Black women protest racism in the French film industry at Cannes

They’re tired of being told they can’t play prestigious parts

Cannes this year has been a site of political protests and yesterday was no exception. Black and mixed race actresses took to the red carpet to criticise racism in the French film industry.

Wearing Balmain and braving the rain, the group of 16 said they had faced prejudice at the hands of directors and casting agents who tell black women they cannot play prestigious parts such as lawyers, or who ask if they speak “African”. The same group of women including Nadège Beausson-Diagne, Mata Gabin, Maïmouna Gueye, Eye Haïdara, Rachel Khan, and more, recently published a book entitled Being Black is Not My Job, which details the racism they have faced as actresses in France, earlier this month.

“I was moved to act by the spirit of the times,” said collaborator and actress Aïssa Maïga, who appears in the films Bamako and the African Doctor at the screening of the South Korean film, Burning. She told the Agence France-Presse news agency that quotas “could be a possible option” for combating the lack of diversity on screen and even if this lead to opposition in France.

This marks a trend this year for women building on the conversations happening within the industry after the Harvey Weinstein scandal. On Saturday, Cate Blanchett led a protest of 82 women working in cinema including Kristen Stewart and Salma Hayek. They demand equal pay and opportunities in Hollywood. Some stood halfway up the stairs to symbolise the lack of advancement for women in the industry.

Political protests for Palestine also took place the day before. Dozens held a moment of silence at Cannes to protest the brutal murder of Palestinians on Monday by the Israeli army. Among the demonstrators at the Palestinian Pavillion was Hollywood actor Benicio del Toro. Manal Issa, an actress from Lebanon, held up a handmade sign that read “Stop The Attack on Gaza” during the premiere of Solo: A Star Wars Story.

With the Golden Globes, BAFTA, and the #TimesUp movement protest is becoming as much a part of the red carpet as designer gowns this year.