Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark-Thirty, The Help) was a member of the Cannes Film Festival Jury and commented on the lack of female representation in 2017 at the posh festival. Cannes has not been immune to controversy this year. The week started with crowds booing Netflix movies because they weren't going to be released in the traditional manner of a French theatrical run before heading to streaming services, causing Cannes to amend its rules towards streaming for next year. What it boils down to is an ideological difference that is down to personal preference; watch movies with others for the shared experience or freedom of choice? And now the week ends with a pretty sharp jab from one of its own jury members.
Jessica Chastain shared her comments during a press conference late Sunday, and they have started to go viral thanks to Twitter and other forms of social media. Chastain prefaced her statement by talking about her love of movies and then proceeded to speak her mind, no doubt echoing the sentiment of many in the audience. Read what Chastain had to say below.
"This is the first time I've watched 20 films in 10 days and I love movies and 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."
Chastain mentioned that there were some "exceptions", but for the most part she felt surprised. She explains.
"There are some exceptions, I will say, but for the most part, I was surprised with the representation of female characters onscreen in these films."
Chastain then used her public platform to advocate for the addition of more women filmmakers in Hollywood. She went on to say this.
"And 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 agencies, don't just react to the men around them, they have their own point of view."
2017 actually saw a significant boost with women, but what is alarming is that even though there was a boost, women only made up barely over 15% of the total lineup. Sofia Copeland won best director for Beguiled and Nicole Kidman received the Cannes Special Prize.
Though progress is being made in Hollywood, it appears to be at a snail's pace. The Force Awakens, a science fiction fantasy movie, was criticized for having a female protagonist as well as having a black dude as a costar. It's 2017, we shouldn't have to worry about this kind of crap anymore, but yet it's still here. Extreme fan boys of the DCEU are all up in arms that the first critically acclaimed DC movie is a female lead Wonder Woman. Lebanon wants to ban Wonder Woman because the movie stars Gal Godot, who happens to be Israeli.
Although progress is slow going, it's encouraging to see Chastain step up on such a public platform and it should also be mentioned that Will Smith, who was also on the Cannes Jury, took a second to piggyback off of Chastain's comments to say, "A couple black folks won't hurt next year either." You can watch Chastain's speech from Sunday night below.