanity Fair.