If it’s May it has to be Cannes. Over the years, getting a film into the most glamorous festival in the world, has been as major an ambition of Indian filmmakers as winning an Oscar.
Unfortunately, due to the dumbing down of the media worldwide, Cannes (and many other events) have become more about red carpet appearance than about films. But under the glitz of the red carpet parading, paparazzi chasing, non-stop partying and stars parading in designer gowns, Cannes is about business, networking, buying and selling.
In spite of the Ministry of Information and Culture setting up an India Pavilion at Cannes, and the Indian delegation getting larger every year, till the country is a big enough market for international films, it won’t be a major player. At the India Pavilion, Assamese film Village Rockstars, Malayalam film Bhayanakam, Bengali film Nagarkirtan, and Sinjar, a film from Lakshadweep made in the Jasari language, will be screened. No Bollywood! Still, it is amusing and not a little touching to see our stars getting their wardrobes ready (even if they are often slaughtered by the fashion police) to pour and pirouette, even if nobody’s watching. There is always social media to show off the gowns. And Indian media contingent is growing every year too, with publications and websites thinking it worth sending their reporters and critics to post daily accounts of who-what-where-how.
This year, the global #Metoo movement has also reached Cannes. The Festival Director Thierry Fremaux announced the setting up of a hotline for complaints of sexual harassment. In a formal statement, the festival stated, "Because the time has come to speak out, and because there must be zero tolerance with sexual harassment or abuse of any kind, the Festival de Cannes, in partnership with the French Ministry of Gender Equality, has decided to take a firm approach to preventing sexual harassment, and to stand shoulder to shoulder with victims."
There are also comparatively more films made by women, if not in the main Competition section, then at least in the Un Certain Regard section in which seven of the eighteen films selected, are by women directors, including Manto by Nandita Das, the film about the great writer Saadat Hasan Manto, played by Nawazuddin Siddiqui.
Apart from Manto, Rohena Gera’s Sir, Dhanush-starrer The Extraordinary Journey Of The Fakir by Ken Scott, and Dinakar Rao's Asthi will be screened in various sidebar sections of the Festival.
The Jury, headed by Cate Blanchett, has four other women on it; Ava Duvernay, Lea Seydoux, Kristen Stewart and Khadja Nin.
According to Amy Kaufman’s report in the LA Times, Blanchett said, "Would I like to have more women displayed? Absolutely. But we are dealing with what we have this year. Our job as industry members away from this festival is to help with change. Is [#metoo] going to have a direct impact upon the films in competition this year, six, nine months on [from the Harvey Weinstein controversy]? Not specifically. There are several women in the competition, but they aren't there because of their gender. They are there because of the quality of their work."
And, for the first time, the Cannes Film Festival banned selfies on the red carpet, threatening to deny “offenders” entry to the screenings.