French filmmaker Jacques Audiard on Sunday criticised the Venice Film Festival for its inadequate representation of female directors. At a press event to mark the world premiere of his English-language movie The Sisters Brothers, Audiard slammed festival organisers for including only one woman (Jennifer Kent, for The Nightingale) in the competition section for the second year in a row.

“When I learned that in the competition we were 20 men and only a single woman, I wrote a message to my colleagues working on the selection, but they didn’t give me any kind of answers,” Audiard said, according to The Hollywood Reporter. “Then I heard that when it comes to films, the sex of the person who makes it doesn’t matter, only the quality of the work.”

Even at other festivals, women have rarely been at the forefront, Audiard added. “The system does not work and there must be a change,” he said.

Audiard and John C Reilly, who stars in The Sisters Brothers, were wearing 50/50 buttons vouching their support for the movement to achieve gender equality in the film industry.

The Sisters Brothers, set in 1850s Oregon, stars Reilly as Eli Sisters, an assassin who, along with his brother Charlie (Joaquin Phoenix), sets out to hunt for a man (Riz Ahmed) who has stolen from their boss.

The Sisters Brothers (2018).

Last week, the Venice Film Festival, following in the footsteps of Cannes, Locarno and Sarajevo, signed a gender parity charter promising to work towards transparency in the selection process and equal gender representation in the top management. However, the organisers ruled out introducing a quota for women’s films.

This came after weeks of criticism over the festival’s line-up. On August 10, European Women’s Audiovisual Network and other advocacy groups wrote an open letter urging festival director Alberto Barbera to take a diversity pledge. “So, Alberto Barbera, will you pledge 50/50 gender equity for female directors?” the letter said. “Will you have your team trained in Unconscious Bias?”