Jessica Chastain on the "Disturbing" Portrayal of Women in Film

PREACH, QUEEN

Ishani Nath

When Sofia Coppola won best director for her film The Beguiled at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, it was heralded as a win not only for the 46-year-old film veteran but for women everywhere. Coppola broke a 56-year streak of male winners and became the second woman in the festival’s history to take home the Palme d’Or for directing.

While Coppola’s win is something to be celebrated, those stats are not, and actress and Cannes jury member Jessica Chastain made that clear during a post-ceremony press conference. After watching 20 movies in 10 days, a visibly upset Chastain shared the revelation she had about women in film.

“The one thing I really took away from this experience is how the world views women from the female characters that I saw represented, and it was quite disturbing to me to be honest,” she said, as other members of the jury nodded.

Some not-so fun facts about diversity in Hollywood, according to a 2017 UCLA study

  • Minorities are outnumbered by a ratio of four to one in film directing and more than seven to one in film writing
  • Women are outnumbered by a ratio of six to one among film directors and nearly four to one among film writers
  • Women and minorities are consistently underrepresented in every area of film
CANNES, FRANCE - MAY 28: (L-R) Jury members Will Smith, Agnes Jaoui, Paolo Sorrentino, Gabriel Yared, Jessica Chastain, President of the jury Pedro Almodovar, jury members Fan Bingbing, Park Chan-wook and Maren Ade attend the Closing Ceremony of the 70th annual Cannes Film Festival (Photo by Epsilon/Getty Images)
CANNES, FRANCE – MAY 28: (L-R) Jury members Will Smith, Agnes Jaoui, Paolo Sorrentino, Gabriel Yared, Jessica Chastain, President of the jury Pedro Almodovar, jury members Fan Bingbing, Park Chan-wook and Maren Ade attend the Closing Ceremony of the 70th annual Cannes Film Festival (Photo by Epsilon/Getty Images)

At Cannes, Chastain, who last year launched her own all-female production company, Freckle Films, pointed out that in order to have better female characters on screen, we need to create more space for women behind the camera.

“I do hope that when we include more female storytellers, we will have more of the women that I recognize in my day-to-day life—ones that are proactive, have their own agency, don’t just react to the men around them, they have their own point of view,” Chastain said.

French actress Agnès Jaoui and German film director Maren Ade, who were also on the jury, echoed Chastain’s concerns.

“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. We all want the film industry to reflect modern society,” Ade said, according to E! News. “We’re missing a lot of stories, not just female characters.”

At the press panel, fellow juror Will Smith followed Chastain’s comments saying: “a couple black folks won’t hurt there either. We’ll talk about that in another time.”

Related: 
#castingsowhite: Is Hollywood Becoming Less Inclusive?
An Open Letter to Chris Rock, re: #AskHerMore
What it’s Really Like to be a Documentary Filmmaker 

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