I'll preface this by saying that this year's Festival de Cannes was my favorite so far in every way, film and form. I never felt so privileged to be a part of the grandest film festival in the world. To me, the festival was all glamour, all cinema and all greatness. As I've always known it to be. Only these days I'm living it from the inside and I feel very much like a kid in a candy store.
And can we have a moment of pride for the Italian presence this year in Cannes? I mean, Matteo Garrone, Alice and Alba Rohrwacher, Marcello Fonte, Gianni Zanasi, and more. We don't get many of those instances outside of cinema today...
Now onto business.
The winner of the Palme d'Or has been announced and predictably, it's still a male-directed project. There are too few opportunities for us women around and when one of us seizes the chance, we must deal with men (boys?) putting up passive aggressive resistance all the way, as well as other women trying to take us down.
So, in my humble opinion this "5050X2020" movement which culminated in a red carpet moment may be fun to say and bound to light up with feminine glamour the famous staircase in Cannes, but it is not going anywhere until we aggressively, without apologies and definitely take up our rightful place.
And yes, call me angry, go ahead. Make my day.
Nadine Labaki's 'Capharnaum' separates the women from the girls.
I was fortunate to interview Lebanese filmmaker Nadine Labaki before her film traveled to Cannes. In fact, it was my third interview with the filmmaker, and it was featured in Abu Dhabi's English language newspaper The National. I knew what to expect from her explanation of the film but nothing could have prepared me. Days later, although at first my body rejected the depth of the film, I'm still pondering about its message. And even better, 'Capharnaum' is showing up in my thoughts, while images and ideas from the film are included in my conversation and everyday life.
Did 'Capharnaum' deserve first prize? My personal favorites were both Labaki's film and Alice Rohrwacher's 'Happy as Lazzaro' and if I'd been on that jury, I would have probably fought until the death for one of those two titles to walk away with the Palme d'Or. I expected better of Cate Blanchett but then again, I didn't completely trust her as a woman-power star. I see her more as someone who does good when it's convenient to her own self. Of course, only time will tell why she didn't fight harder for a woman filmmaker to win the top prize in Cannes this year.
Maybe a bit less self promotion and a bit more true activism are needed here.
The Saudi Film Council debuts in Cannes, but is it reality or film fantasy?
Speaking of promotion, well no one could beat the Saudi Arabia pavilion at this year's festival. I mean, even John Travolta was there getting his picture taken with the Saudis. I was invited to moderate one of their panels, the coolest one called "Groundbreaking Women in Film in Saudi Arabia and the MENA Region" and was joined by the fantastic filmmaker, and personal favorite woman Haifaa Al Mansour, CAA talent agent Maha Dakhil, whose parents hailed from Libya, and young, super talented Saudi filmmaker and artist Maram Taibah, whose short 'Don't Go Too Far' screened in the Short Film Corner as part of the Saudi Film Collection.
However, just days after Ahmad Al-Maziad, the CEO of the General Culture Authority, addressed concerns by the Western media at a press conference on the treatment of women filmmakers and female stars and crew in Saudi, now that the Kingdom has announced a full fledged cinema culture -- by creating a Saudi Film Council, building public cinemas as well as offering strong rebates for productions that wish to work in Saudi Arabia -- by saying "next month women will be driving in Saudi!" guess what happened? At least six women driving activists were arrested during a crackdown on dissidents in the Kingdom.
Will this be another case of great PR campaigns and awesome press releases, which don't amount to much change after all, or is Saudi Arabia serious -- really open for business and ready to create a grand, wonderful, groundbreaking film culture in their Kingdom? Only time will tell and I'll bring you the updates, from my own personal POV. What I can say is that filmmakers like Al Mansour, Taibah and the brothers Maan and Talha B. -- who made a fab short musical film inspired by 'La La Land' and 'Glee' that totally blew me away -- do hold the key to something wonderful and I hope they'll continue to receive the support they deserve, in or out of their country.
As a funny aside, or perhaps it would be funny if it didn't feel so personal, the only images you can find in the media of the various panels held at the Saudi pavilion are for those moderated by my male colleagues. My requests to have copies of photos of mine forwarded while I conducted what was definitely the most exciting panel held there have gone either unanswered or passed on to someone else. Which in reality means I don't have one still. Because probably none exist?
So you see, the one thing everyone, from every corner of the earth can agree upon is that women should not be rewarded for their excellence. Or if at all possible, they should be ignored.