Female Hollywood stars to protest on Cannes red carpet

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'It's not a political film festival,' says Cate Blanchett heading the majority-female jury, insisting that all films will be judged solely on their artistic merits.
Jury member, Australian actress Cate Blanchett (centre) arrives at a cocktail reception for the jury at the Martinez Hotel ahead of the 71st annual Cannes Film Festival, in Cannes, France, on May 7, 2018. The festival runs from May 8 to 19. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

CANNES, FRANCE (AFP) - Around 100 top actresses and female film directors will stage a protest on the red carpet at the Cannes film festival to support the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment, the organisers said Monday (May 7).

The announcement came on the eve of the opening of the world's biggest film festival, which like the rest of the cinema industry has been profoundly shaken by the scandal engulfing Hollywood tycoon Harvey Weinstein.

The women's march will take place on Saturday (May 12) evening, and is likely to include Cate Blanchett who chairs this year's female-majority jury.

"It will be a march dedicated to the women of cinema," Cannes director Thierry Fremaux told a press conference in the French Riviera resort ahead of Tuesday's festival launch.

"Not only Cannes but the whole world changed last September" when claims started to emerge that Weinstein had abused dozens of women over the years, he said.

Weinstein is accused of attacking four actresses at Cannes, including the rape of the Italian actress Asia Argento in his luxury hotel suite when she was 21.

The affair has prompted the film festival to set up an anti-sexual harassment hotline this year.

It has also further increased pressure on Cannes to address the glaring gender imbalance in its main competition and overhaul a dress code considered sexist by critics, with women stopped on the red carpet in previous years for not wearing high heels.

But while the jury who will award the Palme d'Or top prize features five women and four men, only three female directors made the shortlist of 21 competing for the coveted trophy.

They include French director Eva Husson whose film Girls of the Sun will be screened on Saturday evening after the women's march.

Fremaux rejected criticism that Blanchett's appointment as jury head had been a quick PR fix.

"She was first and foremost elected president because she is a great actress," he said.

The festival announced that women would also be in the majority on juries deciding two other major Cannes awards - the Golden Camera and "Un Certain Regard" prizes, reserved for emerging directors or unexpected or marginal themes.

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