Kering, Kering Foundation, Festival de Cannes

How can cinema help improve women’s rights?

Discussion on the occasion of the Festival de Cannes

As part of the Women in Motion programme launched by Kering and the Festival de Cannes, the Kering Corporate Foundation set up a round-table at the Majestic hotel on day 3 of the festival. The subject? 'How can cinema help improve women’s rights? Cinema as a platform to raise awareness about women’s causes'. K magazine went behind the scenes with Céline Bonnaire, executive director of the Kering Foundation and asked her what should we take away from it.

Who took part in the discussion?

We had an impressive line-up that included Inbal Lessner, producer and editor, Linor Abargil, Miss World 1998, rape survivor, and activist (Brave Miss World movie), Leslee Udwin, director, producer and actress (India’s daughter movie) and Deniz Gamze, director and actress (Mustang movie). It was moderated by Eric Garandeau, former president of Centre National du Cinéma (France’s national film board). These films are about Violence Against Women, in particular rape, early marriage, and all societal attitudes that maintain this violence.

Here's a little synopsis of their films:

At 18, Israeli beauty queen Linor Abargil was violently raped in Milan, Italy, and won the Miss World crown only six weeks later (Read Linor Abargil's portrait in K magazine). The Emmy nominated documentary Brave Miss World follows her fight for justice and journey to encourage survivors globally to speak out about rape, from South Africa, to Hollywood’s living rooms, to US college campuses. When her serial rapist becomes eligible for parole, Linor has to track down his previous victims in order to help keep him behind bars.

India’s Daughter is the story of the short life, and brutal gang rape and murder in Delhi in December 2012, of an exceptional and inspiring young woman. The rape of the 23 year old medical student and her death sparked unprecedented protests and riots throughout India and led to the first glimmers of a change of mind-set. The film examines the society and values which spawn such violent acts, and makes an optimistic and impassioned plea for change.

Mustang is a French-Turkish movie to be released in 2015 that tells the story of a family of five teenage sisters in a small Turkish village. The film highlights their fight to break free from social constraints and sexual taboo. It has been selected to be screened in the Directors' Fortnight section at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival.

What were the main learnings?

I was really happy to see there was a high degree of complementarity and interaction between our impressive panellists.

It was important that two of them were survivors. It's critical to listen to survivors and to believe them; One of the fundamental messages is that there is no shame in talking about - and reporting - rape or any kind of violence. That's one of the strongest ways to put an end to it. Linor is a great role model in this regard.

We also learned that it's significant to involve men, particularly boys at an early, formative age, because women's rights are human rights, and because men are part of the solution!

Related to this is the need for more education. For example, Brave Miss World is starting a programme to show the film in high schools (having started with universities and colleges), followed by the usual discussion with the audience. And Leslee Udwin is willing to launch a big educational campaign with India's Daughter.

The round-table highlighted the need to increase the number of women in cinema, particularly behind the camera. Many women-directed films are self-funded, which means they are more difficult to produce and take longer, inevitably resulting in fewer being made. So it'd be good if there was more funding in general, especially for 'campaigning' films, such as the three represented in our panel.

For more information, visit the Kering Foundation website
Credits: Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images for Kering