[The following story contains spoilers from The Nightingale.]
At a Venice Film Festival press screening on Wednesday night for Jennifer Kent’s The Nightingale, which is the only Venice competition entry directed by a woman, an Italian film blogger shouted obscenities at the screen while the credits rolled, screaming, "Shame on you!," calling the director a variation on the word “prostitute” and another lewd comment, according to people in attendance.
The Nightingale tells the story of a young Irish girl in 1825 who chases a British officer through the Tasmanian wilderness, bent on revenge. The film is full of violent and traumatic imagery.
Prior to the insult against the director, the audience applauded the death of a bad English character in the movie. But when an Aboriginal character is also killed, the audience cheered and applauded to equal measure, prompting many on Twitter to question the racial sensitivities of the press audience toward a film which so clearly deals with complex racial issues.
At a Thursday press conference, Kent was asked to comment on the "violent racist and sexist reactions" to the otherwise very well-received movie. “I think it’s of absolute importance to react with compassion and love for ignorance,” she responded. “There is no other option. I think the film speaks very clearly to that. We see other options played out, and they give no relief."
Kent continued: “This is my point. This is why I feel very proud of my film and very proud of my actors and my crew for daring to tell a story that needs to be told in 2018."
She added: “We are in a very precarious position in the world and qualities that we might see as nice qualities — love, compassion, kindness — they are our lifeline, and if we don’t utilize them, we will all go down the plughole."
The shouting offender later apologized on Facebook, asking people not to judge all journalists in Italy as sexist for his outburst, but was asked in comments if he would have screamed such comments at a male filmmaker.
“It brings me no joy," Kent said of being the only female filmmaker in the Venice competition. “I wish I had my sister filmmakers here,” she added.
"I hope that each one of us can find us a more balanced masculine feminine within ourselves as well. I think there are others that are underrepresented as well. It’s not just women," she continued. "It’s indigenous filmmakers, filmmakers of color, filmmakers from developing countries, filmmakers who don’t identify as cisgender, male, female. We still have a long way to go."
The Venice Film Festival is facing just one more scandal after reports of sexism have rocked the Lido after only one competition film was selected from a woman for the second year in a row.
Earlier in the week, a fame-seeking producer walked the red carpet wearing a “Weinstein is Innocent” T-shirt. And the fest begrudgingly signed the festival gender parity agreement, saying that it already did everything included in the pact, so it was largely symbolic.
Jury president Guillermo del Toro made a call to reach 50/50 gender parity by 2020 at the start of the festival, and director Jacques Audiard called out Venice for not doing more to include female directors in the lineup.
The festival later called the Nightingale incident "regrettable" and responded that the offender's press accreditations have been revoked.