Interview with Jane Campion

Véronique Le Bris
Véronique Le Bris

Meeting with Jane Campion

Jane Campion was the guest of honor at the Antipodes Festival which took place this last October in Saint Tropez, France—paying tribute to New Zealand cinema. She received an award, the Top of Tasman Award for her entire career, and inaugurated this 20th edition by presenting two films: Peel, for which she received the Palme d'Or short film at the Cannes Film Festival in 1986, and her first feature film Sweetie.

EWA Network blogger Véronique Le Bris met with Jane Campion

What does this Antipodes Festival represent for you?

My film Holy Smoke was shown in 1999, but I could not be there. It is still a very long trip to Europe from New Zealand. I try to come given that my career took off in France.

What do you mean?

Pierre Rissient - filmmaker and discoverer of talents who died on May 6, 2018 (editor’s note) - whose memory I saluted at the inauguration, gave me my shot by selecting my graduation film Peel, then Sweetie at the Cannes Festival. This is how it all began.

You are one of the rare women director to receive awards, such as winning two Palmes d'Or, an Oscar, or awards in Venice, and to be considered by the critics[ECF1] . How does it make you feel?

It makes me uncomfortable. In this world, women’s voices are not given enough importance, though I don’t just blame the film industry or critics for that. This is a problem that goes far beyond the cinema industry, even if our world is far from being spared. When 93% of films are made by men and this percentage has not increased since the beginning of film-making, we cannot remain at ease.

How can this situation be changed?

I think after #metoo, it will no longer be possible to ignore women. We want to hear what they want and what they think! Women are a wealth of the world. “Me” and “too” are the first two words I pronounced as a child. I wanted to have everything my big sister had and I used to say “Me too, me too,” all the time! On a more serious note, I was at the Golden Globes ceremony—hearing these women speak up and demand equality, made me feel like for the first time something was really happening.

To speak up, to claim, is it enough?

We are facing a historic turning point. And we will never go back. We must work, rush into the now open doors and use this energy to build on. Just do it! Just go for it! On the film sets I worked on lately, we were surprised to see the teams’ gender ratios not mixed enough. This is especially true on television, less in cinema which is a more conservative field.

Are there many female directors in New Zealand?

Probably more than elsewhere. On the other hand, it is men who retain financial power.

You have always claimed a feminine view in your films. Has this complicated the financing for some of them?

Being a woman is very important to me. And I do not want to be bullied or abused because of my sex. But, this is not a claim! I express my sensitivity and it turns out to be feminine. This has never been a handicap for my producers who have always liked my scripts and found the necessary money for me to do my films.

Has Hollywood solicited you, offered more money?

But that's not what I want to do! On the other hand, it is important not to neglect film finance. For me, it was financial reasons that drove Weinstein and the others down. They collapsed before being annihilated by women.

That is to say?

TV shows such as The Handmaid's Tale, Big Little Lies or mine, Top of the Lake, all address the complexity of the relationship between the two sexes and the difference in women's feelings. They have had success and received awards. I think the public is bored watching works with alpha males. Even men are fed up! If producers continue to ignore the female point of view, they will eventually lose their audience. Which is what matters. This is the right time for women.

You say that writing male characters is not easy for you. Is this why you collaborate with Gerard Lee?

He is my oldest friend and we share the same sense of humor. He is the most surprising and least ambitious person I know. Yet, he is much more "girly" than I am! I struggle to write male roles as they’re usually stemming from patriarchal structures, the same way I am wary of stereotyping female characters.

Would you go so far as to write a movie with a central male character?

Yes, I would, and will. And it will be in my next film. Now that the #meetoo movement has allowed other women to express themselves, I feel more free to put a man at the center of my next film.