Following the Weinstein scandal, the Cannes Film Festival tackles issue of sexual harassment

A view of the Palais des Festivals at the 71st international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Monday, May 7, 2018.PlayAP
WATCH What sexual harassment is and what to do about it

The 71st edition of the Cannes Film Festival will be missing a familiar presence when it starts today on the French Riviera.

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For the first time in decades, there will be no Harvey Weinstein in sight at Cannes this year. The movie mogul, who produced the 1994 Palme d’Or winner "Pulp Fiction," has vanished since the revelations by dozens of women of sexual abuse by the former American producer. This year's festival is the first since the scandal broke last October.

Some of the accusations against Weinstein allegedly took place in Cannes. Italian actress and filmmaker Asia Argento, in an interview with The New Yorker magazine, accused the former Hollywood producer of raping her during the 1997 Cannes Film Festival.

Weinstein has denied all allegations of nonconsensual sex.

A view of the official Cannes film festival poster as seen on the Palais des Festivals at the 71st international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Monday, May 7, 2018. AP
A view of the official Cannes film festival poster as seen on the Palais des Festivals at the 71st international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Monday, May 7, 2018.

In October 2017, as the Weinstein scandal unfolded, the Cannes Film Festival published a statement saying, “These actions point to a pattern of behavior that merits only the clearest and most unequivocal condemnation.”

This year, the festival is tackling the issue of gender equality and the fight against abuse. An anti-sexual harassment hotline is being set up at the festival, the French equality minister Marlène Schiappa said on April 26.

"We have set up a partnership with the Cannes film festival," she announced. The phone line will be in place for people to report any incidents of harassment or assault.

During a press conference on Monday, festival director Thierry Fremaux announced that about 100 women will walk the red carpet next Saturday in a symbolic gesture to "affirm their presence."

A group of police officers take part in a security exercise on the steps leading to the Palais des Festivals at the 71st international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Monday, May 7, 2018. AP
A group of police officers take part in a security exercise on the steps leading to the Palais des Festivals at the 71st international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Monday, May 7, 2018.

Two-time Oscar-winning Australian actress Cate Blanchett will head the jury at the film festival. She is the 12th woman to lead the jury. Blanchett was one of the 300 women in Hollywood who launched the Time’s Up initiative last January. The movement’s goal is to counter sexual harassment in the entertainment industry and in all U.S. workplaces.

In an interview published in Vanity Fair last week, Blanchett revealed that Weinstein sexually harassed her.

"I think he really primarily preyed, like most predators, on the vulnerable," Blanchett told the magazine. "I mean, I got a bad feeling from him. ... He would often say to me, 'We're not friends.'"

The question of gender discrepancies for its top prize is also being debated at the Cannes Film Festival this year. According to an analysis by Agence France-Presse, of the 268 filmmakers who have claimed one of Cannes' top 3 prizes, only 11 –- or 4 percent -- have been women.

"The cinema has always been in the hands of men," said Fremaux. "There will be more and more [female filmmakers] in the future."

The Cannes Film Festival runs from May 8 to 19.