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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

wtf: Sofia Coppola wins the Golden Lion, and so it must be favoritism?

Really? Sofia Coppola’s new film, Somewhere — about which I know absolutely nothing; I didn’t even know she had a new film on offer — just won the Golden Lion, the highest award the Venice Film Festival can bestow. That means the jury thought it was the best film at the festival. When I heard the news, I thought: Cool, a woman filmmaker won. Coppola is not the first woman to win the award, but she’s certainly part of a tiny female minority.

I haven’t seen the film and, as I said, I know nothing about it, and I absolutely, positively have no desire to see a female filmmaker gain acclaim if her film isn’t worth it. That wouldn’t help any feminist causes at all. No artist wants an asterisk next to her name: A director wants to be known as a Best Director, not as a Best Female Director. And I think most creative people feel similarly. So I’m giving the Venice Film Festival jury the benefit of the doubt here, in that I’m assuming that they actually did believe Somewhere was the best film of the festival, and it just happens to have been made by a woman.
But obviously, not everyone feels the same way. Because almost instantly on the heels of the news of Coppola’s win came grumblings that she only won because the jury president was Quentin Tarantino. Whom she once dated. Never mind that the decision of the jury, most of whom did not know Coppola, was unanimous. Never mind that festival juries are frequently made up of people — actors, directors, other industry insiders — who are acquainted, or more, with the people they’re judging. Never mind that Coppola likely only has a career as a filmmaker in the first place because her father is Francis Ford Coppola.

Hollywood is overrun with nepotism. It’s how the industry runs. You’re far more likely to have a career of any sort in Hollywood if you’ve got insider connections. Insider connections are a huge part of what makes Hollywood operate. It sucks. It makes it harder for those with talent but no insider connections to get that first lucky break. But it’s how it works, for now. If we’re going to complain about it, why is this where it’s starting, with Sofia Coppola’s Golden Lion?

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