Jane Campion is a one-of-a-kind filmmaker. That’s not some hyperbolic statement, either. Literally, Campion holds a distinction that no other female director does. She has actually walked away with the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. This weekend saw the end of the 71st Cannes Film Festival, and with Hirokazu Kore-eda winning the coveted award for his film “Shoplifters,” Campion still is surrounded by men.
In a new interview with the Guardian, Campion discusses that distinction, as well as the recent #MeToo movement and where she sees the film industry going in its wake.
The Palme d’Or distinction wasn’t something that the director realized was a thing until the 70th Cannes Film Festival invited all the previous winners up for a special recognition. “I hadn’t ever really thought about the numbers of women and men that had won the Palme d’Or. I still really hadn’t taken it in. That was the most shocking thing I’d ever been involved in. If there had been no women it wouldn’t be an issue, but man after man came up. I thought, ‘Oh my God! What is going on?’” said Campion.
But for as jarring as that moment was for her, Campion still is hopeful. She praises the #MeToo movement and thinks that we are on the cusp of real change. “Right now, we’re in a really special moment. I’m so excited about it. It’s like the Berlin wall coming down, like the end of apartheid. I think we have lived in one of the more ferocious patriarchal periods of our time, the 80s, 90s and noughties. Capitalism is such a macho force. I felt run over,” says the filmmaker.
For those not aware of Campion’s filmography, the writer-director is perhaps best known for her Oscar-winning work on 1993’s “The Piano.” The Holly Hunter-starring film was nominated for eight Academy Awards, winning three (“Best Original Screenplay,” “Best Actress,” and “Best Supporting Actress”). However, for as life-changing as that film was for Campion, the director doesn’t go back to revisit the film very often. But in light of recent social issues permeating the film industry, she did rewatch it and was surprised by it.
“Rewatching my films is like digging up buried bones,” says Campion. “I really felt excited by it. I thought, my God, this is a film told from a female point of view and nowadays that’s still so rare. Even when a story appears to be from a female point of view, it’s often an apology for it.”
“Ada was experiencing things for herself in her own body and she could close the patriarchy out,” continues the filmmaker. “It was really strong for me to see that, and also the intimacy, sexuality and sensuality from a more female point of view.”
Nowadays, Campion is excited about what the entertainment industry is doing. The influx of strong female voices is leading to a change of guard, especially when it comes to how female stories are told. “Hero stories are wearing thin. We have lived a male life, we have lived within the patriarchy. It’s something else to take ownership of your own story,” says Campion.
For as much as the filmmaker is known for her strong female characters, such as in “The Piano,” as well as her two “Top of the Lake” series, Campion is tackling something different for her next, as-yet-untitled film she’s currently writing. She’s going to feature a male lead character.
Why is she taking this opportunity to tell a story from the perspective of a male lead? “Because at last I feel I can,” concludes the filmmaker.