The organisers of the Cannes Film Festival have struck back at outraged reports that women are being refused entry for certain film premieres for not wearing high heels, claiming that the rumours are “unfounded”.

The controversy being labelled as ‘flatgate’ was first reported by movie news website Screen Daily, after an unnamed ‘Cannes regular’ tipped off the site that a number of women, including some who were older and with medical conditions, were being turned away at the red carpet for failing to wear high enough heels.

Emily BluntActress Emily Blunt at the Cannes Film Festival earlier today (Tuesday May 19th)

The website reported that it had received confirmation from the festival itself that heels were obligatory for women at red carpet screenings. However, Cannes’ chief organiser Thierry Fremaux posted on Twitter that the “rumours” were “unfounded”.

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The unnamed source told Screen Daily that “someone I know was turned away for wearing nice flats, nothing you would wear to the beach. They were in their fifties. They told her she could go and buy appropriate shoes and come back.”

The story has provoked a great deal of outrage on social media. Actress Emily Blunt was just one of the stars to add their voice to the outrage, being quoted by BuzzFeed film critic Alison Willmore as responding with “I think everyone should wear flats.”

British writer Caitlin Moran was another, tweeting: “Utterly extraordinary it's reported that women - including those with disabilities - are being TURNED AWAY at Cannes for not wearing heels.”

The BBC also confirmed that a spokesperson for the festival told them via e-mail: “Rules have not changed throughout the years (tuxedo, formal dress for gala screenings) and there is no specific mention about the height of the women's heels as well as for men's.”

It is ironic that such a controversy should blow up at a screening for Carol, a competition entry by director Todd Haynes with a strong feminist appeal. Cannes has also been making an effort to address the gender imbalance in the film industry by pushing and promoting movies with female directors and producers, so this is bad PR for the festival.

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