When Sofia Coppola won best director at Cannes on Sunday (for her Civil War thriller The Beguiled), reporters and critics couldn’t help but notice that no woman had won that particular honor since Soviet filmmaker Yuliya Solntseva’s win in 1961 for Chronicle of Flaming Years, and, before that, never.
It’s great that Coppola got the prize—her brilliant career has deservedly garnered the admiration of her peers, which means most people in the business of making movies shouldn’t be patting themselves on the back so much as asking themselves deeply about why their industry’s history up to this day is one of failing to represent, nominate, and award prizes to people who aren’t men and, I’d add, who aren’t white.
Jessica Chastain, at least, didn’t let her industry off the hook. The actress and Cannes jury member said in a post-ceremony press conference on Sunday that, after watching 20 films in 10 days, her big takeaway was that, with few exceptions, she found the “representation of female characters on film” to be “disturbing.” Chastain offered as a partial anecdote including more female-directed films in next year’s Cannes selection. Clearly Ava agrees:
Toni Erdmann director Maren Ade and Chinese actress Fan Bingbing affirmed in the same press conference that there need to be more opportunities for female directors.
Will Smith chimed in that, “a couple black folks won’t hurt there either. We’ll talk about that in another time.” That’s not an entirely different conversation though. No black woman, or any woman of color, has ever won Cannes’ best directing award or its even more coveted Palme d’Or.