When Jennifer Kent’s “The Nightingale” debuted at the Venice Film Festival last year, it was the only film in competition from a woman director. Upon her return to the lauded Italian festival as a jury member, the filmmaker was dismayed to find that the numbers haven’t improved. The 2019 festival will host just two films from women directors, a whopping one more than last year. Haifaa Al-Mansour’s “The Candidate” and Shannon Murphy’s “Babyteeth” will vie for the Golden Lion at this year’s festival. Speaking to The Wrap recently, Kent, whose previous film “The Babadook” became one of the defining horror films of the century to date, made no secret of her disappointment with the dismal numbers.
“I think it’s an issue. I hoped there would be more. I really did,” Kent said. “There are some incredible women out there making films, and we need to see them, and they need to be in festivals, A-list festivals, and have the opportunity that men are having. All I can do from my perspective is keep making films, no matter how hard it is.”
Kent’s own experience at Venice may have something to do with her willingness to be so forthright in her criticism. During the first press screening of “The Nightingale” in 2018, a credentialed film critic shouted sexist and derogatory remarks about the director when her name appeared in the end credits. Nevertheless, at the conclusion of the festival, the film still won Special Jury Prize and the Marcello Mastroianni award for best young actor for Baykali Ganambarr.
“It’s really important to have a female voice within the jury,” Kent said. “I sometimes wonder if ‘The Nightingale’ was received in a different light because it was directed by a woman. We can’t escape this, but what can you do?”
Still, she maintains that women filmmakers need to keep making films for the problem to abate.
“Well, you can just keep going and keep making stories you believe in,” she continued. “And in terms of encouraging, I cannot encourage younger women enough to have faith in their voice and trust that their films can get made and that people will want to see them. We need you.”
IFC Films will release “The Nightingale” in theaters on August 2.