Filmmaker Jane Campion is calling out the Cannes Film Festival’s well-chronicled pattern of exclusion of women filmmakers from their top prize: the Palme d’Or.
Way back in 1993, Campion became the first woman in the esteemed festival’s then-46-year history to win the coveted award for her emotionally resonant period drama The Piano, which starred Holly Hunter as a mute pianist and an 11-year-old Anna Paquin as her daughter.
Considered a turning point for the advancement of women in film at the time (even though Campion had to share the prize with a man, director Chen Kaige!) Campion’s honor soon lost its shine as year after year (24 years. Yes. 2 frickin’ 4.), countless women directors that followed (including extraordinary Selma filmmaker Ava DuVernay in 2014) lost out to so-so films helmed by their male counterparts.
But Campion will not stay silent. As the legendary filmmaker walked the red carpet at the festival’s 70th anniversary celebration this weekend in support of her TV series Top of the Lake, starring Elisabeth Moss, she had some fiery words about the famed film institution’s “woman problem.” Of the 24 years since her historic win, Campion told Vulture, “Too long! Twenty-four years! And before that, there was no one. It’s insane.”
“And I’m really annoyed that the director-ess from Toni Erdmann [German auteur Maren Ade] didn’t win last time,” Campion added. “I thought, ‘Finally, a buddy.’ No. No! There’s no more guys winning. That’s it. It’s just going to be women winning from now on.”
And whatever Campion wants, Campion gets. Well, almost. Just days after her remarks, masterful filmmaker and visionary director Sofia Coppola was awarded the festival’s Best Director prize for her film The Beguiled, a Civil War-era thriller about an all-girls boarding school in Virginia starring Academy Award-winner Nicole Kidman. Coppola is only the second woman in history to capture the award. The first woman, filmmaker Yuliya Solntseva, won the prize for her motion picture, The Story of the Flaming Years in 1961.
Well, that’s progress…?