Jessica Chastain: "We Need More Female Storytellers"

Photo: James Gourley/REX/Shutterstock.
This year’s 2017 Cannes Film Festival is quickly becoming a feminist act, and we are here for it. From Kristen Stewart’s subtly rebellious outfit to Sofia Coppola’s historic directorial win (the first female to win in 56 years and the second ever), this year is shaping up to be a memorable one for the ladies in France. But there is still room for major improvement, as actress and jury member Jessica Chastain points out in a now-viral video during a panel about the films playing at this year’s festival.
Seated alongside both men and women of the jury, Chastain emotionally explains how difficult it has been to watch film after film about women (with a few exceptions) depicting shallow characters and one-dimensional lives. According the two-time Oscar nominee's short, but impassioned, speech, if one were to watch the female characters seen in these movies, it would be a disturbing look at the male gaze. The women are reactionary to the men, solely there to be fillers between drama centering around the men and their much more fulfilling lives. They are objects.
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“This is the first time I’ve watched 20 films in 10 days,” she said. "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."
She continued, calling for an increase in female storytellers to fix the age old issue. "It was quite disturbing, to be honest,” she said. “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.” She continued, noting the women in her life who have nothing in common with these fictional depictions — which are inherently linked to the lack of females in charge of movies in Hollywood and abroad. "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."
This is, of course, not surprising to hear, but it is inspiring to see Chastain make a serious criticism about the films in such a public manner to her peers. The truth in her statement is why the video has quickly gone viral, with everyone from teenage girls to acclaimed female directors, like Ava DuVernay, sharing the clip from the press conference on social media. DuVernay accompanied the clip on Twitter with a simple “Say that, @jes_chastain.” Debra Messing and America Ferrera joined in on the praise as well. Messing wrote, "YES @jes_chastain YESSSSSS. Thank you for using you voice so powerfully and effectively." Ferrera agreed, adding "It takes courage to speak truth to power. Thank you @jes_chastain for speaking truth and representing the voices of millions!"
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Looks like the ball is in your court, guys.
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