Oscar-winner Sofia Coppola made Cannes Film Festival history tonight becoming the second woman in the event’s 70-year history to win best director for her Focus Features release The Beguiled. Previously, Soviet director Yuliva Solntseva won for her 1961 war drama Chronicle of Flaming Years about the Russian’s resistance to the 1941 Nazi occupation.
“I was thrilled to get this movie made and it’s such an exciting start to be honored in Cannes. I’m thankful to my great team and cast and to Focus and Universal for their support of women-driven films,” said Coppola in a statement.
Coppola wasn’t the only woman being lauded at Cannes this year. Quite often, the festival has been criticized for not recognizing female filmmakers enough.
Coppola’s The Beguiled lead actress Nicole Kidman won a special 70th Anniversary award, while filmmaker Lynne Ramsay’s You Were Never Really Here tied for best screenplay with Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Killing of a Sacred Deer. Earlier this week while hosting the Cannes Film Festival 70th Anniversary celebration, Isabelle Huppert snarked, “70 Years, 76 Palme d’ors, but only one has gone to a woman — no comment.” She was of course referring to The Piano director Jane Campion, who still remains the only woman to win the Palme d’Or 24 years ago.
This year’s jury was obviously trying to revolutionize things after the George Miller-led jury from last year’s fest only bestowed wins to Andrea Arnold for her American Honey screenplay and the Camera d’Or (first feature film) award to French filmmaker Houda Benyaminia for her movie Divines. Last year when Miller was asked about the impact of female directors and stars at the 69th festival, he answered, “Without going into specifics, I don’t remember going to a film and assessing if a woman was in it or not…We were looking at other issues.”
Coppola’s The Beguiled premiered on Wednesday at the Grand Theatre Lumiere, receiving a five-minute standing ovation. The film is based on both Thomas Cullinan’s 1966 novel and the Don Siegel 1971 feature adaptation of that book about an injured Union soldier during the Civil War who takes refuge at a Virginia girls’ school located on the Confederate side. Coppola convinced Universal to pull the film out of their archives as she wanted “to do the version of the same story from a woman’s point of view.” The Beguiled marks Coppola’s third movie with Kirsten Dunst following The Virgin Suicides and Marie Antoinette, the latter winning the Cinema Prize of the French National Education System here at Cannes 11 years ago.
Check out our interview with Coppola above, as well as our interviews with Dunst and Elle Fanning, who both speak about The Beguiled director’s style. Fanning has worked with both father and daughter: She starred in Francis Ford Coppola’s 2011 vampire pic Twixt as well as Sofia’s 2010 drama Somewhere. The Beguiled opens on June 23 in limited release.