In 65 Years of the Cannes Film Festival, Only One Woman Has Been Awarded the Palme D’Or. The 65th Cannes Film Festival is kicking off as we speak, and some 30,000 people gather in the sunny South of France — directors, producers, stars, and the one wishing they were or just simply want to bask in the glamour of it all. All in the name of cinema. Films from all over the world are screened, deals are made, designers guard their celebrity clad walking buildboards like trainers watching over their race ponies, This year Marilyn Monroe who never made it to Cannes herself is the face of the festival partially sponsored by Chopard, the French luxury house.
Cannes more than any other Bazaar (read exhibition of all that is bizarre in show business) is the one that most people love to come back to. It has it all: the Location, the food, the parties and the women…It is a feast for the senses.
Often, good buzz at Cannes can launch a small film into a global sensation (last year’s The Artist, is a good example). One thing stands however as a peculiar.
For the 2012 edition, as with the 2010 edition, there are no female directed films in competition, and in the 64 years of the Festival only one woman — Jane Campion — has been awarded the Palme D’Or. Not mind you there aren’t women out there making films, they’re just not up for competition, it seems.
But non-competitive selections do not get as much attention as those competing. it is just that simple. One of the films directed by women being screened is Wadjda, the first-ever film shot in Saudi Arabia; it is a coming-of-age drama from Haiffa al Mansour, the first female Saudi filmmaker.
Haifaa wrote and directed Wadjda, which tells the ordinary but uplifting story of Wadjda, an 11-year-old girl growing up in the suburbs of Saudi capital city Riyadh. Wadjda’s dream is to get and ride a green bicycle, a treasure forbidden to women in the restrictive Islamist state.
“I’m so proud to have shot the first full-length feature ever filmed entirely inside the Kingdom (of Saudi Arabia),” Mansour said. “I come from a small town in Saudi Arabia where there are many girls like Wadjda who have big dreams, strong characters and so much potential.
These girls can, and will, reshape and redefine our nation.” Mansour used an all-Saudi cast for her film, including Reem Abdulla, one of Saudi Arabia’s best-known television actresses.
The Wadjda crew came from both Germany and Saudi Arabia and included award-winning German cinematographer Lutz Reitemeyer (White Deer Plain). Gerhard Meixner and Roman Paul of Berlin-based Razor Film, whose credits include Oscar nominees Paradise Now and Waltz with Bashir, produced Wadjda with financing help from Rena Ronson of the UTA Independent Film Group. Ronson first kicked off financing for the project when she met with Mansour at the Abu Dhabi Circle Conference in 2009. Saudi partner Amr Alkahtani of Rotana Studios provided additional financial and logistical support on the ground during the shoot.
“We are excited that we have successfully shot the very first feature film in a country where going to the movies is forbidden,” said Meixner and Paul of Razor Film. “Experts on the region told us we would never be able to make a movie like this in such an environment. Haifaa Al Mansour deserves extraordinary respect for her courage, as does our local partner, Amr Alkahtani, who was indispensable in making the shoot possible. Saudi Arabia remains very inaccessible to outsiders, and representations of the country in the media are often one-sided and filled with clichés. We hope that our film can open and broaden the way people look at this country, its rich culture and wonderful people.”
Wadjda is Mansour’s first feature-length drama but the director has shot three short films as well as the award-winning documentary Women Without Shadows.
All of her work is focused on giving a platform to Saudi woman to tell their unheard stories.
Who know if even out of competition this might just be the year of the woman at Cannes, and with Marilyn looking on it would feel just right.
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