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.