Sofia Coppola Is The First Woman To Win Best Director At Cannes In More Than 50 Years

The festival jury has called for more diversity both in front of and behind the camera.

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The number of women to win best director in the history of the Cannes Film Festival has doubled, bringing the grand total to…two.

In a decision that is far more historic than it really should be, the festival jury – which included Hollywood actors Will Smith and Jessica Chastain, and was headed by acclaimed Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar – presented this year’s directing prize to Sofia Coppola (Lost in TranslationThe Bling Ring) for her civil war-era psychosexual thriller The Beguiled.

The film, which stars Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, Elle Fanning and Colin Farrell, follows a group of students and teachers at an all girls boarding school who seek revenge on a Yankee solider. One critic recently described it as a “witheringly elegant fuckboy takedown”, so yeah, we’re pretty keen.

In accepting the award, Coppola thanked her cast and crew as well as “Focus Features and Universal for their support of women-themed films.”

Following the announcement, Chastain told reporters that “if you have female storytelling, you have more authentic female characters.”

“When we have more female storytellers we will have more of the women recognize in my day-to-day life, who are proactive, who have their own agency, don’t just react to the men around them, but have their own point of view,” she said.

“A couple of black folks wouldn’t hurt neither,” added Smith. “But we’ll talk about that another time.”

Cannes has long been criticised for the lack of diverse faces among its lineup. The world’s most prestigious film festival celebrated its 70th birthday this year, yet in that time only one other woman has ever been awarded best director. That was Russia’s Yuliya Solntseva, for her film The Story of the Flaming Years, back in 1961.

Coppola’s win not withstanding, the number of female filmmakers represented at the festival this year left quite a bit to be desired.

On the plus side, there were a number of women on this year’s winners list. French director Léonor Serraille won the Camera d’Or, awarded to the best first-time filmmaker, for her intimate drama Jeune femme, while Lynne Ramsay was one of the winners in the split best screenplay category for the thriller You Were Never Really Here, which she also directed. Kidman, meanwhile, was awarded a special prize in honour of the festival’s 70th anniversary.