Female stars dominate Cannes festival jury

Actress Cate Blanchett will head the jury which features four other women and four men in the nine-personal panel

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - DECEMBER 06:  Cate Blanchett attends the Opening Night Gala of the 14th annual Dubai International Film Festival held at the Madinat Jumeriah Complex on December 6, 2017 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.  (Photo by Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images for DIFF)
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Hollywood actresses Cate Blanchett, Kristen Stewart and Lea Seydoux will head a starry female-dominated jury at the Cannes film festival next month, the organisers said Wednesday.

American writer-director Ava DuVernay of Selma fame and Burundian singer and composer Khadja Nin complete the five women on the nine-person jury that will decide the top Palme d'Or prize.

In a year when the #MeToo movement has dominated the headlines, and with only three female directors among the 18 in competition, the organisers clearly felt the need to make a stronger gesture towards women.

They had already announced earlier this year that the Australian-born Blanchett would head the jury.

At least four of the assaults on actresses of which the disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein is accused are alleged to have taken place at Cannes.

Italian actress Asia Argento said that the producer raped her in his hotel there when she was 21.

Lars Von Trier may return 

Yet as the majority-female jury was unveiled talks were under way behind the scenes to allow the banned Danish director Lars Von Trier, who has denied sexual harassment claims from singer Bjork, back into the competition.

Von Trier was barred from Cannes in 2011 for saying he was a Nazi, and the Icelandic star — who won best actress at Cannes in 2000 for her performance in his musical Dancer in the Dark — claimed in October that he had harassed her on set.

However, Cannes director Thierry Fremaux strongly hinted Tuesday that Von Trier was on the point of being brought back into the fold.

He said that with the notoriously demanding director finishing his serial killer flick, The House That Jack Built, the festival's president Pierre Lescure was working hard to "lift the status of persona non grata".

Tensions between Bjork and Von Trier were clear when their film premièred at Cannes and in October she said that on set she "became aware … that it is a universal thing that a director can touch and harass his actresses at will and the institution of film allows it".

Von Trier denied the claims and his producer Peter Aalbaek Jensen told the Danish daily Jyllands Posten that it was he and Von Trier who "were the victims".

Highly political

"As far as I remember we were the victims. That woman was stronger than both Lars Von Trier and me and our company put together," he said.

The remaining male members of the Cannes jury include Taiwanese actor Chang Chen, Canadian director Denis Villeneuve and French writer Robert Guediguian.

The organisers said Tuesday that Russian auteur Andrei Zvyagintsev, the maker of such classics as The Return and Leviathan, would also be one of the nine.

Stewart, 28, has long been a darling of the world's top film festival, appearing in the main competition in On the Road by Walter Salles in 2012 and Olivier Assayas' Clouds of Sils Maria and Woody Allen's Cafe Society in 2014.

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She also premièred her first short film as a director, Come Swim, last year at the festival.

French actress Seydoux, who starred in the James Bond film Spectre, was a joint winner of the Palme d'Or in 2013 for the controversial love story Blue is the Warmest Colour.

The inclusion of Von Trier's new film, which stars Uma Thurman, Riley Keough and Matt Dillon, would help to give a little more star power to a highly-political Cannes line-up.

Two of the directors competing for the Palme d'Or, Iranian master Jafar Panahi and Russian director Kirill Serebrennikov, are banned from leaving their countries and look certain not to attend.

Fremaux has pleaded with the Kremlin for Serebrennikov, who is under house arrest for controversial charges of money laundering, to be allowed to travel to Cannes to premiere his film.

The French authorities have made a similar request for Panahi, maker of Taxi Tehran, who has faced arrest, imprisonment and a bar on making films in his homeland.

This year's festival runs from May 8 to 19 at the French Riviera resort.