• Festivals

It’s a Wrap (Part 1): A Round-up of Women Filmmakers in Cannes

(First of two parts of our round-up of women directors whose films were in competition for Palme d’Or and Un Certain Regard.)

At the recent Cannes Film Festival, we applaud women directors who bagged awards, including Claire Denis (Stars at Noon, Grand Prix, jointly awarded), Charlotte Vandermeersch (Le Otto Montagne or The Eight Mountains, Jury Prize, shared with co-director Felix Van Groeningen, jointly awarded), Lise Akoka and Romane Gueret (Les Pires or The Worst Ones, Un Certain Regard Award), Lola Quivoron (Rodeo, Coup de Coeur Award), Riley Keough and Gina Gammell (War Horse, Camera d’Or), and Chie Hayakawa (Plan 75, Camera d’Or Special Mention).

Kelly Reichardt (Showing Up) also became the fourth woman to receive the Carrosse d’Or (or the Golden Coach), presented annually by France’s Society of Film Directors.

In the 75th edition of the film festival on the Croisette, there were only four women directors who were featured in the main competition and ten in Un Certain Regard. Definitely a much better number than last year’s only four women out of 21 competition titles.

Despite the small bump in the rise of the number of female filmmakers in Cannes, there is still a significant need for more women-helmed films in the world’s most prestigious film fest. Or any film festival, for that matter.

After more than seven decades, the festival has had only two women directors who won the Palme d’Or – Jane Campion (The Piano, 1993) and Julia Ducournau (Titane, 2021).

Below is our round-up of some of the women filmmakers whose films enriched this year’s Cannes cinematic feast.


Lise Akoka and Romane Gueret (The Worst Ones or Les Pires, France, Un Certain Regard Award)


Lise Akoka is also an actress who did casting and coached children for the cinema. Romane Gueret is a graduate of cinema at the Sorbonne, started as an assistant director, casting assistant, and camerawoman.

They met in 2014 during the casting of a feature film where they had to audition 4,000 young non-professional actors for several months.

They directed the short film Chasse Royale in 2015 which won the Illy Prize at the Quinzaine des Realisateurs and was nominated for a Caesar. They helmed the documentary Allez garcon! in 2018. The Worst Ones or Les Pires is their first feature film.

The film within a film is about a French film crew trying to cast local people in a working-class French town.

In an interview with CineEuropa in May, Gueret explained where they got the idea for shooting a film within a film using non-professional actors:

“Lise and I met seven years ago at a film audition. Lise was a casting director, and I was an intern. We went to find children in the mining region of the North, and it gave us the idea to make a short film questioning the practice of casting calls. That short film, Chasse Royale, was later selected for the Directors’ Fortnight. We were thrilled to be exploring a subject we knew about and fairly soon afterward we decided to tackle the subject of filmmaking, to tell the story of a film shoot.”

Akoka added,We’d carried out huge numbers of casting calls and children’s coaching sessions for films, often traveling to working-class areas to find our actors. We were already questioning how responsible it was to go looking for children who hadn’t asked us to, who didn’t have any real desire to become actors and who are growing up in worlds very far removed from the film universe.”



Lola Quivoron (Rodeo, Coup de Coeur Award)


The writer-director, Lola Quivoron, 33, won the Pianifica Prize in 2015 at the Locarno International Film Festival for Fils du loup.

For her controversial debut feature film, Rodeo, she spent years getting to know the underground community of motorbike riders north of Paris.

In an interview with The Times in May, Quivoron said that accidents during the increasingly popular races were “often caused by cops who give chase…and who push the riders towards death.”


Chie Hayakawa (Plan 75, Camera d’Or Special Mention Award)


Chie Hayakawa has always wanted to become a film director since she was 13 years old.

She studied photography at the School of Visual Arts in New York. After she came back to Japan, she decided to go to a night film school as she had a full-time job at the time. Her thesis short film was accepted to Cinefondation at Cannes Film Festival in 2014. That opened the door for her to become a professional filmmaker.

She made one of the five shorts in the omnibus film, Ten Years Japan (2018). She made a short version of Plan 75 for that project. After Ten Years Japan, she developed it into a feature-length film which she entered in Cannes.

In our interview with her before we left for Cannes, she pointed out the challenges she encountered in making Plan 75, which imagines a Japanese government program that encourages euthanasia among senior citizens.

“As the film was made under the COVID situation, it was difficult to maintain close communication with staff and actors. We all had to wear masks which prevented seeing our facial expressions and emotions. We couldn’t have meals together.

She said that audiences will be able to connect with this film becauseeveryone will get old. The film is about human dignity, how we live, and how we die. Especially after going through the COVID era, I assume that there are many people who think reflectively about life and death.”


Emily Atef (More Than Ever or Plus One Jamais)


Emily Atef is a French Iranian director born in Berlin. Her first feature film, Molly’s Way, won the Best Screenplay Award at the Munich Film Festival and the Grand Jury Prize at the Mar del Plata Film Festival, as well as several other awards.

Her second feature film, The Stranger in Me, also received several awards and screened in the Critics’ Week section at Cannes. She received a grant from Cannes’ Cinéfondation, which she used to write her next film, Kill Me. Atef’s film 3 Days in Quiberon made its world premiere in the competition section of the Berlin International Film Festival and won seven Lolas at the German Film Awards, including Best Film and Best Director.

During the HFPA’s panel in Cannes, Atef said that “it is going to be easier for young female filmmakers because we are fighting.

“I’m seeing different politics now, and I’m seeing we’re allowed to do more because it’s politically correct to have a woman. It’s all hypocrisy. Now you need to be a woman of color.

“It’s just because now it’s kind of a fashion, but we have to go on that wave. Write it till we don’t have to talk about it anymore.”


Maryam Touzani (The Blue Caftan, Morocco)


Maryam Touzani is a filmmaker from Morocco. In 2019, her feature film directing debut, Adam, was selected as the Moroccan entry for best international feature film at the 92nd Academy Awards. Adam was also part of Un Certain Regard in Cannes.

She won a Palm Springs International Film Festival Local Jury Award in 2020 for Adam.

During the HFPA panel in Cannes in May, Touzani said,I generally don’t think before I write. When I write a film, it never comes from something that I intellectualize. So, I never really asked myself whether it would be more difficult or less difficult for me.

“All I know is that there was a story I wanted to tell, talking about my first film already. There was something I needed to share, an experience I needed to write about. I wanted to have images of these feelings. I never really asked myself the question whether it would be harder for me or not as a woman.”


Agnieszka Smoczynska (The Silent Twins)


Agnieszka Smoczyńska is a 44-year-old Polish film and television writer and director who is an alumnus of the Krzystof Kieslowski Film School in Katowice. Her debut feature film, The Lure, was released in the U.S. in 2017 by the Criterion Collection which also includes the short films Aria Diva (2007) and Viva Maria! (2010).

Her film, The Silent Twins, is based on the true story of the immigrant sisters from Barbados, June and Jennifer Gibbons, twins from the only black family in a small town in Wales in the 1970s and 1980s. Based on the book of the same name by Marjorie Wallace, the film tells the true story of the Gibbons sisters known as The Silent Twins because they only communicated with one another for nearly 30 years.

In an interview with The Collider in May, Smoczynska said of Andrea Seigel’s script, “From the first words, I knew that I wanted to do everything to tell this story, to bring this story to the world.”

(To be concluded)