Jessica Chastain Speaks Out Against ‘Disturbing’ Underrepresentation Of Women In Film At Cannes

During a press conference at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival, American actress and film producer Jessica Chastain made her thoughts on the representation of women in film known, and she was not pleased with what she saw.

“I do believe that if you have female storytelling you also have more authentic female characters. This is the first time I’ve watched 20 films in 10 days, and I love movies, and the one thing I really took away from this experience is how the world views women from the female characters that I saw represented. It was quite disturbing to me, to be honest,” Chastain said. “There are some exceptions, I will say. But, for the most part, I was surprised by the representation of female characters on screen in these films.”

Agnès Jaoui and Maren Ade, who were also on the festival’s jury with Chastain, agreed with her stance. Jaoui noted how few movies would be able to pass the Bechdel test, which should actually be easy. In order to pass the Bechdel test, a work of fiction must feature at least two female characters who talk to each other about something other than men/boys. That’s it. In some instances, the characters must be named, but even that isn’t necessarily a permanent part of the test. The fact that so few movies were actually able to pass this simple test says a lot.

“So for me, I really have to say I am always so happy meeting other female directors, just because I found out after a while of always being surrounded by men, especially men doing this job, the impression comes up that it’s not the right job for a woman but that’s completely wrong,” Ade said. “We all want to the film industry to reflect modern society. We’re missing a lot of stories, not just female characters.”

This was following Sofia Coppola’s win for the Best Director award for The Beguiled, which happened to be the second time in 71 years that a woman was the recipient of this award. The last instance was back in 1961 when Russian director Yuliya Solntseva won for her film Chronicle of Flaming Years. This win was a step in the right direction in the eyes of the female jurors.

“First, I want to say I’m really happy to present this award to Sofia Coppola, because she did amazing work to the audience,” said Chinese actress and juror Fan Bingbing. “We just want to advocate to focus on female filmmakers in the future. This is not something I want to judge; I want to advocate, and we want to encourage, filmmakers to present more female characters. I have to say she won this prize not because she’s a female filmmaker, but because [of] the film itself.”

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