16/05/2012 06:16 BST | Updated 15/07/2012 06:12 BST

Cannes the World's Biggest Film Festival Really be Sexist?

So it's the eve of the world's most prestigious film festival. Over the next 12 days some of the biggest names in the business will be descending on this little French Riviera resort with their super-yachts. It's the place where movie dreams take shape. Critics come to discuss the next big thing and distributors hope to pick up a gem that will take them through to awards season and make them millions.

The atmosphere here is building. The paparazzi have had their assistants camped outside La Palais with their step ladders for days now and I've never seen as many paint pots and handymen...they're even giving the faded passage pietons (that's zebra crossings to you and I) the once over as the town awaits the A-list crowd.


Even before day one the festival is making headlines. A sexism row has broken out because all of the 22 entries for the big prize, the Palme d'Or, are directed by men. Feminist group La Barbe ('the beard'!) - has written an open letter to the festival organisers, published in Le Monde, attacking the lack of women in the festival.

Though last year there were four female directors in the far the only woman to have won the Palme d'Or is Jane Campion for her 1993 film The Piano.

I'm all for sisterly solidarity but if female filmmakers aren't producing the goods, surely we don't want any old tosh put forward just to correct a bad statistic? But should we really be blaming Cannes? As a festival, it has a duty to seek out and encourage more female filmmakers. As a woman, I'd love to see more at the helm of the industry but women can't play the sexism card as an excuse.

The film industry has nurtured many hugely talented women directors - Sofia Coppola, Kathryn Bigelow, and Catherine Hardwicke being just a few. The next generation of filmmakers should take inspiration from them.

Berenice Bejo is opening and closing the festival. She told me, "...I don't really agree with the sexism row. Last year there were four female directors and two were French. There was a lot of focus on them. It's unfair to suggest that Thierry Fermaux (Head of the Festival) would choose a film based on whether the director was female or male. The question is 'why are there not so many female directors?' In some countries you, as a woman, cannot even make a movie. That's just because they are women. It's not right to say that the Cannes Festival is sexist."


In every job, men are better paid, have more responsibilities, it's not just in the movie industry. It's everywhere. It's hard. On set you have crew, actors, directors, you have to be strong (as a woman) but we're good and we work hard. We're getting there!"

Whatever your gender, this place can make a film. Just look at what happened last year when Berenice's husband Michel Hazanavicius came to Cannes looking for a distributor for his film The Artist. Harvey Weinstein swooped in and bought up the rights before it had even been screened! It went on to pick up 5 Oscars including Best Picture.

So, back to this year's prize. Of the many men who are vying for the prestigious gong, who's going to walk away with it? I'm going to stick my neck on the line and say from the off that French-Belgian film De Rouille Et D'os (Rust and Bone), directed by Jacques Audiard, starring Marion Cotillard and Matthias Schoenaerts is my fave. Beautifully shot, it's the story of a woman who loses her legs in a whale attack.

Yes, it sounds random on paper but this is what we're going be talking about and waxing lyrical over for the next eight months! Oscar success could be on the cards for Audiard. But it's Marion's stunning performance that will have people see, behind every successful man there's a woman.

More Cannes chaos @janeyspoon ...