Director Nandita Das and her lead actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui in MANTO, one of the selections for Un Certain Regard

Perhaps predictably there has been plenty of adverse comment about the Cannes list of titles ‘in competition’ for the Palme d’Or this year with only three titles directed by women. I’m a very strong supporter of more access to Cannes and other festivals for films by women, but the recent upsurge of support and the impact of #MeToo will take time to produce results in terms of completed films of high quality directed by women who have finally got the opportunity to develop their careers. I’m not really a fan of festival competitions anyway, so I usually look at the other strands of a festival like Cannes as well as the main competition. In ‘Un Certain Regard’, the second strand, there are six films directed by women out of a total of fifteen titles selected. This compares favourably with the three out of eighteen in the official selection.

Un Certain Regard looks like a very encouraging selection. The strand presents “original and different” works which seek international recognition. There is a significant monetary prize and titles are also eligible for a range of jury prizes. It’s wonderful to see Nandita Das returning to Cannes with Manto, her biopic of the controversial writer Saadat Hasan Manto (1912-1955), played by Nawazuddin Siddiqui. Ms Das is no stranger to Cannes, having appeared on festival juries. She has an international profile as an actor and social/political activist and Manto is her second feature as director after Firaaq in 2008. Joining Nandita Das in the selection are Wanuri Kahiu from Kenya and Gaya Jiji from Syria plus Valeria Golino from Italy, multi-disciplinary artist Vanessa Filho with her first feature (a French production) and the French-Moroccan director Meryem Benm’Barek. Most of these women are represented by their first or second features as director. They join the three directors selected in the ‘Official Competition’. Nadine Labaki from Lebanon, whose two earlier films, Caramel (Lebanon-France 2007) and Where Do We Go Now? (Leb-Italy-Fra-Egypt 20111) both feature on this blog, joins Alice Rohrwacher whose The Wonders (Italy-Switz-Germany 2014) was much appreciated here. The third director to achieve ‘official selection’ is Eva Husson with Girls of the Sun (France-Belgium-Georgia-Switzerland 2018) starring the France-based Iranian actor Golshifteh Farahani as a female Kurdish fighter, commander of a batallion, the ‘Girls of the Sun’.

So, eight films by women to look out for. Amongst the men are some familiar names such as Spike Lee, Kore-eda Hirokazu, Pawel Pawlikowski, Jia Zhang-ke, Jafar Panahi, Matteo Garrone, Stéphane Brizé, Asghar Farhadi, Lee Chang-dong and the return of Jean-Luc Godard. I don’t know much about the other male directors, Hamaguchi Ryūsuke, Christophe Honoré, David Robert Mitchell, Kirill Serebrennikov and A.B Shawky. It will be interesting to read about their films and particularly about A. B. Shawky with his first film Yomeddine (Egypt-US-Austria 2018). This looks a strong line-up. I just hope we get to see many of the films in UK distribution.