Jessica Chastain calls portrayal of women in film 'disturbing'

Emmett Rice
May 31, 2017

Coppola is only the second woman to win Cannes' best director award in 71 years.

Watching 20 movies in 10 days would be a whirlwind for anyone, let alone someone tasked with judging said films for one of the world's most prestigious film festivals. "And it was quite disturbing to me, to be honest", she said. There are some exceptions. Ones that are proactive, have their own agency, don't just react to the men around them. "They have their own point-of-view", she says.

After the powerful message, director Ava DuVernay was one of the first to commend Chastain, sharing a video of the speech, tweeting, "Say that, @jes_chastain".

Bong Joon Ho's sci-fi actioner Okja had fascinating women as both heroes and villains: Young South Korean star Ahn Seo-hyun was marvelous as the defender of a genetically modified giant pig whom Tilda Swinton's over-the-top corporate boss was seeking to turn into bacon.

Statements like these put Chastain in a small but mighty circle of female celebrities consistently advocating for women's equality. "I'm also really pleased to see a film where she mentors other women".

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A lot of this comes down to perception, which is always a hard thing to argue.

Perhaps there is no greater testament to Chastain's assertion "that if you have female storytelling, you have more authentic female storytellers", than the forthcoming Wonder Woman movie. Meanwhile, the film festival has only ever awarded its top prize, the Palme d'Or, to one woman, Jane Campion in 1993 for The Piano; Campion called the 24-year gap with no female filmmakers winning the Palme d'Or "insane". Lynne Ramsay won best screenplay for You Were Never Really Here, while Sofia Coppola was crowned best director for The Beguiled.

This isn't the first instance of Chastain criticizing the film industry over its portrayal of women.

Fellow jury member Will Smith astutely added, "A couple of black folks won't hurt there either".

There was a record number of lead roles for women previous year, according to a study by the San Diego State University's Center for the Study of Women in Television & Film, but many in the industry still see a long march to equality.

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