Sofia Coppola won the Best Director prize at the Cannes Film Festival over the weekend and became just the second-ever female filmmaker to receive that honour. It’s a big deal. And if you ask her The Beguiled star Nicole Kidman, she’ll probably say it’s an even bigger deal because, like she noted at the press conference:
“Still only about four percent of women directed the major motion pictures of 2016. … That there says it all. I think that’s an important thing to say and keep saying. Luckily, we had Jane Campion and Sofia here. We as women have to support female directors, that’s a given now. Everyone is saying it’s so different now — but it isn’t. Listen to the statistics.”
So The Beguiled stood out enough and was recognized when women made up only 15.8% of the festival’s competition slate. According to Indiewire, in spite of those seemingly meager numbers, this year’s festival showcased the best “representation” of female filmmakers in years, and they were all over the board. Joaquin Phoenix won the Best Actor prize for You Were Never Really Here, a Lynne Ramsay film. Lynne also picked up a Best Screenplay award in a tie with Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthymis Filippou (of The Lobster fame).
In other words, of the three female filmmakers who brought films to Cannes to compete for the Palme D’Or, two of them received recognition from the jury. Those are good odds, and that’s some great nurturing of talent, vision and storytelling. But of course, to go back to what Nicole pointed ut, there’s always more work to be done. While Jane Campion laments being the only woman to have her film win the top prize (for The Piano, in 1993), Sofia’s win is a step in the right direction.
Interestingly though, both female Best Director winners at Cannes started off as actresses and we all know what Sofia’s acting history is, or how poorly she was received in The Godfather 3. Either way, given her history and her lineage, she’s still been able to work her way up and show at the festival multiple times, culminating in this very big win. The festival gave Sofia a chance, and she showed them her voice, and what she could do. She’s an Oscar-winning screenwriter, but could her best outing since Lost in Translation help her reap an even bigger triumph? Or rather…. More respect?
Last week, Lainey talked about how only “film geeks” remember who wins at Cannes – which is (obviously) where I come in - but it still helps pad out a resume in Hollywood. In 2017, Sofia broke the ice first. Next up, it’s Patty Jenkins who gets the opportunity to make (blockbuster) history of her own with Wonder Woman. Since directing Charlize Theron to an Oscar win with Monster, Patty earned an Emmy nod for directing The Killing, and this highly-anticipated and long-awaited film is her big shot. Which she talked about on CBS This Morning over the weekend.
Patty clarifies that she wants to be a great director not just a “great female director”. As the first woman to direct a triple-digit budget superhero film (and third ever to direct from a $100-million budget), her priority first was to DIRECT:
“I'm too busy looking at the more important duty that got handed to me, which is to make the best 'Wonder Woman' film and are you the right director who thinks to try, sure, OK, go. I definitely feel pressure. I just couldn't, you can't think about all the variable trickle-down effect that it's also representing. …”
“I feel interestingly that the director in me wants this film that I made to succeed. But the person who's not me at all, who lives outside of me has like heard people say for many years, 'Oh, nobody will go see a female superhero film. Women don't like action,' all those things. That part of me is watching, saying, 'Let's prove them wrong.'"
On both sides of the film coin, two films with very different expectations will hit the big screen next month. Sofia got a huge pat on the back from Cannes, and now it’s Patty’s turn to show what she can do. Like Lainey wrote earlier today, the box office predictions for Wonder Woman keep growing, but how long will it take until more women filmmakers are handed the reins of their dream projects, and given the respect they’ve worked so hard for? Is this a sign that the future is looking brighter?
Attached - Sofia Coppola in Cannes and Patty Jenkins at the LA premiere of Wonder Woman.