Cate Blanchett, who is serving as the jury president of this year’s Cannes Film Festival, led a powerful protest against gender inequality in the film industry on Saturday night.
Eighty-two women stood in silence on the steps of the iconic Palais convention center — 82 because the figure corresponds to “the number of female directors who have climbed these stairs since the first edition of the Cannes Film Festival in 1946,” Blanchett explained in a statement that they read during the protest, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
“In the same period,” she added, “1688 male directors have climbed these very same stairs. In the 71 years of this world-renowned festival there have been 12 female heads of its juries. The prestigious Palme d’Or has been bestowed upon 71 male directors, too numerous to mention by name, but only two women — Jane Campion, who is with us in spirit, and Agnès Varda who stands with us today.”
Blanchett and Varda, who translated the speech into French, also made a list of demands:
“We will expect our institutions to actively provide parity and transparency in their executive bodies and safe environments in which to work. We will expect our governments to make sure that the laws of equal pay for equal work are upheld. We will 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 behind and in front of the camera to thrive shoulder to shoulder with our male colleagues. We acknowledge all of the women and men who are standing for change. The stairs of our industry must be accessible to all. Let’s climb.”
The pair were joined by a number of high-ranking women in the film industry, among them Kristen Stewart, Ava DuVernay, Lea Seydoux, Marion Cotillard, Leila Bekhti, Patty Jenkins, and Salma Hayek.
One day after participating in the protest, Hayek said during Cannes “Women in Motion” talk series that she can already feel the wheels of change in motion. The actor, who has founded her own production company, revealed that she has sold four television series about women this year.
“I can’t find enough female writers and directors,” Hayek said. “They’re all busy. The change already happened.”
Hayek did acknowledge that many gains remain to be made, particularly when it comes to equal pay in the movie business. She suggested male actors, particularly the highest-paid performers in the business, should take pay cuts to free up producers to be able to pay women equal salaries. “It’s not just the producers,” Hayek said. “The actors have to say, ‘Okay, time’s up. I’ve had a good run, but it’s time to also be generous.’”
But Hayek was insistent that progress is well underway, and the changes would be apparent soon enough.
“Maybe you don’t see the difference in the numbers, but it just happened this year,” she said. “It worked. And I think we should enjoy it.”
For more on the protest led by Blanchett, watch the video below.