• Festivals

It’s a Wrap (Part 2): A Round-up of Women Filmmakers in Cannes

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


Riley Keough and Gina Gammell (War Pony, Camera d’Or Award)


Riley Keough is the 33-year-old daughter of Lisa Marie Presley and Danny Keough. The actress-model-turned-filmmaker is the granddaughter of actress Priscilla Presley and music legend Elvis Presley. She made her feature film debut in the musical biopic The Runaways (2010), portraying Marie Currie at age 20.

Her breakthrough role was as a law student-turned-escort in the first season of the anthology series The Girlfriend Experience, where she received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by an Actress in a Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television.

Gina Gammell is also a first-time director whose early credits include producing the feature film Welcome the Stranger which was released in 2018.

In an interview with Women in Motion with Variety in May, Gammell disclosed that she and Keough met through friends at a Cinesphere screening of American Psycho. Gammell said that they became fast friends. “Riley moved into my house two weeks later. Then the rest followed very quickly. I think we were both at a place in our career where she was feeling like she’d always wanted to do more than act. I was feeling like I was not quite living my purpose. We started collaborating quite quickly after we became friends on various little ideas and creative projects and writing and stuff.”

As to the origin of the story, Keough said,” I was filming American Honey in 2015 and there were two actors who were hired locally to do a scene with me, and the scene got pushed till after lunch and we ended up having six hours and just became really good friends. It was just one of those friendships where you meet and instantly just can’t stop talking and get along really well.”

The two actors (credited as co-writers in the film) were Bill Reddy and Franklin Sioux Bob, both members of the Lakota nation and residents of the nearby Pine Ridge reservation.

War Pony follows two young Oglala Lakota men (Jojo Bapteise Whiting as twentysomething Bill, Ladainian Crazy Thunder as 12-year-old Matho) as they make their way through the world.


Marie Kruetzer (Corsage)


Marie Kruetzer is a writer-director born in Graz, Styria, Austria. She is known for The Ground Beneath My Feet (2019), The Fatherless (2011), and Gruber Is Leaving (2015).

Corsage is the story of Empress Elisabeth of Australia (Sissi) as a woman trying to live up to impossible beauty standards in a patriarchal world.

In an interview with Variety in May, Kreutzer said, “The film shows her struggling with her own image, and her growing old and not being able to be that young, beautiful empress that everybody wanted her to be.

“She doesn’t have any power – the only power she has is over her body.

“I found it interesting that she so strongly wants to control her body image. It is something that we have to deal with all the time as women, especially today with social media. It is especially hard to handle for women – well-known women – and especially Princess Diana and Meghan Markle, who are seen by everybody.”


Valeria Bruni Tedeschi (Forever Young or Les Amandiers, France)


Valeria Bruni Tedeschi is an Italian French actress, screenwriter, and film director. Her film A Castle in Italy was part of the official selection competing for the Palme d’Or at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival.

Born in Turin, Italy, she settled in France just like her model-singer younger sister, Carla Bruni.

Forever Young, Tedeschi’s fifth directorial film, is a tribute to her formative years when she was in her 20s and attending the prestigious acting school at the Théâtre des Amandiers in Nanterre, France, led by late great auteur Patrice Chéreau. It follows a group of Amandiers students in the late ’80s.

At the Cannes press conference in May, Tedeschi talked about the idea behind the film. “It’s a friend of mine who said to me one day, ‘You should make a film about theater school.’ I said, ‘No, I’ve already shot in Les Amandiers I’ve done a film about the theater.’ Then one day I wasn’t feeling that good, and sometimes when you’re not feeling that good, things seem very real, and true.

“I was in the middle of a gay pride parade, and I thought, ‘Wow, gay pride.’ It was when we were shooting with Noémie Lvovsky, just after that, in fact. When I talked about this to Noémie, and yes, they felt this was an obvious choice. It seems such an obvious idea that hadn’t occurred to me before. I thank (Cannes Film Festival director) Thierry (Fremaux) for giving someone the idea to make a film. It is a huge gift.”


Kelly Reichardt (Showing Up, U.S.)


Kelly Reichardt, 58, is an American film director and screenwriter from Florida known for her minimalist style films.

Her feature film debut was River of Grass (1994). Her other films included Old Joy (2006), Wendy and Lucy (2008), Meek’s Cutoff (2010), Night Moves (2013), Certain Women (2016), and First Cow (2019).

