'Time's up': Female stars fight back at Cannes protest

Cannes (France) (AFP) –


Cate Blanchett, Kristen Stewart and Jane Fonda will join dozens of other female film industry professionals for a "milestone" protest on Cannes' red carpet Saturday denouncing the sex discrimination plaguing the movies.

With Hollywood still reeling from the Harvey Weinstein scandal, and Cannes under fire for its dearth of women directors, the world's top film festival hopes to fend off some of the fierce criticism with the march.

In total, 82 women will climb the fabled stairs of the festival venue late Saturday in honour of the 82 films by female directors to have featured in the competition since 1946 -- a number dwarfed by the nearly 1,700 male contenders.

The star-studded group will stop halfway facing the Palais des Festivals, "standing motionless, silent and together, to symbolise the extent to which the top of the... professional ladder still remains unattainable for them," organisers said in a statement.

Two-time Oscar winner Blanchett, who heads this year's female-majority jury, will then read out a joint statement with iconic French director Agnes Varda.

Producer and activist Melissa Silverstein of Women and Hollywood hailed the event as a "massive milestone towards change" in the #MeToo era.

"We will stand for the 82 women directors that have been in the official selection... This is very emotional for me," she said in a tweet on Saturday.

The protest will take place ahead of the premiere of "Girls of the Sun" by Eva Husson, one of only three women out of 21 directors in the running for the Palme d'Or top prize.

- Cannes 'must be safe' -

From actresses to directors, producers and agents, the women participating in the march reflect the breadth of female talent around the globe but acutely under-represented in the cinema world.

Protesters include all of Cannes' female jury members, as well as US filmmaker Patty Jenkins whose box office smash-hit "Wonder Woman" was praised last year for "breaking the genre mould" of superheroes.

The protest marks a major symbolic moment in the first Cannes festival since the cinema industry became engulfed last October in the sprawling sex abuse allegations against Weinstein.

Cannes was the scene of several of the Hollywood mogul's alleged attacks on actresses.

In response, the festival -- which has also been slammed in the past for asking women to wear high heels on the red carpet -- set up an anti-harassment hotline this year.

The number has already received "several calls" since the festival's launch on May 9, French Equality Minister Marlene Schiappa announced Saturday.

Cannes "must be a safe space for women," she stressed.

- 'Disturbing' depictions -

Blanchett has expressed her unhappiness that Cannes has once again failed to buck the trend of previous years and invite more female directors.

"There are many women on the jury but I wish there were more in competition," the Australian-born star told French media earlier this week.

The 48-year-old has emerged as a key figure in Hollywood's fight against sexual misconduct.

One of the first women to call out Weinstein, Blanchett recently co-founded the "Time's Up" movement in support of abuse victims.

Her comments echo those of fellow actress Jessica Chastain who served on the jury last year and lambasted Cannes for its "disturbing" depiction of women.

Chastain caused a stir on Thursday when she revealed that she planned to make Hollywood's first big budget all-female blockbuster with a dream cast including Penelope Cruz and Marion Cotillard.

However, only seven percent of all Hollywood blockbusters were directed by women in 2016.

France has the best ratio among the major film-producing countries with 23 percent female filmmakers.