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Australian director Jennifer Kent (The Babadook), who last year was the lone woman in competition with her film The Nightingale, is no longer able to serve on the Venice Film Festival international competition jury.
Bloggers noticed that the Biennale replaced her name on its site as early as Thursday with that of Canadian helmer Mary Harron (American Psycho), who was originally slated to serve on the Horizons sidebar jury. The Biennale sent out a press release on Saturday with an updated list of all juries stating Kent “cannot make it to Venice.”
Reached for comment, Kent’s representative told Hollywood Reporter, “Due to pressing family matters in Australia, Jennifer regrets that she is unable to attend this year’s Venice Film Festival. As she loves the Venice Festival, which presented two prestigious awards to The Nightingale last year, Jennifer has been very much looking forward to serving on the Competition Jury and hopes to return to the Lido to participate in a future edition of the Festival.”
After facing backlash for two years due to its track record on the number of female directors at the fest, the fest signed a festival gender parity agreement last year. This year there are only two women in competition. The festival has additionally drawn heat for welcoming filmmakers who have been charged with sexual assault: Roman Polanski (who pleaded guilty to statutory rape and has been accused by more women post-#MeToo) and Nate Parker (who was acquitted of charges involving a college rape incident).
After agreeing to serve on the jury, Kent was outspoken in saying that she had hoped there would be more representation at the festival this year. “It brings me no joy,” Kent said in Venice last year. “I wish I had my sister filmmakers here.”
She continued: “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. 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.”
During the 2018 fest, The Nightingale was a huge success, with Kent taking home the special jury prize and actor Baykali Ganambarr winning the Marcello Mastroianni Award for best young actor.
Aug. 25, 11:45 p.m. Updated with Kent’s statement.
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