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Cannes Film Festival Opens Amid #MeToo Movement


The Cannes Film Festival began this week on the French Riviera. This is the 71st edition this year. But some things are entirely new, like a phone hotline for victims of sexual harassment. NPR's Eleanor Beardsley gives us a look at the first Cannes Festival of the #MeToo era.


ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: May and Cannes always means one thing - le festival de cinema. Glamorous movie stars make their way down the famous red carpet promenade as photographers click away and eager fans watch from behind the barriers. But there are some differences this year, like the slip of paper resembling a movie ticket that visitors will find in their hotel rooms. Please conduct yourself properly, it urges, while reminding the guest that harassment is a crime punishable by law. Festival President Thierry Fremaux declared that the world isn't the same since last fall. That's when women began to come forward with accusations of sexual harassment and abuse by producer Harvey Weinstein. Nearly 25 years ago, Weinstein won the Palme d'Or prize at Cannes for his film "Pulp Fiction." He became a towering figure at the festival, and some of his most serious alleged offenses were committed here. This year, no one's mentioning Weinstein's name, but his actions have had a huge impact.


CATE BLANCHETT: Well, it's both an incredible honor...

BEARDSLEY: Actress and activist Cate Blanchett is president of the Cannes jury this year. In an interview on French radio, Blanchett said it was important to expose the abuse to be able to move on and focus on the great movies. British actress Carey Mulligan, who stars in the film "Wildlife," agrees.


CAREY MULLIGAN: And I think Cannes in their festival is taking really good steps to redress the balance. You know, it's a majority-female jury this year. I think all of these things are steps in the right direction, so I'm, yeah, thrilled to be a part of the ongoing work to sort everything out so we can all just get on with our jobs.

BEARDSLEY: There are 21 movies in competition. An Egyptian film got enthusiastic applause at a screening Wednesday night.


BEARDSLEY: French cinema students Olivia Kalle Fillon (ph) and Flora Papadakis (ph) say this year's festival is groundbreaking.

OLIVIA KALLE FILLON: I think this year will be a turning point because women have finally spoken freely about what was really happening in the movie industry.

BEARDSLEY: The women say the harassment scandals have not discouraged them.

FLORA PAPADAKIS: No. I want - it's a reason I want to be in cinema because I'm just so tired of just seeing male-first roles. It's rare to see women being in power in movies.

BEARDSLEY: These young cinema lovers say they want to change that. Eleanor Beardsley, NPR News, at the Cannes Film Festival. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eleanor Beardsley began reporting from France for NPR in 2004 as a freelance journalist, following all aspects of French society, politics, economics, culture and gastronomy. Since then, she has steadily worked her way to becoming an integral part of the NPR Europe reporting team.