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Cannes: Inside Kering’s Women in Motion Awards With Singing Salma Hayek, Dancing Agnes Varda

Cannes: Inside Kering’s Women in Motion Awards With Singing Salma Hayek, Dancing Agnes Varda
15 May
9:14

Patty Jenkins and Carla Simón were the honorees at the fourth annual black-tie event, where guests dined on a menu prepared by female chef Julia Sedefdjian.

Just after 1 a.m. on Sunday night, Cannes artistic director Thierry Fremaux held the microphone and sang a tune in French while backed by a Latin band. Salma Hayek twirled a full 360-turn with her cell phone aimed at a packed dance floor recording all the action. French filmmaking legend Agnes Varda did not appear in the shot, however, because she had just excused herself to a back corner to catch her breath after cutting a rug cheek-to-cheek with Hayek. Two women who did: Lea Seydoux and Golshifteh Farahani, who were among the first to the dance floor, staying committed for 30 minutes. 

The night was far from over, and there’s much more to discuss than typical party gossip. 

Just four years in, Kering’s Women in Motion Awards is proving to be one of the most coveted — and most exclusive — invites on the packed Cannes social calendar. Sunday night did not disappoint. Really, the only complaints carrying through the event, which was held at the historic Place de la Castre in Cannes, had to do with the weather, as temperatures dipped close to 50 degrees and rain started falling again at 11:30 p.m. on the wettest day of the fest so far this year.

Nobody said anything negative about the star power. Kering chairman and CEO Francois-Henri Pinault, Cannes president Pierre Lescure and Fremaux hosted a long list of stars and dignitaries including jury president Cate Blanchett, jury members Ava DuVernay, Denis Villeneuve, Kristen Stewart, Chloe Sevigny, Seydoux and Benicio Del Toro, Christopher Nolan, Diane Kruger, Matt Dillon, Mads Mikkelsen, Golshifteh Farahani, Laetitia Casta, Virginie Ledoyen, Charlotte Casiraghi, and Gucci CEO Marco Bizzarri, among others. 

After a garden-set cocktail party (where guests like Sevigny clung close to heat lamps while others like Seydoux wrapped themselves in black blankets gifted by black-tie-clad servers), the 200 VIP guests moved indoors to the tented structure. Pinault opened the program, and he immediately dove in on a subject that has been dominating headlines over the past year, as well as over the past week of the festival. 

“Last year was a very special year celebrating the 70th anniversary of the festival,” he said. “But how should we qualify the last 12 months with everything that happened?” He answered his own question by offering that he would like to “pay tribute” to all the “bold women who dared to break the silence. They acted with courage and tenacity.”

Though he did not mention his wife by name, she’s on that list. In an essay with The New York Times titled “Harvey Weinstein is My Monster Too,” Hayek shared a troubling account of her experiences with the now-disgraced mogul back when they worked together on the production of her film Frida

Thanks to them, the world is no longer the same today. Their awareness of the need to give to women the importance and respect they deserved has never been so important,” Pinault continued. He then went on to name-check one of the night’s marquee honorees, Patty Jenkins. “Be careful, this amazing woman is not only creating strong feminine symbols, she has also proven with figures — I mean big figures — that a female filmmaker and a female action hero can be a box office No. 1.”

Following an introduction in French by Fremaux, Jenkins walked to the stage to accept her award while the crowd delivered a standing ovation. The filmmaker had already made another high-profile Cannes appearance as she was among the 82 participants of the Women’s March at the Palais organized by the French movement 5050×2020. (In the 71-year history of the Cannes Film Festival, 82 films directed by women have been featured in the main competition, compared with 1,645 films by male helmers.)

“We’ve heard so much in this past year about all the terrible things; all the terrible details, statistics and incredibly depressing truths and tonight I want to focus on another direction all together,” Jenkins said in kicking off her remarks. It was also fitting that she sat next to DuVernay at the head table as the two are part of the small handful of female filmmakers to direct films with budgets north of $100 million. “Tonight I want to talk about the future, the great future.”

That she did. 

“I’m so excited that a day is coming where people who are anything other than one type don’t have to make a movie about that or about otherness. They can make huge universal stories that dominate the box office and capture the audiences of the world because everyone is universal. We are all universal,” she said. “It’s going to take work and effort and all of those things are true. It’s not happening because it should happen, it’s happening because it’s the truth. It’s who we are in the world. We are all a part of this universal story and I can’t wait to see everybody express themselves. I raise a metaphorical glass to all of the films we will get to see.”

Hayek got a special shout-out from Jenkins, too. She applauded the multihyphenate for her acting, producing and writing skills and the fact that she uses her time to “shine a light on others.” Jenkins had kind words for Pinault’s leadership at Kering. She noted that the company has a board of directors that is 64 percent female, one of the only companies on the French stock exchange that can boast such a high percentage. (Hayek returned the love to entire room later on the night when she sang “Besame Mucho” into the microphone, a serenade that helped electrify the well heeled crowd.)

Jenkins was not the only one who took home a prize Sunday night. She was joined onstage by Carla Simón, a rising director who broke through with her film Été 93. “Our film was made by a very powerful team made up of primarily of women,” she said in accepting her Women in Motion prize. “That really helped me to be able to portray feminine characters in their complexity. We are the half of the world, so it would make sense that we tell half of the stories. We are not yet there. We will be some day.”

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