Kering Women in Motion, Festival de Cannes 2015 Claire Denis

Talk with Claire Denis, Shu Liu and Ying Liang


The third Women in Motion Talk took place on Sunday 17 May 2015, in partnership with The Hollywood Reporter. Guests included French film-maker Claire Denis, as well as a female pair of young Chinese producer and director.

A French film-maker, whose preoccupations include post-colonial Africa, Claire Denis wrote and directed in 1988 her first feature film  , presented within the Festival de Cannes Competition. Then came a large number of works, in which music often plays an important role. No fear, no die (1990), I can’t sleep (Un Certain Regard 1994), Nenette and Boni (Léopard d’Or - Locarno 1996), Beau travail (1999), Trouble every day (Out of Competition Cannes 2001), Friday Night (2002), The Intruder (2005), 35 Shots of Rum (2008), White Material (2010). The director enjoys meeting her team and her actors anew in the course of her fil trips.

Claire Denis was asked, when she was starting her career, if she was afraid cinema was a man’s world. “I thought it was far away from men, the way they see the world. I wanted to share that with everyone. [...] It has never stopped me in any way that I was a woman. To make a film is pure will. The main doubt is: can I do a good film. Maybe some people thought: who is this woman? Who is this blonde? What can she do? In fact, it was walking in the rain without being wet!”

Who were her influences? “There was something in Virginia Woolf that interested me. Also Francoise Sagan, Juliette Greco...strong women, [who were] not asking for mercy…. The power of concentration and believing is stronger than any gender issue.”

“We’re not asking more than men, just the same…. I feel I can go as far as a man director. As a woman you need to be shrewd; determination is not enough. I have to be Iron Man – Iron Woman is not enough! Maybe it’s an advantage to be a woman: we have [a feminine] curiosity.”

In 2015 Claire Denis was appointed honorary patron of La Fabrique des Cinémas du Monde (The World Cinema Factory): "This is a small, tiny thing but it can have an influence. There is increasing demand from women to train; it’s mostly 50/50 women/men in film schools now. ‘ Fabrique’ has no gender quota; they choose the best."

During three days this week, Claire Denis has accompanied the directors and producers invited by La Fabrique des Cinémas du Monde during several collective and individual work sessions and discussions based on their projects.

Since 2009, La Fabrique des Cinémas du Monde has supported 108 directors and producers from 52 countries. In 2014, 70% of projects ended in a coproduction deal within 6 months following the Festival de Cannes. In 2015, La Fabrique des Cinémas du Monde chose 10 projects out of 124 eligible ones: 5 first long feature / 5 second long feature represented by 9 women and 9 men coming from 10 different countries.

Among the ten laureates, Claire Denis chose to come to the Women in Motion Talk with a pair of two young Chinese women: Shu Liu, director, and Ying Liang, producer, who came to Cannes with the Lotus Position film project.

During the talk, Ying Liang was asked on gender inequality in Chinese film industry: “Women are not in the most important positions. Only 2% of directors of photography (DPs) of all films are women! Women have to fight to make them, independently. There are only five or six women directors in China.” Claire Denis added that [Oscar-winning] Kathryn Bigelow and [actor-director] Salma Hayek are “almost unique”.

Ying Liang and Shu Liu latest film Lotus Position examines the importance of a woman who is crushed by the hit-and-run driver of a truck. Her daughter spends the film searching for him and being comforted and guided by her faith in Buddhism.

What can be done to increase the number of women participation in Chinese cinema? There are three feminine film festivals but not many men attend or are involved, so “we are not reaching the whole audience…. We never had a women’s emancipation movement in China in the seventies, as you had in the West.”

Credits: Photo by Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images for Kering