PARIS — “We’ve now entered the stage of action,” said Pierre Lescure, president of the Cannes Film Festival.
Asked to assess where tensions lie following #MeToo’s sweep through society — the “crises” and “passions,” in his description — Lescure said the industry’s focus now is on putting the promotion of women in cinema into practice.
The festival head had just signed on for a five-year extension of the Women in Motion program with Kering, which highlights women’s roles in the industry through talks by figures like Jane Fonda, Rossy de Palma and the late Agnès Varda — who is featured on this year’s poster for the Cannes Film Festival — as well as awards for both doyennes of the field and up-and-coming talent.
“It seemed to me to be highly symbolic, highly political, highly ambitious…after five years we had one wish — to renew the partnership,” enthused Lescure, a former journalist and television executive who is well-known in France.
He spoke to WWD from an office in the luxury group’s garden-lined headquarters in a joint interview with Valérie Duport, a Kering executive board member who heads communications and image for the group.
Initially forged by predecessors — though Lescure recalled the contract signing for the program was his first as the Cannes festival president — it has since been extended by Kering to photography through a partnership with the Rencontres d’Arles photography festival in the south of France.
Kering is known for promoting issues related to women, gaining recognition for high female representation among executives while its foundation has supported efforts to fight violence against women for over a decade.
“The group has tackled the subject of women since François-Henri [Pinault] took up management of the group — the subject has been an intrinsic part of the group’s history,” noted Duport, referring to Kering’s chairman and chief executive officer.
The Women in Motion program, which has built up credibility through the force of its women speakers — including Jodie Foster — gained an extra sheen of legitimacy by pre-dating the Harvey Weinstein scandal and the #MeToo movement.
“The subject has become inescapable, that is, it’s a subject that is everywhere. These days, no one says, ‘Why are they talking about women, the role of women in cinema, in the world of art, in culture?’” Duport said.
The program now also includes a partnership with Stacy L. Smith, an influential professor from the University of Southern California who founded the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, a think tank that researches and advocates inclusion and diversity in the entertainment industry.
Smith, whose articles had often been cited in Kering literature on related topics, is gearing up for her debut in the program with a panel discussion at the upcoming Cannes festival.
“With ‘Women in Motion,’ there is an element related to who we are, but there is most and foremost strong and sincere content, deeply connected to our values — and this content has to be built in a way that is truly serious and credible, fed by experts, like actresses or directors, university professors from various professions related to cinema — so that everyone makes the subject their own,” added Duport.
“We, as a luxury group, have the means to cast light on these subjects,” she said.
“It’s a responsibility. It’s our responsibility,” added the longtime luxury executive.
Consumers and the public are also asking for more from companies and brands in an era of heightened scrutiny — with the rise of social networks.
“I think that people today, especially young generations, are very attuned to groups or institutions that make things happen,” observed Duport.
“The Cannes Film Festival offers tremendous visibility; Kering is the second largest luxury group in the world — this generates interest,” she noted.
Asked if this might reach consumers, Duport pointed to a broader effect of such projects.
“I don’t know if that gets to the consumers. It’s a halo effect that goes way beyond products, whether it’s internally, or externally, with younger people, or those who aren’t so young — the world at large,” she said.
In the upcoming five years, the program will continue its progression, along with the evolution of society, predicted Lescure, who noted it has become more international over the years.
“There won’t be any extraordinary announcements — we will follow the evolution of the economy, of society, of men and women creators and producers and their places in the world,” he said.
“Where will we be in five years? The year 2020 will be the first year of the next stage,” Duport remarked.
“We will be very attentive when it comes to results,” added Lescure, noting Smith’s support would likely help.
“In 10 years, that will allow for change in a piece of the world,” he said.