Dawn Hudson and Maïmouna Doucouré.

GIRLS ALOUD: The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences celebrated International Women’s Day on Friday with a lunch in Paris celebrating its Gold Fellowship for Women, granted to award-winning French director Maïmouna Doucouré.

Veteran actress Claudia Cardinale joined directors including Agnès Varda, Danièle Thompson, Julie Delpy, Diane Kurys and Marjane Satrapi at the event at the Meurice hotel held in partnership with Swarovski. The Austrian crystal-maker supports the one-year fellowship for female filmmakers or executives, which comes with a cash prize of 20,000 euros.

Dawn Hudson, chief executive officer of the Academy, noted it was the third such fellowship granted in one year as part of Action: The Academy Women’s Initiative, which seeks to support inclusion and increase representation of women within the organization and the film community at large.

Hudson has been leading efforts to diversify the Academy’s membership during a tumultuous period that saw the launch of an #OscarsSoWhite social-media campaign in 2015 due to a lack of diversity among its acting nominees.

“I definitely think things have been changing. I arrived at the Academy eight years ago, and in that time, every year we have made improvements,” Hudson told WWD.

“We’re reaching out to different artists, we’re reaching out to women, reaching out to women of color, and I think you see the result of all those efforts in this year’s nominations, in the Oscars. So I think we’ve achieved a lot of success, and I think there’s a long ways to go,” she added.

Dawn Hudson and Claudia Cardinale.

Dawn Hudson and Claudia Cardinale  Courtesy

Doucouré’s short film “Maman(s)” (“Mother(s)”), about the impact of polygamy on a young girl, has won awards at the Toronto International Film Festival and the Sundance Film Festival. In 2017, she won a Global Filmmaking Award at Sundance for the screenplay of her first feature-length film, “Mignonnes” (“Cuties”).

Hudson said she was chosen “first of all [for] her talent, and then the idea to support a woman with a particular voice that will make her mark in cinema. The fact that she also writes and makes movie about female subjects is just icing on the cake.”

Following a speech by Hudson in French, Doucouré responded with remarks in English that moved the Academy ceo to tears.

“When I was 10 years old, my dream was to be a boy, not to pee standing up or to be able to fight — that, believe me, I knew how to do. Every night I prayed God that I would wake up as a boy, because around me I saw so many injustices for girls,” the director said, noting that “Cuties” talks about the place of women in society.

“I talk to all the little girls who sometimes think they have to be a sexual object to be loved and to be successful. I want to tell these little girls, and the little girl that I was, that you can be pretty, wear a princess dress, wear high heels, put on lip gloss, and at the same time you can create, write, lead, be a president,” she said. “Believe me, you can do everything as a woman, even win an award from the Oscars — that’s so crazy.”

Maïmouna Doucouré

Maïmouna Doucouré  Courtesy

The previous day, the Academy held two panels with UniFrance, the agency dedicated to promoting French films around the world, to discuss the place of women in fields ranging from writing and directing to editing and sound. Participants included Delpy, Kristin Scott Thomas and Thompson, who is working on a series about Brigitte Bardot.

“It’s always interesting for me to exchange views with other women,” Delpy told WWD. “Bizarrely, you always think it’s easier for other people. In fact, it’s never easy.” She noted her upcoming feature “My Zoe,” which she wrote, produced, directed and stars in, took eight years to make.

“I had doors slammed in my face left, right and center. I went through hell because I wasn’t doing the usual Julie Delpy comedy,” she said of the movie, which also stars Gemma Arterton, Richard Armitage and Daniel Brühl. “It’s a very dark film that explores a very dark subject matter.”

She said that Amazon Studios — where top executive Roy Price resigned in 2017 following allegations of sexual harassment — turned down another project she is working on. Titled “On the Verge,” the series about four fortysomething women in Los Angeles is now being developed by French studio Canal Plus.

Isabelle Giordano, general director of UniFrance, noted women are active in special effects for blockbuster movies like “Thor” and “Avatar,” while production designer Anne Seibel — who attended Friday’s lunch — is collaborating with Damien Chazelle on his upcoming Apple television series.

“When I travel, people often talk to me about Jean-Luc Godard, Anouk Aimée. I think it’s good to promote the new generation, too,” she said.

Marjan Tharin, head of fashion, art and design at Swarovski, delivered remarks on behalf of Nadja Swarovski, who was unable to attend. “Swarovski is committed to empowering women and to providing emerging creative talent with the support it needs to develop and thrive,” she said.