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Belgian-Dutch actor Sand Van Roy walked the Cannes red carpet in a stunning black strapless dress, but the most powerful statement was the tattoo across her back. “Stop violence against women,” reads her temporary ink, words accompanied by the Venus symbol containing a raised fist, which is a symbol of resistance.
Van Roy got the tattoo to protest 83-year-old French actor Alain Delon, who received a lifetime achievement award of Honorary Palme d’Or at this year’s film festival. Delon publically admitted to slapping women in 2018, telling the French press, “I don’t know what you call macho. Is a slap in the face macho? Yes, I must have been macho,” adding that he had “received a lot of slaps, even from women.” 26,000 people signed an online petition protesting Delon receiving the award.
Let’s step back for a moment: Only four of the 21 competing films at Cannes this year are directed by a woman, and just one — I repeat, one — woman in the festival’s long and storied history has won the Palme d’Or. Delon. Honoring Delon demonstrates the film industry’s general failure to adequately address the #MeToo movement, let alone work on gender equality and inclusion. Thierry Frémaux, the festival’s artistic director, shared his support for Delon on stage while presenting the award, according to The New York Times. Frémaux reportedly told the audience, “Alain Delon is not afraid to displease, he’s not afraid to be wrong, and he doesn’t really think like other people,” and that the festival “will always be on the side of the artists,” seemingly dismissing accusers who he perceives are “[attracting] attention by telling lies.”
While Van Roy’s is temporary, many survivors of sexual abuse find tattoos healing. In addition to the ritual of getting a tattoo, a permanent reminder of strength can provide agency and empowerment. Van Roy got her temporary tattoo in Paris two days before the event. She told the press that Delon admitted he is violent against women, and that “he doesn’t realize it’s a problem, which is even worse.”
Facing criticism from the film industry is not new for Van Roy: In 2018, she sued filmmaker Luc Besson for rape — claims that were labeled “fantasist accusations” by Besson’s lawyer. The charges were dropped due to insufficient evidence.
The 2019 Cannes controversy proves that while Harvey Weinstein may have been arrested, the #MeToo movement is far from over.
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