Jessica Chastain Spoke the Truth About ‘Disturbing’ Representation of Women in Cannes Films

It’s on Sunday, during a final press conference, that actress Jessica Chastain, who was a member of this year’s Cannes Film Festival grand jury presided by Pedro Almodovar, expressed her surprise as to how women were portrayed in most movies she saw throughout the glamorous cinema event.

“The one thing I really took away from this experience is how the world views women from the female characters that were represented, and it was quite disturbing to me, to be honest,” she stated as she was answering a reporter’s question about female filmmakers at the festival this year.

After her jury awarded Sofia Coppola with the Best Director honor for her film The Beguiled, which made her the second woman to receive the prize in 71 years (the first was Russian director Yuliya Solntseva in 1961), Chastain shared her opinion that, although there are “some exceptions”, more female storytellers (like Coppola) can be essential to get better, fairer representations of women onscreen. “I do hope that when we include more female storytellers, we’ll 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.”

Finding her remarks refreshing, courageous and mostly, necessary, many famous female actors, filmmakers and producers like Ava DuVernay, America Ferrera, and Debra Messing took to Twitter to express their support and respect for the actress for sharing such a powerful declaration.

This is not the first time Jessica Chastain uses her voice to support gender equality. In 2015, she wrote an essay for The Hollywood Reporter from the set of The Zookeeper’s Wife in which she highlighted the importance of fighting the idea that female directors are different from male directors and why hiring more women is essential to keep a “healthy” cinema landscape.

“Some people might say a woman can’t direct this because of that, or a man can’t direct that because of this. I don’t like to do that,” she wrote. “Look at Kathryn Bigelow: She can do incredible action films. Or Anthony Minghella, who directed the most beautiful, sensitive romances. For me, sex really isn’t the qualifier in the way someone directs — but I just know that when you have a set with predominantly one gender, whether it be all men or all women, it’s not going to be a healthy place.”