Diary - Bonnie Greer

At the party in Cannes, Amma says that since we are five black women standing together talking, we r

The BBC has given the OK to a documentary I want to make called Reflecting Skin. Reflecting Skin looks at the black image and how it has impacted on western art and the western imagination. It is a co-production with my company, Emerald City FGH, and the director Heather Goodman's company, Big World Pictures. Heather and I figure that we are the first black women to get a deal like this on a subject like this, so we want to do our best.

I am also setting up a feature with the writer-producer Amma Asante's company, Tantrum Films, centring around a French football player who happens to be a Muslim. I'm determined to be one of those who helps to make a positive Muslim character in film, as opposed to the mad mullahs and "handkerchief heads" that American cinema will probably throw up. To do all this, I need to raise more funding.


So I am about to do something I have vowed never to do: attend the Cannes Film Festival. I had vowed never to do this because my husband and I have a place in Nice and, whenever I have glimpsed the circus a few miles away down the coast, I have not liked what I've seen. But Amma is not only brilliant and savvy: she looks like a supermodel. And since I want Gerard Depardieu in our picture, Amma's looks won't hurt. Hey, after all, we're going to the Riviera - I've got to get real.


Bump into Stephen Frears on the flight out. Stephen tells me that he enjoyed the talk I had with the director Mira Nair at the NFT. There was just one thing: he couldn't understand what Mira and I were on about when we said how hard it was to make films with black or Asian central characters. He has had no such problem. I like Stephen Frears's work, and I like Stephen, too, but when he sat down in First Class, I had to gently remind him, as Amma and I continued on to steerage, that perhaps the reason things are a bit easy for him is that his name is "Stephen Frears".

I have brought two pairs of platform heels, plus my vintage Manolos, plus skirts, items I have not worn seriously for years. Anything to get money for a film with a positive Muslim character and an arts documentary examining the black image. The minute I step out of our taxi and put my feet on the ground, I realise that I have made a grievous mistake. Blisters quickly form on my toes, making it impossible to move with any sort of dignity. Walking with dignity is important if you are black and female on the Croisette.


Rest my feet at a table on the terrace of the Carlton. A man sits down next to me. Maybe he's a distributor or some other sort of funder. But by this time in Cannes, only the "bridge and tunnel" people are left. Before I can talk to him, he talks to me. He begins to "pitch". Maybe he is doing this because I am wearing sunglasses and smoking a Monte Cristo No 5. Things are desperate here.

Meet up with the writer-director Deola Folarin at the BBC Films party. She has had a film shown here and is shooting another. The singer-producer Sharon Rose is here, too. We talk about money, which is scarce, especially if you don't have Halle Berry in your film. Here we are, five black women standing together talking. Suddenly Amma suggests we break up and circulate, or we might get mistaken for the cabaret. I'll gladly sing "Baby Love" if it will raise some finance.


Rule number one in Cannes: never talk to the Brits. This is because you can get hold of them back home. You come to Cannes to meet the all-important Americans. But because of "the events of 11 September", the Americans have not come in the large numbers they usually do. Am sick of 9/11 . . . Have an idea for a satirical film. Will call it I Didn't Know I Needed 11 September Until I Got It. Will pitch it to Miramax. Harvey Weinstein will love it if it stars Halle Berry.


Attend the conference on funding for independent films. Amma, Robert Jones of the Film Council and I are the only people from Britain in the room.

The Americans are there trying to figure out how to access our Lottery funding. Amma whispers to me that it is one of the most important meetings in Cannes. The Americans ask panellists questions like: "How did you get your first million?" One guy says from his father. Another says that he "maxed out" his credit cards. Robert Jones says he got his because of a script - The Usual Suspects. Art versus commerce. That's why I live in the UK.


Am desperate, until on my last day, as if in some movie, I meet Philippe at a rooftop party. He is a producer. He has money. I give my five-minute spiel about Reflecting Skin. Tell Philippe that we have talked to Jean-Paul Goude and Jean-Paul Gaultier in Paris. Tell him my company is Anglo-French and dedicated to "the other Europe". He understands what I am saying! He wants to help.

Tears well up in my eyes. I tell him that this project has taken me a decade to realise in Britain. With him, it took only five minutes. Why? "Eet ees because you are working with thee Eenglish," he says.

Philippe e-mails on the day of the Queen's jubilee. He's still interested and he'll get back to me soon. Meanwhile, I'm still searching for extra funding - but I feel more optimistic now.

Bonnie Greer is a playwright, author, and the Chancellor of Kingston University.