History will be made at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, where Oscar-winning director Jane Campion will serve as the president of the festival jury. While nine other women have preceded her in the prestigious position since the festival's first run in 1946, Campion, who directed 2013's dynamic mini-series Top of the Lake, will be the first ever woman director to take on the title.
This news is especially encouraging as it serves to give women in the film industry yet another chance to combat the near-unbelievable gender disparity in the film industry. While we've seen that the disparity is present in all realms of film, from the gender distribution among producers and writers, to pay levels for the top actors and actresses, one of the most deficient segments of the industry is that of the director's chair.
It wasn't even until 2008 that a woman won an Academy Award for directing. Thankfully Kathryn Bigelow's incredible work on her film The Hurt Locker changed all that. In 1993, Campion was nominated for directing The Piano, but lost the award to Stephen Spielberg and Schindler's List, picking up the Oscar for Best Screenplay instead.
There's certainly no guarantee that Campion receiving the honor of leading the Cannes jury — an award of sorts meant to recognize one's excellence in film — will make any swift changes in the industry, but it does signal that some semblance of a small shift has already taken place. Still, it's another drop in the very empty bucket that is progression for women directors in mainstream film. As it stands now, only nine percent of the directors behind the top 250 films in 2012 were women, and the ratio's not much different in 2013.
Giving Campion the spotlight during Cannes won't likely bring about buzz the same way that Bigelow's Oscar did, but it will serve one important purpose: at an event that's largely about the industry (and, I suppose, getting pretty celeb photos to various wire services) Campion will have the chance to give women directors a louder voice. And that's something worth our applause.
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