With the 2018 Cannes Film Festival coming to a close after a marathon of red carpets, luxurious parties, and – of course – dozens of film premieres, we’re still filtering through news from the 11-day event. While there were many notable red-carpet moments, it was at the podium that Cannes’ most powerful moments occurred. Timed to make the most of the media frenzy surrounding the festival, outspoken celebrities used the platform to bring attention to the causes that mattered the most to them, from women’s rights and racial equality to gender parity.
For instance, in 70 years of existence, Cannes has only allowed 82 films by female directors into the festival, which is a disgracefully low figure. As a visual reminder of the need for female representation at the festival and in the greater film industry, 82 actresses, directors, and industry professionals banded together and marched up the steps of the Palais des Festivals holding hands. It was a powerful and awe-inspiring moment of protest amidst all the glamorous gowns and vying for the camera. Below are excerpts from some of the festival’s most passionate and political speeches that are so awe-inspiring, they’ll give you goosebumps.
Asia Argento Calls Out Cannes' Hypocrisy
When the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke, Italian actress Asia Argento was one of the first out of the gate to come forward and share her harrowing tale of sexual abuse at the hands of the powerful film producer. In her home country, she was belittled for breaking her silence, but that didn’t stop her from sharing her story with unwavering fortitude. At Cannes, Argento was given the opportunity to address the audience, and she used the platform to take on the hypocrisy of the festival, calling it Weinstein’s favored “hunting ground”.
“I want to make a prediction: Harvey Weinstein will never be welcomed here ever again. He will live in disgrace, shunned by a film community that once embraced him and covered up for his crimes. And even tonight, sitting among you, there are those that need to be held accountable for their conduct against women for behavior that does not belong in this industry, does not belong in any industry or workplace. You know who you are. But most importantly, we know who you are, and we’re not going to allow you to get away with it any longer.”
Spike Lee Condemns Racist Politics
One of the most rousing responses at Cannes this year belonged to Spike Lee’s controversial film BlacKkKlansman that tells the true story of a black police officer who infiltrated the far-right, racist hate group in the U.S. known as the KKK. In a verbally charged speech at the film’s press conference, Lee protested America’s current racial climate, which has seen a steep increase in hate crimes since the inauguration of President Trump.
“We look to our leaders. They give us direction to make moral decisions. And I like to say this is not just something that pertains to the United States of America, this bull**** has gone over the world. This right-wing bull**** is not just America, it is all over the world, and we have to wake up. We can’t be silent. It’s not a black, white, or brown [problem], it’s everybody.”
Cate Blanchett Demands Equality
As the festival’s jury president, Cate Blanchett made her presence felt in more ways than one. After organizing 82 women to walk the festival steps together in solidarity with gender pay equality and female representation in the film industry, she issued a powerful speech co-written by director Agnes Varda.
“Women are not a minority in the world, yet the current state of our industry says otherwise. As women, we all face our own unique challenges, but we stand together on these steps today as a symbol of our determination and our commitment to progress. We are writers, we are producers, we are directors, actresses, cinematographers, talent agents, editors, distributors, sales agents, and all of us are involved in the cinematic arts. And we stand today in solidarity with women of all industries.
We expect our institutions to actively provide parity and transparency in their executive bodies and provide safe environments in which to work. We expect our governments to make sure that the laws of equal pay for equal work are upheld. We demand that our workplaces are diverse and equitable so that they can best reflect the world in which we actually live. A world that allows all of us in front and behind the camera, all of us, to thrive shoulder to shoulder with our male colleagues.”
“The stairs of our industry must be accessible to all. Let’s climb,” added Varda.