The Cannes Film Festival closed down with an award ceremony and press conference, and during the presser the jury took the stage to talk about their festival experience. Jessica Chastain specifically talked about how the representation of women on screen “disturbed” her:
Okay I have to say this first—her odd accent is weirding me out. It’s trending into Madonna-British territory. But the substance of what she says is spot on, and more importantly, where she’s choosing to say it is nothing short of spectacular. Invited to be on the jury of the most prestigious film festival in the world, in front of that festival’s organizers and the world press, Chastain basically put Cannes on blast for not being inclusive enough. She is saying that awarding Lynne Ramsay for screenwriting and Sofia Coppola for Best Director—only the second woman in the history of the festival to win that prize—isn’t enough to go around patting themselves on the back. The festival still has work to do.
Chastain has been full-throttle on the topic of female representation and inclusion. She’s arrived at the pinnacle of her industry—she has two Oscar nominations and will undoubtedly win one sooner rather than later, she stars in big-budget studio movies and prestige indies, she gets asked to be on the Cannes jury. She has by any metric Made It. And she is now using her platform and the microphone that comes with it to amplify the voices of others.
And not everyone in her position does that. I can’t help but think back to Kathleen Kennedy’s unfortunate response to hiring women to direct Star Wars. I also can’t help but think about the conspicuously absent name whenever women in film comes up: Kathryn Bigelow. She is arguably the most powerful female director in the world (Ava DuVernay and Patty Jenkins are coming for her). Yet she is nowhere near the front line of this fight, to increase representation and give more women a shot. Some women Make It and then don’t do anything to help the cause for others.
But not Jessica Chastain, and it’s become her most endearing quality. You can count on Chastain in a fight. She’s going to speak up, and she’s going to do it smartly and thoughtfully and so well that she can call out a festival while sitting on that festival’s jury and not sound like she’s scolding so much as encouraging. In another life, Jessica Chastain is one helluva diplomat. In this one, she’s one of the best advocates for more inclusion in filmmaking, and we need her voice, and more voices like hers, to continue pushing for more equality. As for the Chief Fun Officer of Cannes, Will Smith got in a parting shot. At the press conference he added: “A couple of black folks won’t hurt next year, either.”