Political protests are prohibited on the Cannes Film Festival red carpet.

However, twice this year, the famous alley lined with photographers has been the scene of spectacular demonstrations denouncing violence against women.  

A woman interrupted a red carpet premiere on Friday, stripping naked to display the message "Stop Raping Us" on her naked body, alongside the blue and yellow colors of the Ukrainian flag.

Quickly covered, she was taken aside. 

A nearly naked activist with the slogan 'stop raping us' briefly stormed the red carpet to protest against the rapes committed by Russian soldiers in Ukraine.

© Mehdi Chebil

Two days later, feminist activists stormed to another premiere, unfurling a long banner bearing the names of 129 women murdered in France since the last edition of the Festival.

This time around, security forces seemed unimpressed by female protesters dressed in black who stopped on the steps of the Palais des Festivals, blowing plumes of smoke from hand-held devices concealed in their clothing . 

This intervention by members of the activist group Les Colleuses coincided with the premiere of the film "Holy Spider", a film in competition by Ali Abbasi, about the serial murders of sex workers in Iran.

It was also linked to another film, "Feminist Riposte", shown later in the day, which documents the group's fight against sexism, sexual violence and the scourge of feminicide.  

Armed with brushes, glue and sheets of paper, Les Colleuses led a creative and effective campaign to make women's voices heard in the cities of France, by plastering the walls with slogans denouncing gender-based violence.

"Feminist Response", by Marie Perennès and Simon Depardon, follows them in their nocturnal raids, as they defy the law to post their messages during the Covid-19 confinements and curfews.  

"Sexism is everywhere, so are we," they claim in large letters.

"If you don't want us inside, we'll stick things outside," reads another collage, plastered over the entrance to an art gallery in the Breton town of Brest, where a collective exhibition presents only male artists.

The action and the message are as important as each other, because Les Colleuses reclaims public spaces, countering male omnipresence.  

"Have you noticed the number of dicks drawn everywhere during the Tour de France?"

asks a Splicer, taken aback.

"What is it about men that they need to draw their penises everywhere?". 

"Feminist Response" responds to these provocations with its own "Tour" of France, a journey through the country's cities, large and small, to meet "strong, united and 'badass'" young women who are fighting against the patriarchy.

Their activism is joyous, fueled by sisterhood.

The scene where they mix glue and hot water in their pots, "like witches on their cauldrons", is a real treat.

But behind this lightness, they are well aware of the importance of their fight in a country where the rate of feminicide remains high. 

Throughout their film, the duo of filmmakers Marie Perennès and Simon Depardon observe, silently, preserving the intimate and united atmosphere that permeates the discussions, allowing the Colleuses to feel at ease, to open up and to tackle difficult subjects.   

"The first time someone said to me: 'I believe you', it blew me away," says an activist, evoking the personal ordeal she experienced.

"I realized through #MeToo that I was not alone and that I was not to blame," added another.

Discussions often broach the subject of violence as a useful and legitimate tool for "fighting back". 

"Touch one of us, we'll fight back," the placarded slogans warn, signaling that the Splicer is ready to return the favor.

In one particularly powerful scene, a feminist march manages to scare away a group of anti-abortion activists, shouting "My body, my choice, now shut up!".  

France 24 spoke with the co-filmmakers of "Riposte féministe" on the important fight they documented and which is now being offered a platform in the largest film festival in the world.  

The film evokes the liberating effect of sticking messages on the walls and "reclaiming" them.

How did you go about filming these scenes?  

Marie Perennès:

The act of plastering the walls with slogans is almost as important as the message itself.

This is the whole idea of ​​the reappropriation of public space.

That space where women aren't normally welcome, well, you have to claim it, day and night, and make it clear that you have every right to be there.  

We tried to support this notion of reappropriation in the way we filmed the scenes and placed our camera.

We didn't want it to feel like a report, with a shaky hand-held camera 'stealing' footage, almost fearfully, adding stress and urgency.

On the contrary, we placed our camera on a tripod, the idea being to claim the street with them (Les Colleuses) and to accompany their action, underlining the fact that they have every right to be there. .  

Simon Depardon:

Our goal was to do something that was both politically engaged and cinematic.

We didn't want to make the history of this band with a series of interviews in front of the camera.

Rather, we wanted to capture a moving image of the Splicers, which would be shown in cinemas and last over time. 

Image from "Feminist Riposte" by Marie Perennès and Simon Depardon.

© Cannes Film Festival

Was it important for you to cover the entire French territory?

MP:

We didn't want to stop in Paris, as is often the case for films dealing with political subjects.

We wanted to travel the country, meet different types of people and research the specificities of each city.

We also wanted to show the links between young activists who do not know each other but who act with the same determination and the same courage across the country.   

SD:

The posters were also a pretext, an opportunity to film French youth and the political commitment of a generation that is not at all apathetic.

We wanted to counter the idea that rural parts of the country are lost to the far right.

Young people want to participate in the democratic life of the country.

Not necessarily by voting alone, but also with paint, glue and sheets of paper - and without asking permission.   

Your film highlights the inclusive nature of the movement and its fight against all forms of discrimination.

It does not address the divisions over the issues of transphobia and biological sex.

Was it a conscious decision

SD:

Our film is not an exhaustive investigation into feminism.

As we traveled the country, we felt an atmosphere of sisterhood and a great desire to change things, especially with regard to femicide.

The issue of transphobia came up in the discussions, but only to a certain extent and not as divisive.

We didn't want to give it more importance than what we saw on the pitch. 

02:40

Noomi Rapace in Cannes © RFI

MP:

We were also disappointed to see that the media coverage of the movement often gave a distorted, almost caricatural view.

We wanted to remain faithful to the young women we met and who moved us deeply.

These questions are complex and our film is not a complete history of the movement.

It is based on 10 groups of Splicers out of the approximately 200 that exist in France, and the question (of transphobia) was not a source of tension.  

Les Colleuses had a great impact on the Festival.

What is the next step for them

?  

SD:

We were delighted to be able to bring together many Gluers from different regions of the country here in Cannes.

They had been in contact on social networks but had never met before, it was very moving to see them converge on the Festival.

They seized the opportunity to do something spectacular on the red carpet.

It's important to have such strong images to give visibility to the cause. 

MP:

Posters are more of a tool than a movement.

You can deploy them in a small street at night or on the Cannes red carpet.

Our goal was to keep track of a movement that belongs to a specific era, a post-Covid-19 moment when people felt a great need to express themselves and change things.

Even if the posters disappear, the determination will remain and will express itself in one way or another.

Our film isn't about posters, it's about young women fighting for a cause. 

Simon Depardon and Marie Perennès during the photocall of "Riposte féministe".

© Mehdi Chebil, FRANCE 24

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