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Celebrating women and cinema in March!

French version

International Women's Day is on the 8th of March.  Celebrated since 1921, the day recognises and upholds women's rights. The month of March also hosts the long-established Alliance Française French Film Festival.  The festival allows the Australian public to discover the wonderful world of French cinema.

As the festival and International Women's Day both occur at the same time, it gives the Alliance Française the opportunity to reflect on the role of women in cinema. During March we will not only celebrate our love for cinema, but also pay tribute to women:  those involved in the cinematic world and those they so brilliantly incarnate. 

The program for the 26th Alliance Française French Film Festival (AFFFF15) includes 49 French films of all genres, screening across 5 Melbourne cinemas. We hope that these films showcase women in the film industry.

The vital role of women in cinema

At the request of two French female politicians - the Minister for Culture and Communication and the Minister for Women's Rights - the French National Cinema Centre (CNC) conducted a study on the role of women in the cinematographic industry between 2008 and 2012.  Published in March last year, the study shows that the role of women in cinema is increasing but that inequalities still exist.

According to the CNC, 24% of audiovisual production company executives and 21% of cinematographic production company executives are women.  In 2012, 23% of licensed feature film directors were women, a figure that has progressively increased over the last few years.  These women film-makers are proving bit-by-bit that their role in the cinematic field is not limited to acting.

In terms of acting, many women are cast in main roles. However, according to an inquiry led by the French newspaper Le Figaro, only 3 women figured on the list of the top 10 most highly paid French actors in 2012. They were: Catherine Frot (3rd), Marion Cotillard (7th) and Mathilde Seigner (10th).  Women may be the first choice actors for numerous directors, but they are still paid less than their male counterparts.  Like all other sectors, gender equality is still a work-in-progress.

Raising the profile of women in cinema: AFFFF15

27% of the films on the AFFFF15 program were directed by women and we hope that this is a trend. Furthermore, our selection of films seeks to reflect the increasingly diverse nature of French cinema.

The most well-known French female actors are represented at the 26th annual Alliance Française French Film Festival. Starting with the veteran female actors:  Catherine Deneuve has no less than 3 films screening (3 Hearts, In the Courtyard, French Riviera), Karine Viard stars in Almost Friends and The Bélier Family, while Sophie Marceau appears in Chance Encounter and Sex, Love and Therapy.  Up and coming female actors include Léa Seydoux, who plays main roles in Beauty and the Beast and Saint Laurent, and Adèle Haenel, who appears in French Riviera and Love at First Fight. Moving from acting roles to the other side of the camera are Mélanie Laurent with Breathe and Valérie Lemercier with The Ultimate Accessory.

The opening night film Gemma Bovery alludes to an important character in French literary tradition, Emma Bovary.  With such a diverse range of female actors and characters in this year's film festival, women seem to be well represented.  Furthermore, the AFFFF critics' choice was Girlhood, a film about women, directed by a woman. Good news for women in cinema!

So in March, vive le cinéma and vive les femmes !

Adèle Bouet
for the Alliance Française de Melbourne

Translated from French by Bonnie Kate Einsiedel and Laure-Anne Latinier, students in the Master of Interpreting and Translation Studies at Monash University