Haifaa Al Mansour joined stars including Cate Blanchett and Kristen Stewart to highlight gender inequality at the festival.
It is currently celebrating its 71st edition in the south of France.
However, in its long and established history, the Cannes Film Festival has only officially selected works by 82 female directors.
Comparatively, movies by 1,688 male director have made the cut in those years.
That’s a disparate fact that was protested this week by female icons across the industry in the coastal resort town, where 82 actresses, directors, writers and producers congregated on the festival’s famous steps.
Among those taking part was Haifaa Al-Mansour, widely recognised as Saudi Arabia’s first female film director, who stood beside Twilight star Kristen Stewart and former Bond girl Lea Seydoux for the portrait.
“Today, 82 of our sisters gathered on the steps of the @festivaldecannes to symbolise the number of women who have been featured in the festival’s competition over its 71-year history,” the Time’s Up movement posted alongside a snapshot of the moment on its Instagram page.
The demonstration was organised in partnership with 50/50 x 2020, a group that aims to make the film industry embrace equal gender representation in the next two years.
“Today at Cannes, 82 women in film climbed the steps of the Palais in silence and stopped halfway to raise awareness about the fact that in the Cannes Film Festival’s 71-year history, there have been just 82 women directors to climb the stairs (compared to 1,688 male directors), and to call for #5050by2020,” the organisation stated on its social media pages.
Salma Hayek, Jane Fonda, Marion Cotillard and Patty Jenkins were among the dozens of women who took part in the display, held at the first Cannes festival since multiple reports of abuse and harrassment shook Hollywood.
Al Mansour, who was behind 2012’s widely acclaimed Wadjda, walked up to the steps arm in arm with Stewart and Danish producer Marianne Slot, along with director Ava DuVernay and Australian actress Cate Blanchett.
Blanchett, who is head of this year’s festival jury, also delivered a moving address at the protest, telling the crowds that “women are not a minority in the world”.
“The prestigious Palme d’Or has been bestowed upon 71 male directors, too numerous to mention by name, but only two female directors,” the Carol star said in a statement, according to The Independent.
“As women, we all face our own unique challenges, but we stand together on these stairs today as a symbol of our determination and commitment to progress.
“We are writers, producers, directors, actresses, cinematographers, talent agents, editors, distributors, sales agents and all involved in the cinematic arts.”
— Variety (@Variety) May 12, 2018
The protest was held ahead of the premiere of French director Eva Husson’s Girls of the Sun, which is one of 21 films up for the prestigious Palme d’Or this year.
Capernaum, from Lebanese director Nadine Labaki, and Happy as Lazzaro, by Italy’s Alice Rohrwacher, are the other two works by female filmmakers up for the prize in 2018.