Preparations are made to the Palais du Festival ahead of the 72nd annual Cannes Film Festival, which kicks off Tuesday. (Photo: Andreas Rentz, Getty Images)

CANNES, France (AP) — A year after 82 women protested en masse on the red carpet, the Cannes Film Festival on Monday defended its record on female filmmakers and for the first time divulged data on its selection process.

Addressing reporters on the eve of the 72nd Cannes Film Festival, Thierry Fremaux spoke at length, both touting the festival’s strides in gender parity and bristling at what he described as Cannes’ being held to an impossible standard.

Issues of gender equality have resonated particularly in Cannes, where only one female filmmaker (Jane Campion, in 1993 for “The Piano”) has ever won the festival’s top award, the Palme d’Or, and where women directors have never numbered more than four in the main slate of approximately 20 films. Not wearing high heels has even, as recently as four years ago, been a reason for denying entry to a premiere.

Cannes is also where Harvey Weinstein for decades was a prominent regular. At the festival’s closing ceremony last May, Italian filmmaker Asia Argento declared on the stage: “In 1997, I was raped by Harvey Weinstein here at Cannes. I was 21-years-old. This festival was his hunting ground.” (Weinstein has denied the encounter was rape.)

Following pressure by 50/50×2020, the French sister group to Time’s Up, Fremaux last May signed a pledge — with Cate Blanchett, Ava DuVernay and others looking on — promising to make the festival’s selection process more transparent and to push their executive boards toward gender parity.

This year, Cannes’s selection committee was 50 percent female for the first time. On the recommendation of 50/50X2020, the festival created a space for nursing mothers, which it dubbed Le Ballon Rouge. And four films directed by women were selected for competition, matching the previous record set in 2011.

Cannes on Monday offered a dose of transparency on its selection process, including who sat on the selection committee. That, too, had been a suggestion of 50/50X2020. The festival said that it received 1,845 feature film submissions from 39 countries, 26% were directed by women. Its official selection of 69 films, both features and shorts, included 19 films directed by women, or 27.5%.

Still, some have said Cannes isn’t progressing coming quickly enough, noting that it trails parity rates of other major festivals, including recent editions of Berlin, Sundance and Toronto. For the second time in two years, Fremaux held a press conference defending Cannes from its critics, the day before Jim Jarmusch’s “The Dead Don’t Die” will open the festival.

“When we signed this charter, the idea was never that the selection would be based on gender parity,” Fremaux said Monday. “All the films in the official selection — and there are 15 women directors in all, 20 if you add the shorts — all these films are there because in our view as the people who selected the films, they really deserve to have been selected.”

“There have never been so many women directors in the official selection because there have never been so many women directors in the industry as a whole,” said Fremaux.

Cannes, Fremaux said, is criticized in a way that other festivals and social organizations are not.

“The Cannes Film Festival has to be impeccable and absolutely perfect. Of course we try to be perfect,” said Fremaux. “No one has asked me to have 50% of films made by women. That would show a lack of respect.”

50/50X2020 said it will review the findings in a press conference in Cannes on Friday.

This year’s festival has also attracted some backlash to its selections. In competition is Abdellatif Kechiche, whose “Blue Is the Warmest Color” won the Palme d’Or in 2013. In October, Paris authorities launched an investigation into a sexual assault allegation against the director. Kechiche has denied it.

The decision to give Alain Delon, the 83-year-old French acting legend of “Le Samourai” and “The Leopard,” an honorary Palme d’Or prompted an online petition against it. Deon has acknowledged slapping women in the past and said he opposes the adoption of children by same-sex parents.

Fremaux said Delon comes from another generation and that he’s free to express his views, whatever they are.

“We’re not giving Alain Delon the Nobel Peace Prize,” said Fremaux.

Last year’s demonstration by 82 women formed one of the most striking images of the Cannes Film Festival when they stood together in a demonstration on the festival’s red carpet steps. One of the leaders of that protest was Agnes Varda, the French New Wave pioneer who died in March at age 90.

This year’s festival poster is a picture of Varda, who was given an honorary Palme d’Or in 2015, shooting her debut feature, 1955’s “La Pointe Courte,” peering through the lens of a raised camera while standing on the back of a man.

Tribeca Film Festival 2019: See the stars gather in New York FullscreenPost to FacebookPosted!

