Lack of female film directors is undemocratic, says Cannes head judge

Jane Campion says the industry keeps women's films out of view, as only two by female directors are up for Palme d'Or

Jane Campion arrives on stage during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Cannes film festival. Photograph: Valery Hache/AFP/Getty Images

Jane Campion arrives on stage during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Cannes film festival. Photograph: Valery Hache/AFP/Getty Images

The scarcity of female directors in the film industry is undemocratic, the head of the Cannes film festival jury, Jane Campion, said on Wednesday, speaking out against sexism in the business, which she said keeps many women's films out of view.

The comments by Campion, the only woman to have ever won the festival's prestigious Palme d'Or prize, for her film The Piano, came on the opening day of the 12-day event on the French Riviera, which in past years has been criticised for not presenting enough films made by women.

"I think you'd have to say there's some inherent sexism in the industry," Campion told journalists and film critics at a jury press conference before the screening of the festival's opening night film, Olivier Dahan's Grace of Monaco.

"It does feel very undemocratic and women do notice," she said. "Time and time again, we don't get our share of representation."

This year, the festival's 67th season, the event features a majority female jury, with French actor Carole Bouquet, US director Sofia Coppola, South Korean actor Jeon Do-yeon and Iranian actor Leila Hatami joining Campion.

But of 18 films, only two by female directors are in the running for the Palme d'Or: Le Meraviglie (The Wonders) by Italian director Alice Rohrwacher and Futatsume No Mado (Still the Water) by Japan's Naomi Kawase.

Two years ago, influential French daily Le Monde published an open letter signed by female directors and actors accusing the film industry of a double standard.

"At Cannes, women show their breasts, men show their films," the letter said.

Jane Roscoe, the newly appointed director of the London Film School, agreed that film remains a male-dominated industry.

The fact that Cannes named a mostly female jury "does not mask the reality that the film industry, like many others, remains a male bastion despite some progress by women", she said.

She added: "There are still many gaps in the industry where women are under-represented."

The fact that the jury composition this year became so talked-about in the industry highlighted the discrepancies, she said.

Women are routinely featured on the festival's posters and often take pride of place as lead characters, such as this year's Grace of Monaco starring Nicole Kidman. What is lacking in cinema today, Campion said, is the stories that women tell.

"It's not that I resent the male film making, but there is something that women are doing that we don't get to know enough about," she said