It is no secret that Cannes has had an uneasy relationship with gender parity, responding to the increased demand for diverse films with minor changes. The festival’s director, Thierry Frémaux, came under fire for this at the opening press conference, with his frankly inaccurate claim: “There have never been so many women directors in the official selection because there have never been so many women directors in the industry as a whole.” Cue slow applause. That said, records have been broken on the Croisette this year. There are 25 per cent more female film-makers in main competition than in 2018 and one of them, Mati Diop, became the first black woman to contend for the Palme d'Or. Here, we celebrate some of the best movies from women at Cannes.
Land of Ashes
The Costa Rican film-maker Sofía Quirós Ubeda crafts a liminal space of dreamy landscapes and crushing realities in Land of Ashes, which premiered in Cannes’ Critics Week sidebar. Raised by her grandparents following the death of her mother, 13-year-old Selva (Smashleen Gutiérrez) has had to grow up by herself and takes pride in her maturity, teaching wide-eyed classmates in the schoolyard how to kiss and cooking meals for her infirm caregivers. The disappearance of her grandmother, and her grandfather’s losing the will to live, gives Selva more responsibilities than she bargained for, pushing her off the ledge of infancy into adulthood. Quirós Ubeda daintily touches on mourning and the loss of innocence in this striking film.