Slog: Annemarie Jacir on Baby Troubles at Cannes

Annemarie had two films premiere as official selections of the Cannes Film Festival. One in Venice and most recently Berlinale where W hen I Saw You won Best Asian Film. Founder of Philistine Films, she’s made over sixteen films and collaborates regularly with fellow filmmakers. She teaches screenwriting and works as a freelance editor and screenwriter. She is currently editing her new film Wajib and renovating her family home, a 127 year old house, in Bethlehem, Palestine with her family to make a cultural centre. Annemarie is currently fundraising for the centre through kickstarter. Her campaign can be found here 

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We respect the rules and we respect the people in our industry… all we ask is they respect those of us who have become parents. No special treatment, just allow us to do our work. There are enough struggles as it is.

You’ve been to Cannes before. Why were you in Cannes this time?  

I’ve had two films in Cannes, one was a short film in 2003 and the second film was my feature in 2008 in Un Certain Regard. Currently I am editing my new film (it will be my third feature film) called “Wajib”. I was invited to Cannes by the Dubai International Film Festival to screen three scenes from the film as part of their works-in-progress screenings in the Market (“Dubai Goes to Cannes”). I was invited to present the film there.

My partner and husband Ossama Bawardi is a producer who has been involved in a number of films from our region and was invited as part of the Producer’s Network.

What happened when you tried to take your baby into the festival?  

I had a meeting at the International Village, which is an outdoors space along the beach, where many of the stands are set up. It’s a fairly low key and relaxed area. When I tried to enter, I was told that I could not bring the child in as she did not have a badge. At first I thought it was a joke, and security explained to me that I was free to enter but the child was not. The baby was in a baby carrier and I tried my best to enter but he refused and I missed my meeting. I would never bring my child into a screening or a quiet event in which she might disturb people, but in the case of the international pavilions, it’s quite lively, informal, and relaxed. I was very surprised.

This continued to happen several times during the festival as my husband and I took turns waiting outside the festival area with our child. He also missed a meeting on one occasion as I was in another meeting and he had the baby but was also refused entry. Cannes security was also inconsistent with this rule, as there was a few times we were allowed in with the baby. On one occasion security told us that “babies and dogs must have badges”.

I have to also add that it was extremely difficult to deal with the issue. As the security at the International Village told us she needed a badge, we went to the accreditation office to get so-called badge. At first they refused to allow us in with the baby. So I ended up going inside while my husband stood outside with the baby. Once inside I experienced a 45 minute run-around by the staff, and was eventually told that this year there will not be badges given to babies for security reasons.

As we were continuously blocked out of the International Village, the Market and the Palais, we pushed accreditation on the badge issue explaining we are working parents in the industry and one of us must always have the baby. Finally I had a breakthrough when a staff member produced a badge for the baby explaining that an exception would be made for the me, the mother, as the baby is still breastfeeding.

We were very happy to finally have the badge. The next morning, on my way to International Village, I was once again stopped and refused entry with the baby. I showed them the badge. And I was told that security had been given a new order today that even with badges, babies would not be permitted.

I felt frustrated and excluded. Cannes has been very open and welcoming to me as a filmmaker and my career was launched here. I felt hurt to return as a director now with a child and feel excluded. Frankly the treatment was ridiculous and humiliating. Standing there in the sun begging to be allowed into a space. I’ve never been at such a child-unfriendly space ever.

I felt frustrated and excluded. Cannes has been very open and welcoming to me as a filmmaker and my career was launched here. I felt hurt to return as a director now with a child and feel excluded.

How did this affect the plans you had for your time in Cannes, in terms of what you needed to get done?

Cannes is very important for us in our industry. It is also an expensive place to be. This limitation affected our work quite a lot and limited us. Again, as I said before, I would never even think to bring a child into a screening or disturb another filmmakers space and time – but as anyone knows who has been to Cannes, entering the Pavillions and the Market are both necessary for us and also very loud and social spaces and having a child there would not have disturbed anyone.

Were there any ‘safe spaces’ in Cannes for you and the baby? Did anyone help out?

Most people in our industry were quite shocked. Many of them have families of their own and explained how they always brought their children to festivals when they were babies as most of us don’t have a choice. The UAE pavilion provided a safe space for the baby on the few occasions we got in, with people very happy to have a smiling baby around.

Have you been to other festivals with your child, and what were your experiences there?

Last year I took my baby to Venice Film festival as we were invited to be part of the Gap Financing Market and the general reaction was so positive. People were very understanding, very friendly and welcoming. Of course Italians love children. It was the same when we brought her to the Dubai Film Festival. People were very generous and supportive. I was free to move around wherever I wanted in the outdoors and public spaces.

As a working mother in this industry, I felt very happy to feel that I was not being judged or ostracized for having a child when I went to Venice and Dubai. I felt that being a filmmaker whose work is all about the world we live in, that in those festivals having a child was considered part of that, and not something that goes against it.

Frankly the treatment was ridiculous and humiliating. Standing there in the sun begging to be allowed into a space. I’ve never been at such a child-unfriendly space ever.

What steps could Cannes do to make the festival a more inclusive work space for parent filmmakers? 

They need to know that many of us are single parents, and many of us are parents where both people work in the industry – and that we don’t want anything special. But we just don’t want to be blocked out and prevented from doing our work. If they insist babies need badges, then so be it – let us have a badge and take care of our children the way we know how. We respect the rules and we respect the people in our industry… all we ask is they respect those of us who have become parents. No special treatment, just allow us to do our work. There are enough struggles as it is.

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