Cannes chief seeks sun, more female directors, fewer selfies

France Cannes Film Festival

CANNES, France (AP) — As the Cannes Film Festival gets set to open, two trends seem clear: The women are coming — and the selfies are going.

Festival chief Thierry Fremaux has fielded questions about female directors and self-photography since he announced the lineup last month — and revealed that he considered selfies the “ridiculous” scourge of the red carpet.

The festival that mixes Hollywood heavy-hitters and art-house auteurs kicks off Wednesday with French director Emmanuelle Bercot’s “Standing Tall” — the first time in more than 25 years that a female filmmaker has taken the prestigious opening slot.

Fremaux, who has overseen the festival since 2001, knows the choice won’t silence criticism of an event that remains — like the film industry — male-dominated. There are only two women among the 19 directors competing this year for Cannes’ top prize, the Palme d’Or, although there are more among the scores of other films screening at the 12-day festival.

Fremaux insists “it’s not totally true” that women are underrepresented at Cannes.

“For the selection we pick films, artists — not men and women, young and old,” he said Tuesday. “But I don’t want to say that it’s not a problem. It is a problem. We need more women, more female directors, in world cinema.”

He said the conversation needs to take place year-round, not just during the film festival, “to go to the roots of why, as we have a lot of female singers or female novelists, we don’t have so many female directors.”

This year’s lineup is also notable for the number of films by non-Anglophone directors that are in English, including Italian filmmaker Paolo Sorrentino’s “Youth,” which stars Michael Caine, and Norwegian director Joachim Trier’s New York-set “Louder Than Bombs.”

Fremaux says English is the global lingua franca but thinks most filmmakers will continue to work in their mother tongues.

“When a film (is) shot in Latin America, with a subject matter very, very Argentinian or Chilean or Brazilian — they need to be in their own language,” he said.

A day before the opening, as work crews prepared to roll the red carpet over the steps of the Palais des Festivals, Fremaux wished for good weather to cement Cannes’ image as a sun-kissed playground of cinema and sensuality.

“The nightmare is to have rain the first day,” he said. “Then people think that the festival was rainy, even if sometimes only one rainy day. But it looks like we (will be) quite lucky.”

He also hopes his discouragement of selfies will take hold.

“Last year it was a problem,” Fremaux said. “Every single person shooting three pictures of himself during the (procession) of the red carpet for the films. There’s 2,000 seats, so we were late.”

Fremaux says he was pleased to see a top fashion magazine agreeing with his judgment and declaring: “it’s over. If you want to be fashionable, please don’t do a selfie.”

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