Nandita Das, Rasika to join Jane Fonda, Kristen in Cannes protest

In a year dominated by the #MeToo movement, the Cannes film festival is feeling the heat to address glaring gender imbalances in the competition for its top prize, the Palme d'Or.

The number of women symbolizes the fact that, in the festival's 71-year-history, only 82 films in competition in the official selection have been directed by women - a stark comparison to the more than 1,600 films in competition that were directed by men. The statement coincides with the Cannes Film Festival's announcement that it will be signing "concrete, strong commitments" to diversity on Monday, Deadline reports, though it's not clear what exactly those commitments will be.

At the conclusion the protest, Blanchett and veteran documentary-maker Agnes Varda read a collective statement from the group that called for institutions to provide safer working conditions for women, and for governments to uphold equal pay laws.

The ranks included a battalion of Oscar winners from Helen Mirren and Marion Cotillard to USA blockbuster directors Ava DuVernay and Patty Jenkins who made "Wonder Woman". "This is very emotional for me", she said in a tweet on Saturday.

The silent, symbolic protest will be held ahead of the premiere of French filmmaker Eva Husson's "Girls of the Sun", which is about a Kurdish battalion of entirely female soldiers.

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'We are writers, producers, directors, actresses, cinematographers, talent agents, editors, distributors, sales agents and all involved in the cinematic arts'.

Australian actress Cate Blanchett heads this year's starry majority-female jury, which also includes Kristen Stewart and Lea Seydoux.

Hopefully, this protest will help to initiate change, not just at Cannes, but industry-wide.

Cannes was the scene of several of the disgraced Hollywood mogul's alleged attacks on actresses.

She made her return to the red carpet on Friday night when she attended the Ash Is Purest White premiere in a white, sheer beaded gown by Zuhair Murad.

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The number has already received "several calls" since the festival's launch on May 9, French Equality Minister Marlene Schiappa announced Saturday.

Only four of the 111 winners have been female - and two of them were previous year when Sofia Coppola became only the second woman to secure the best director trophy with her American Civil War drama "The Beguiled".

The 48-year-old has emerged as a key figure in Hollywood's fight against sexual misconduct.

Her comments echo those of fellow actress Jessica Chastain who served on the jury previous year and lambasted Cannes for its "disturbing" depiction of women.

Chastain caused a stir on Thursday when she revealed that she planned to make Hollywood's first big budget all-female blockbuster with a cast including Penelope Cruz and Lupita Nyong'o.

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Women have made up barely 3.5 percent of the best director and best screenplay winners over the past seven decades.

  • Theresa Obrien