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Neil Patrick Harris brings glitz to the Tribeca Film Festival Saturday, which continues through May 5 in New York. He attended the screening of "Wig" with David Burtka. Click through to see who else is at the 2019 festival. Steven Ferdman, Getty Images for TribecaFullscreenWinona Ryder talks about "Reality Bites" during the Tribeca Film Festival Saturday.  Theo Wargo, Getty Images for TribecaFullscreenShe hit the red carpet beforehand … Theo Wargo, Getty Images for TribecaFullscreen… with Ben Stiller, Lisa Loeb, Janeane Garofalo and Ethan Hawke. Theo Wargo, Getty Images for TribecaFullscreenBen Stiller looks dapper in a black suit.  Brent N. Clarke/Invision/APFullscreenPiper Perabo brings yellow to the red carpet.  Theo Wargo, Getty Images for TribecaFullscreenWhoopi Goldberg attends the premiere of "Waldo On Weed" Friday.  Theo Wargo, Getty Images for TribecaFullscreenGoldberg poses alongside Danielle Dwyer, Brian Dwyer and Waldo James Mysterious Dwyer on the red carpet. Theo Wargo, Getty Images for TribecaFullscreenMichael Douglas speaks onstage about "It Takes a Lunatic."  Monica Schipper, Getty Images for TribecaFullscreenRobert De Niro keeps it casual at the "It Takes a Lunatic" world premiere. Monica Schipper, Getty Images for TribecaFullscreenSasheer Zamata attends the screening of her rom-com "The Weekend." Astrid Stawiarz, Getty Images for TribecaFullscreen

DeWanda Wise, another "The Weekend" star, also went to the screening. Astrid Stawiarz, Getty Images for TribecaFullscreenLily Collins strikes a pose at the premiere of her film "Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile" Thursday. Astrid Stawiarz, Getty Images for NetflixFullscreenZac Efron, who stars as Ted Bundy in "Extremely Wicked," smiles at the premiere. Astrid Stawiarz, Getty Images for NetflixFullscreenAngela Sarafyan sparkles on the red carpet.  Astrid Stawiarz, Getty Images for NetflixFullscreen

Haley Joel Osment at the screening of "Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile." Jim Spellman, WireImageFullscreenNatasha Lyonne rocks shades at the premiere of "The Remix: Hip Hop x Fashion" on Thursday. Theo Wargo, Getty Images for TribecaFullscreenMary J. Blige at the premiere of "The Remix." Theo Wargo, Getty Images for TribecaFullscreen

Lil' Kim popped by, too. Mireya Acierto, Getty Images for TribecaFullscreenDebra Messing attends the Tribeca awards ceremony on Thursday. Brent N. Clarke/Invision/APFullscreenAngela Bassett arrives on the red carpet. Roy Rochlin, Getty Images for TribecaFullscreen

Tiffany Haddish attends the Wednesday premiere of "Tuca & Bertie." Astrid Stawiarz, Getty Images for NetflixFullscreenAli Wong dances for Tiffany Haddish and creator/showrunner Lisa Hanawalt at the Q&A for "Tuca & Bertie." Astrid Stawiarz, Getty Images for NetflixFullscreenSuki Waterhouse wore a floaty green gown for the screening of "Charlie Says." Roy Rochlin, Getty for TribecaFullscreenChace Crawford attends the screening for "Charlie Says." Andy Kropa/Invision/APFullscreen

Vera Farmiga attends a screening of “Skin.” Mike Coppola/GETTY IMAGESFullscreenRashida Jones arrives for Tribeca Talks: Storytellers with Rashida Jones. Nicholas Hunt, Getty for TribecaFullscreenJulianna Margulies matched the red carpet at Tribeca TV: The Hot Zone on Tuesday. Steven Ferdman, Getty Images for TribecaFullscreenMichael J. Fox and wife Tracy Pollan turned out for Tribeca Talks: Storytellers. ANGELA WEISS, AFP/Getty ImagesFullscreenAs did Denis Leary, left, with Fox. Brent N. Clarke/Invision/APFullscreenAngela Bassett attends the Salesforce and Tribeca Present Make Change: Storytelling as a Platform for Change event.  Theo Wargo, Getty Images for SalesforceFullscreenAlec Baldwin and wife Hilaria Baldwin attend the screening for the documentary "Framing John DeLorean," in which he stars as DeLorean in re-created footage. Brent N. Clarke/Invision/APFullscreenStars like Angela Bassett hit the annual Chanel Artists Dinner on Monday. Dimitrios Kambouris, WireImageFullscreenZoey Deutch wore a plaid suit with a high slit and a flash of midriff. Gotham, WireImageFullscreenKatie Holmes attends the Chanel dinner. Dimitrios Kambouris, WireImageFullscreenSo does new mom Diane Kruger. Andy Kropa/Invision/APFullscreenFormer 'Girls' star Jemima Kirke looks glamorous at the event. Dimitrios Kambouris, WireImageFullscreenHer 'Girls' co-star Zosia Mamet wears a tuxedo minidress for the occasion. ANGELA WEISS, AFP/Getty ImagesFullscreen

 Chloë Sevigny dons a playful Chanel ensemble. Dimitrios Kambouris, WireImageFullscreen

