Categories: Editionreview

Review of the 7th edition of Women In Motion at the 74th Festival de Cannes

WEBWIRE

Yamina Benguigui, Lou Doillon, Jodie Turner-Smith, Tilda Swinton and Regina King shared their experiences and views of women’s representation in the film industry during a fascinating set of conversations. A new series of podcasts recorded in the Women In Motion studio with leading women in cinema will be available soon. The Women In Motion award was presented to the campaigning actress, producer and director Salma Hayek, while the Young Talent Award was given to Australian director Shannon Murphy

THE TALKS

Nearly 200 people from the film and media world attended the new season, which began with a Talk with Yamina Benguigui, who spoke about sisterhood in particular. “What I also mean by this word is solidarity, whatever continent you live on. We know instinctively that women’s rights are never really achieved, ever. As soon as the extremes start to rise, in the West, in Africa, women are always the first to suffer. That’s why this is so important. It’s female solidarity.” 

She also discussed the role that cinema played in her own emancipation. “Films taught me that I could be an individual in my own right, that my life wouldn’t be one of submission, that at any given time, I wouldn’t belong to my father, then to a husband, and then to the cemetery. It was an escape. Cinema is everything to me.” The director has also made film a driver of change. “A man in my situation would have made 10 films already. How can we make things change? That’s my battle. And I’m fighting it with movies, they’re better than words. It’s our duty to continue these battles through films.”

The following day, multidisciplinary artist Lou Doillon discussed the various female role models she used for her own creative instincts. “In literature, I started with Dorothy Parker, in art, it was Louise Bourgeois, Sophie Calle, and in music it was Nina Simone, PJ Harvey, Garbage… I have a pantheon of these women. More recently, in the last three or four years, I’ve mainly been reading books by women writers, but it hasn’t been a conscious decision. I just feel a need for them. There are questions being asked: the question of our choices, the complicated question of physiological motherhood and artistic motherhood. There are so many women who have talked about this really well.”

She also talked about the changes underway: “There’s something very exciting happening today with this young generation of women, they are able to move forward together, with all their differences. Between our great-grandmothers, our mothers, and our daughters, isn’t it amazing. My son has the kind of attitude that my father never had.”

Another topic was the amount of freedom that women allow themselves. “It makes me laugh when I hear people say ‘If you have equality, there will be a lot of women who aren’t perfect.’ But can’t we say the same thing about men…? I’ve tried to show just how much my strength comes from my imperfections. It’s great to ask yourself questions, but you have to allow yourself not to have the answers. You have to give yourself the right to be imperfect – which those on the other side have always allowed themselves – the right to change, and to get things completely wrong.”

British actress Jodie Turner-Smith focused on the many steps that still need to be taken to achieve true diversity in the world of film. “Studios, the business, the industry, everybody has to understand that being an ally is going to cost money. You have to put your money behind it. The words will not suffice. When you make casting choices, when you hire actors of color, you have to hire people who know how to do their make-up, who know how to do their hair, who know how to light them properly… It’s going to take time for people to see the world in a different way.”

She then broadened her point to include the need for gender equality and the representation of minorities in film directing. “I want to make my life about not only just working with incredible directors, but working with women, working with women of color, using the opportunities that I have to give opportunities to people that are being kept out or who are not being given the level of respect that they deserve, when they are extremely talented… and are then not supported by the studio. I have already directed something: a short film, last year, called Jackie. You can watch it on YouTube. I wrote it, I directed it, I costume-designed it, I directed it… it made me feel like ‘OK, here is another path I really want to explore.’”

She concluded by talking about freedom and the need for people to feel good about themselves. “I want my daughter to feel that she can speak her voice, and that she can be fully present in that space and not apologize for her existence. My hope … is that this is something that I live by example, that she grows up seeing and is modeled to her. If I could talk to a six-year-old version of myself, I would say to her: ‘Don’t be afraid to take up space.’ And I would say to her: ‘Your complexion is beautiful. You might not know it now, but you will.’” 
Iconic actress Tilda Swinton discussed her work and women’s representation in the film industry. “There have always been women filmmakers and there always will be. In fact, from all the way back from the  beginning of cinema, there have always been women screenwriters, there have always been women directors, across the globe, and very empowered. When people are encouraging themselves to feel anxious about a lack of women in filmmaking, they are maybe only looking at the names on a roster of directors at a film festival. They are maybe forgetting that all these films… are suffused with the sensibility of women filmmakers. We just need to have confidence and keep amplifying, but with the authority of knowing that women do make films.”

She also raised the issue of equal pay in the industry. “When working in what used to be called independent film, but actually was underground film, I don’t remember being paid for the first nine years of my life… we were working as artists. I’ve read the stories of women who have become aware that they have ‘carried the can’ equally or maybe even more, with a heavier can, and yet their male counterparts have been paid more. And it’s laughable that in this day and age that should still be happening.” 
The seventh edition of Women In Motion Talks ended with a conversation with American actress, director and producer Regina King, who looked back at her career and how she came to directing. “I think that I was probably preparing myself all the while, as an actor, because I would really be paying attention to things that do not pertain to the actor. I would find myself asking myself questions that had nothing to do with the character… it just kind of felt like there was a moment when I decided to start saying out loud that I wanted to be director. I think I was scared to say it before, but I kind of felt it. And that maybe happened sometime around 2000. John Wells was super-supportive. My advice would definitely star

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