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Jessica Chastain found Cannes’ portrayal of women “disturbing”

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Jessica Chastain—who once heroically rolled her eyes at Johnny Depp’s nonsense—continued her trend of taking no bullshit from men at the Cannes Film Festival. During a closing press conference, Chastain, a member of the jury that was led by Pedro Almodóvar, commented on how she found the experience dispiriting when it came to female characters.

Though she noted there were “exceptions,” Chastain largely found the portrayals to be lacking. “This is the first time I’ve watched 20 films in 10 days, and I love movies,” she said. “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. There are some exceptions, I will say, but for the most part I was surprised with the representation of female characters on screen in these films.”


Chastain used her platform to advocate for the inclusion of more female filmmakers. According to Indiewire, this year featured more women with movies in competition than is typical for the festival; however, that still only amounted to 15.8 percent of that lineup. The good news is that two of those films won big: Sofia Coppola took home best director for The Beguiled, while Lynne Ramsey shared the best screenplay prize for You Were Never Really Here. Nicole Kidman—who appeared in four projects, including two by women—won a special prize. “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,” Chastain continued.

Chastain’s comments were widely shared, garnering praise from director Ava DuVernay. Indiewire notes that fellow jury member Will Smith further called out the festival’s shoddy representation, saying, “A couple black folks won’t hurt next year either.” Cannes finished up its 70th year over the weekend. You can read our film editor’s reactions here.

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