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Jane Campion Talks Cannes Jury Duty, and the Fest's "Embarrassing" Gender Imbalance

Photo of Ryan Lattanzio By Ryan Lattanzio | TOH! May 12, 2014 at 3:43PM

Director Jane Campion talks her new turn as Cannes jury president, being the only female filmmaker to win the Palme d'Or, and the eight jury members she will oversee at the festival.
Jane Campion
Jane Campion

In a new interview with The Guardian, New Zealand-born director Jane Campion talks her new turn as Cannes jury president. Naturally she addresses the heady topic of being the only female filmmaker to win the Palme d'Or, which she received in 1993 for the gorgeously lyrical "The Piano." (This chart has a thing or two to say about the dearth of women at Cannes.)

Harvey Keitel & Jane Campion, Cannes 1993
Harvey Keitel & Jane Campion, Cannes 1993

Campion's Cannes jury, from Sofia Coppola to Gael Garcia Bernal, is a veritable party of contemporary film figures. Here's what she had to say about jury duty:

"My job is to make sure everyone's voice gets heard. They are all investing two weeks of their time to come and watch the films and think about them. But I will also be trying not to let things get personal, and keep a sense of humour. It's a matter of looking after people -- I think women do that really well."

Though last year for the first time the Palme was shared among (male) director Abdellatif Kechiche and actresses Adele Exarchopoulos and Lea Seydoux for "Blue Is the Warmest Color," Campion remains the only woman director to win the Palme d'Or:

[Campion] recalls with some horror an event she attended for Cannes' 50th anniversary, when she found herself on a stage with all the other Palme d'Or winners -- the only woman there. "It was a shocking moment. It was embarrassing for everyone. I think everyone felt that it was really not right." She still would be the only woman, but the festival is emphatically not the problem. "My sense is that Cannes is very interested in new voices in cinema, never mind where it comes from or the sex of it. It's to do with who funds films in the first place."

And what about gender parity on a grander scale? 

"At film schools... the gender balance is about 50/50. Women do really well in short-film competitions. It's when business and commerce and art come together; somehow men trust men more... My feeling is we need an Abraham Lincoln figure to get in there, and say -- especially when it comes to public money -- it has to be equal.

"[Women] are 50% of the population. That's a good point and [state funding] is where you can push really hard and say something's wrong here, we want change."

Advice for young filmmakers? Women filmmakers?

"When I talk to young women film-makers, I say: don't think about this too much. Being a director is very tough, and you need everything you've got just to do your best job. You doing a brilliant job is your best support. Just get on with it.

"Film-making is not about whether you're a man or a woman; it's about sensitivity and hard work and really loving what you do. But women are going to tell different stories – there would be many more stories in the world if women were making more films."

This article is related to: Jane Campion, Jane Campion, Cannes Film Festival, Cannes, Interviews, News

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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.