Showing Up, Reichardt’s fourth collaboration with actress Michelle Williams is a portrait of the nuances and minimalism in life.

Reichardt said at the film’s Cannes press conference, “We keep writing about introverts and trying to figure out how to sort of physicalize what all that is. It gets left on Michelle’s shoulders a lot. Michelle has a process, some of which is mysterious to me and some of which is talked through. She likes to figure out that problem.”

On developing the characters, Reichardt revealed, “Originally, we went to Vancouver with the idea of writing a biofilm about the artist, Emily Carr, the painter. There was a book we had read about a period of her life where she was a landlord for 10 years, in hopes that being a landlord would allow her more time to paint.

“But this job ended up consuming her world. We thought Emily Carr was this very obscure painter. Then we went to Canada, and we found out that she’s the Elvis of painters in Canada. It was more about wanting to make a film about a regional artist, and with lower stakes. It was more about the day-to-day work.”


Claire Denis (Stars at Noon, Grand Prix – Tie)


Claire Denis is a French film director and writer. Her feature film Beau Travail (1999) has been called one of the greatest films of the 1990s. Her film Both Sides of the Blade (2022) won the Silver Bear for Best Director at the Berlin International Film Festival.

Her Cannes feature film, Stars at Noon, is a romantic thriller film that is based on the eponymous novel by Denis Johnson. It is set-in modern-day Nicaragua and stars Margaret Qualley as Trish, a young American journalist who has fallen victim to local powerplay and becomes trapped in the country.

At the Cannes press conference, Denis talked about what attracted her to the novel, particularly the political context that the film is set in. She said, “Author Denis Johnson was already very famous when I started reading his novels and poetry. I found in Stars at Noon, something rare, like something addressing me, like my own fears, humiliations, hopes, and despair. His dialogues were expressing that in a crude and also delicate way that I felt I was stuck for good.

“Then as I was shooting High Life in Germany – I had met Denis before – but as we were shooting, he died brutally. Although I was afraid, I should try to translate it into a film, this novel, as I felt so much for it. I was with writer Léa Mysius first. We went to Nicaragua together, not even writing. We were scouting Denis Johnson’s trajectory, actually. We went everywhere he was, all the trajectory and the geography of the novel. Then only after that, we started writing the script, and then joined by writer Andrew Litvack.”

In an interview with Reuters in May, the French auteur said, “It had to be my next project because next time, maybe it’s me dead. So, let’s go!”


Charlotte Vandermeersch (The Eight Mountains or Le Otto Montagne, Italy, Jury Prize – Tie)


Charlotte Vandermeersch graduated from the Herman Teirlinck Institute in Antwerp with a Master’s in Dramatic Art in 2005.

The acclaimed Belgian stage and screen actress also sings and writes for film and theater.

In 2011, she wrote a version of the screenplay of The Broken Circle Breakdown with her partner Felix van Groeningen, with whom she has a son, Rufus. The Eight Mountains is her first film as co-director.

The Eight Mountains, co-directed by Vandermeersch and van Groeningen, is an adaptation of the bestselling 2016 novel by Paolo Cognetti, winner of Italy’s prestigious Premio Strega.

The Italian language film depicts a friendship between two men who spend their childhood together in a remote Alpine village and reconnect later as adults.

At the Cannes press conference, Vandermeersch talked about what a female filmmaker brings to a story about men. She said, “What I particularly liked was that it’s a very tender friendship. We think the whole film has a fragility to it. It’s an ode to life in all its strength and its fragility and this friendship, especially between two men in particular.

“But for me, it didn’t matter if they were men or women. I could really relate to them. They have such a respect for one another, a mutual respect. They don’t always find the words to talk to each other, but they have a great understanding of each other and there’s no competition. Both Felix and I love these very pure, honest people trying to find their way in life. We follow them when they’re 11; we follow them through adolescence; they lose track of each other. They find each other until they’re in their 40s.

“It’s really like an epic story, which is so much more. It touches upon all the most essential themes of life through this friendship, which was also essential for us going through a hard time ourselves, really writing this film, making this film, reflecting upon love, friendship.

“We approached it as a love story, friendship, family, parents, ancestry, destiny. Can you change your destiny? How to find your way in life and accept life and death? For us, it was really like an existential journey together with Pietro and Bruno.”