La La Anthony looks bold in black at the Chanel dinner. Dimitrios Kambouris, WireImageFullscreenCara Delevingne strikes a pose on her way into the event. Dimitrios Kambouris, WireImageFullscreenAlexander Skarsgard rocks colorful suiting at the Chanel dinner. ANGELA WEISS, AFP/Getty ImagesFullscreenOn Monday, "Queer Eye" stars Antoni Porowski, left, and Karamo Brown attend the "Gay Chorus Deep South" screening during the festival. Dia Dipasupil, Getty Images for TribecaFullscreenSarah Silverman is the focus of a Tribeca Talks: Storytellers event on Monday. Mike Coppola, Getty Images for TribecaFullscreen Chace Crawford attends a screening of "Tribeca TV – The Boys" on Monday. Brent N. Clarke/Invision/APFullscreen

Margot Robbie attends the screening for "Dreamland" on April 28. Charles Sykes/Invision/APFullscreenTake a peek at Margot Robbie's full look. ANGELA WEISS, AFP/Getty ImagesFullscreenNaomi Watts attends the premiere of "Luce." Theo Wargo, Getty Images for TribecaFullscreenRobert De Niro, left, and Martin Scorsese attend Tribeca Talks: Directors Series.
  Roy Rochlin, Getty Images for TribecaFullscreen

Francis Ford Coppola, left, and Robert Duvall appear for a 40th anniversary restoration of "Apocalypse Now." Roy Rochlin, Getty Images for TribecaFullscreenHaley Bennett attends the "Swallow" screening. Jamie McCarthy, Getty Images for TribecaFullscreenRami Malek attends the Tribeca Talks: A Farewell to Mr. Robot session. Nicholas Hunt, Getty Images for TribecaFullscreenRobert De Niro, Jennifer Lawrence and director David O. Russell attend Tribeca Talks: Directors Series on April 27. John Lamparski, WireImageFullscreen

 Dr. Ruth Westheimer attends the documentary screening of "Ask Dr. Ruth." Roy Rochlin, Getty Images for TribecaFullscreenTrudie Styler and Sting attend the "This Is Spinal Tap" 35th anniversary. Dia Dipasupil, Getty Images for TribecaFullscreenCynthia Nixon attends the "Stray Dolls" screening. Slaven Vlasic, Getty Images for TribecaFullscreenJared Leto arrives dressed down in denim for the "A Day In the Life of America" screening. Nicholas Hunt, Getty Images for TribecaFullscreen Freida Pinto walks the carpet for the world premiere of "Only." Michael Loccisano, Getty for TribecaFullscreenChristopher Guest and Jamie Lee Curtis at the "This Is Spinal Tap" anniversary celebration. Dia Dipasupil, Getty Images for TribecaFullscreenKim Wayans at the 25th anniversary of "In Living Color." Noam Galai, Getty Images for Bulleit Frontier WhiskeyFullscreenDavid Alan Grier was there, too. Noam Galai, Getty Images for Bulleit Frontier WhiskeyFullscreenSo was Shawn Wayans. Noam Galai, Getty Images for Bulleit Frontier WhiskeyFullscreenAmber Heard showcases a sheer look at the "Gully" screening. Astrid Stawiarz, Getty Images for TribecaFullscreen Zoey Deutch wears red for the premiere for "Buffaloed."  Slaven Vlasic, Getty Images for TribecaFullscreen

Minnie Driver attends the "Gully" reception. Eugene Gologursky, Getty Images for RAND LuxuryFullscreenRob Reiner at the "This Is Spinal Tap" anniversary screening. Andy Kropa/Invision/APFullscreenAlec Baldwin and Hilaria Baldwin attend the "Crown Vic" screening on April 26. Jamie McCarthy, Getty Images for TribecaFullscreenSheryl Crow attends the premiere of "Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice."  Michael Loccisano, Getty Images for TribecaFullscreen

Queen Latifah attends Tribeca Talks and the Premiere of The Queen Collective Shorts. Nicholas Hunt, Getty Images for TribecaFullscreenBilly Crystal turns out for the "Standing Up, Falling Down" screening on April 25. Jamie McCarthy, Getty Images for TribecaFullscreenHilary Duff attends the Tribeca TV screening of "Younger."  Jim Spellman, WireImageFullscreenRapper RZA (aka Robert Diggs) at the New York premiere of Showtime's "Wu-Tang Clan: Of Mics and Men."  ANGELA WEISS, AFP/Getty ImagesFullscreenGhostface Killa was there as well. ANGELA WEISS, AFP/Getty ImagesFullscreenAngela Bassett arrives for Tribeca's opening night world premiere of HBO's documentary "The Apollo" on April 24. PETER FOLEY, EPA-EFEFullscreen


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