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Cate Blanchett’s feminist wake-up call to Cannes

This combination of pictures shows (from top left) US actress and president of the jury of 71th Cannes Festival Cate Blanchett on April 11, 2017, New Zealander director and president of the 67th Cannes Festival Jane Campion on May 13, 2014, French actress and president of the jury of 61th Cannes Festival Isabelle Huppert on May 13, 2009, president of the 54th Cannes Film Festival jury, Norwegian actress and director Liv Ullmann on May 9, 2001, Isabelle Adjani, French actress and president of the 50th Cannes festival 1997, on May 7, 1997, president of the 48th Festival de Cannes, Jeanne Moreau, president of jury of the 32th Cannes Festival and French writer Francoise Sagan on May 10, 1979 in Cannes, French actress and president of the jury of the 28th Cannes International Film Festival Jeanne Moreau, on May 10, 1975, Swedish actress and president of the jury of the 26th Cannes Film Festival Ingrid Bergman in 1959, actress and president of the 24th Cannes Festival Michele Morgan, in May 1971, president of the jury of the 19th Cannes Film Festival and Italian film actress Sophia Loren on November 2, 1965 at the Savoy Hotel in London, US actress and president of the jury of the 18th Cannes Film Festival Olivia de Havilland, during the Cannes Film Festival, on April 16, 1953

Cate Blanchett knew there was something seriously awry with the Cannes film festival when the winners of its top prize, the Palme d’Or, were gathered together to celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2014. Among the sea of grey heads on the stage there was only one woman, Jane Campion, who had won for “The Piano” two decades earlier. “Sometimes things have to get that bad and that stark for us to say, ‘Hang on a minute. There’s something wrong-literally-with this picture’,” the actress said this week, days before heading the jury that will chose this year’s winner.

With Cannes and the film industry still reeling from the Harvey Weinstein scandal, some saw her appointment as a quick-fix PR coup to head off critics. The world’s top film festival, which likes to think of itself as “the movie Olympics”, has long faced criticism for its “dismal” attitude to female directors. Only three of the 21 films in competition for the Palme d’Or are directed by women, the same number as last year. And the festival’s decision to lift its ban on controversial Danish director Lars Von Trier, who has faced sexual harassment claims from the singer Bjork and whose company has been hit by multiple accusations, further raised eyebrows.

‘We are not going back’
But Blanchett, one of the few women in Hollywood with the clout to carry a movie single-handed, insists the film industry must change. The double Oscar winner supports the call for “inclusion riders” or “equality clauses”, which demand diversity in casting and were championed by actress Frances McDormand at the Oscars. She called McDormand’s speech “one of the highlights of my year” and has been active in the Time’s Up movement set up by Hollywood stars to combat sexual harassment. Blanchett said the riders are “a litmus test.

We have nothing to lose but progress”. If the producers do not match up to their commitments, they would have to pay a penalty that would help support female directors or other underrepresented groups. “We are not going back to ground zero,” Blanchett told the film industry bible Variety. “We are moving onward and forward from here. “Change is happening within the industry in a kind of positive, unstoppable way that will benefit not just women but everybody in the industry,” she added.

Harassed by Weinstein
The Australian-born actress, who now lives in London, revealed that she had also been harassed by Weinstein in the same Variety interview. The disgraced mogul was an “unwanted” producer on several of her films, including “Carol” and “The Talented Mr. Ripley”, she said. Asked if he ever sexually harassed or acted inappropriately with her, she said, “Yes. I think he primarily preyed, like most predators, on the vulnerable. I mean I got a bad feeling from him…. He would often say to me, ‘We’re not friends’.”

Blanchett, 48, said she hopes that Weinstein-who is facing a raft of rape and sexual assault accusations-goes to jail. “Rape is a crime the last time I looked,” she said. The actress, who lives near London with her husband and their four children, made her breakthrough in “Elizabeth” in 1998, playing the 16th-century British monarch with a distinctly feminist twist. It won her a slew of awards and the first of her six Oscar nominations.

Although her career has been peppered with blockbusters such as the “Lord of the Rings” and “Hobbit” films, she built her reputation in indie movies from the crusading Irish journalist in “Veronica Guerin” to another heavily-accented (and pregnant) reporter in Wes Anderson’s “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou”. Although she has never won anything at Cannes, her performance in “Carol”, where she played one half of a couple of illicit lesbian lovers, won her rave reviews there in 2014.-AFP

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