MeToo will not sway Cannes film contest, says jury head Blanchett

Cate Blanchett says there are are several women in competition who have been nominated for quality of their work.

FILE: Cate Blanchett. Picture: AFP

CANNES - The MeToo campaign for sexual equality will have “no direct impact” on who wins at the Cannes Film Festival, Cate Blanchett, the head of this year’s majority-female jury, said on Tuesday.

Of the 21 films vying for the Palme d’Or, only three are directed by women, the same as last year’s festival which happened before the sexual abuse and harassment allegations that gave birth to a global campaign to get greater female participation in the film business.

When asked whether she was concerned that there were only three female-helmed movies, Blanchett told a news conference:

“A few years ago there were only two!”

“Is (MeToo) going to have a direct impact upon the films in competition this year, six, nine months on? Not specifically. There are several women in competition but they are not there because of their gender, they are there for the quality of their work.”

She added: “Would I like to see more women in competition? Absolutely. Do I expect and hope that’s going to happen in the future? I hope so.”

But, as if to show how women must not be overlooked in cinema, she had a barbed response to a reporter who asked the “filmmakers” - meaning the directors, rather than actors - on the jury to answer “why are movies still important?”

“Actresses: don’t answer that because you have no idea how to answer that question!” Blanchett said with a raised eyebrow to fellow jury members Lea Seydoux and Kristen Stewart (an actress who has recently moved into directing).

The news conference was the last time the five-women, four-men jury will speak to the media until the end of the fortnight of movie screenings which begins on Tuesday with Everybody Knows, a Spanish-language drama starring Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem, written and directed by the Iranian Asghar Farhadi.

Another Iranian with a movie in competition, Jafar Panahi, will be unable to attend the festival as he is officially banned from film-making by his government. Russian director Kirill Serebrennikov will also be absent as he is under house arrest in Russia on charges his supporters say are politically motivated.

Blanchett, who called their plight “a terrible situation” was asked it that would alter the way their films are judged.

“It’s not a political film festival,” she replied, insisting that all films will be judged solely on their artistic merits.

“This is not the Nobel Peace Prize, it’s the Palme d’Or.” The festival runs from 8 to 19 May.