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Cannes 2019 France Women Culture

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A French and female take on films in Golden Palm entries

Film director Mati Diop (c) 16 May 2019, Cannes. Her film is competing for the Golden Palm award. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard

There's been much ado about women filmmakers in recent years, not only, but especially at the Cannes Film Festival. The wind of change is blowing stronger with a new generation of artists rising to prominence.

One of them is a debut feature. Ahead of the Palm awards on Saturday night, the chances are that one of them will receive the sought-after recognition.

Here's a brief summary.


Portrait of a Lady on Fire, takes the relationship between fine art and film. It is 39-year-old Céline Sciamma's third feature film as director (Water Lilies 2007, Tomboy 2011, and Girlhood 2014).

As well as writing the screenplay for all these films, she was also a screenwriter on My Life as Courgette, an animation film in the Director's Fortnight in 2016.

Sciamma's film gives womanpower a boost with all-female main cast. Marianne, played by Noémie Merlant is the painter commissioned by the mother (Valéria Golina) of Héloïse her lover.

'Portrait of a Lady on Fire', starring Noémie Merlant and Adaèle Hanael, directed by Céline Sciamma Lilies Films

Sciamma names her heroines after two famous romantic heroines from 18th century French literature, 'Marianne' written by Jean Marivaux and 'Héloïse', by Swiss writer and philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau.


Belonging to the same generation, Justine Triet's Sibyl is also her third feature. The previous film in 2016 was called Victoria and also starred Virginie Elfira.

In Sibyl, she pairs Elfira, a psychologist with a desire to become a writer with Adèle Exarchopolus, an actress with a burdensome decision. Gaspar Ulliel plays the rake, the actor-husband of Sandra Hüller, a film director.

Fire and Water

Atlantique is Maty Diop's second time at Cannes and first feature. Through the tender love story between Ada played by Mame Bineta Sane and Souleiman played by Traore, she shows deep class divisions in Senegal, exploitation and economic hardship.

Mame Binta Sane plays smitten Ada in Franco-Senegalese Maty Diop's Atlantique , one of the films vying for the Golden Palm at Cannes in 2019 © Les films du bal

A group of young men fed up with not being paid for their construction work, lose hope a better future and decide to try to get to Europe.

Diop's film enchanted some with its mix of realism and supernatural, using few effects, but the power of the moon, the ocean and fire.

Hitting the target

This is not a feminist article. It's about French committment to the 50-50x2020 deadline laid down in the charter of the same name for the target for gender parity in the film industry by next year.

The three contenders out of the six French films in the Golden Palm competition are directed by male directors.

  • Les misérables by Ladj Ly
  • Roubaix, a Light by Arnaud Desplechin
  • Mekhtoub, my love: Intermezzo