Nicole Kidman’s comments are a timely reminder that there’s still a long way to go in terms of representation in film.
Queen of Cannes Nicole Kidman earned the royal title thanks to her three in-competition films, one out-of-competition TV show, and her 70th Anniversary Prize award. However, Kidman should also earn the less catchy but equally important role of Queen of Committing to Help Women Directors.
Kidman discussed the lack of representation for female directors with The Sydney Morning Herald, telling them, “I think it’s necessary to say that every 18 months I’ll make a movie with a female director, because that’s the only way statistics will change when other women start to go, ‘No, I’m actually going to choose only a woman now.’ Every 18 months there has to be a female director in the equation.”
Having worked with Jane Campion and Best Director winner Sofia Coppola at Cannes, Kidman’s pledge is off to a good start. Kidman, however, knows that despite milestones such as Coppola being the first woman to win Best Director at Cannes since 1961 ( Soviet filmmaker Yuliya Solntseva won the award for The Chronicle of Flaming Years), there’s still a long way to go. In a press conference for The Beguiled at Cannes, Kidman expanded on her comments. The actress took a statistic from Women in Film, noting that “only 4.2 percent of women directed the main motion pictures of 2016.” Meanwhile, television is just as bad in terms of representation, with only 183 women directing the 4000 episodic television series last year. For Kidman, “that says it all. I think that’s an important thing to say and keep saying.”
Following Kidman’s important comments was Cannes Juror Jessica Chastain’s discussion on the representation of women in film. At the post-ceremony press conference on Sunday, Chastain said that she was “disturbed” by what she saw. The actress and producer said, “This is the first time I watched 20 films in 10 days, and what I really took away from this experience is how the world views women. It was quite disturbing to me, to be honest. There were some exceptions. I was surprised by the representation of female characters on film.” Chastain’s comments brought her back to a similar conclusion as Kidman, with the former noting that film needs more female storytellers in order to have fewer women characters that react to the men around them” and instead have “their own point-of-view.”
Kidman and Chastain’s comments on female directors and/or storytellers at Cannes does not even go into the lack of representation people of color, people with disabilities, or the LGBT community. However, it is a starting point and acts a reminder that there is still a long way to go.
Whilst the blame is not to be held to actresses (but more to Executive Producers and studio heads), well-established and prominent figures like Chastain and Kidman do have a responsibility to work with female directors since their status can help change the industry. As Kidman says, “We as women have to support female directors. Hopefully, it will change over time, but everybody keeps saying ‘oh it’s so different now, oh it’s so different now’, and it isn’t.”