Director Jane Campion sorry for comments about Venus and Serena Williams
LOS ANGELES (AFP, NYTIMES) - Oscar front runner Jane Campion apologised on Monday (March 14) to tennis greats Serena and Venus Williams over "thoughtless" comments she made at a Hollywood award ceremony.
While accepting the Critics Choice Award for best director for her gothic Western The Power Of The Dog, the New Zealand film-maker lauded the female talent in the star-studded room, singling out the Williams sisters, who were at the glitzy bash with Will Smith, star of biopic King Richard.
"Serena and Venus, you are such marvels - however you do not play against the guys as I have to," she said.
The comments provoked an immediate backlash, with social media users labelling them sexist and racist. Clips of the quote, along with Venus Williams' crestfallen face, were tweeted and re-tweeted.
Not only did Jane Campion ignore the racism and sexism the Williams sisters face from every corner of an overwhelmingly white sport, but they absolutely compete against men. Hell, Venus was the first female tennis champion to receive a payout equal to her male counterparts. So… pic.twitter.com/jKlxuTg054— Ashley Jordan (@AshActually) March 14, 2022
"'No matter how far we come, we get reminded that it's not enough' - Serena Williams", read one of the top comments on YouTube, where video of the speech was posted.
"The Williams sisters actually have competed against men in the mixed doubles team event," another commenter noted. "For those not familiar with tennis, this is when two teams consisting of one man and one woman compete against each other. So not only is Jane's comment ignorant, it's inaccurate and incorrect."
In her statement on Monday, which was reported by United States media, Campion said that she "did not intend to devalue these two legendary Black women and world-class athletes".
"The fact is the Williams sisters have, actually, squared off against men on the court (and off), and they have both raised the bar and opened doors for what is possible for women in this world. The last thing I would ever want to do is minimise remarkable women," she added.
The furore threatened to overshadow Campion's barnstorming weekend, which also saw her add a Bafta to her grab bag, adding momentum for a best director Oscar.
She has already won a Golden Globe and a Directors Guild of America award for the film, which stars Benedict Cumberbatch as a sexually repressed Montana cowboy.
Voting for the Oscars begins on Thursday, with the grand Academy Awards ceremony itself in Hollywood on March 27.