US actress Annette Bening said Wednesday she believes women are making progress in the movie industry, despite only one female-directed film making it into the competition selection at Venice, where she is chairing the awards jury.
"There is sexism of course, no question. But I think things are changing," the Hollywood star said on the opening day of the latest edition of the festival, where China's Vivian Qu, with "Angels Wear White" is the only woman among 21 directors competing for its top prize, the Golden Lion.
"I was so thrilled to be asked to be here so I didn't count the number of films that were accepted that were directed by women," Bening said.
"They (the organisers) watched 2,000 films -- can you imagine what that would be like? So no, I didn't approach it in that way."
Bening was speaking while sitting next to Festival director Alberto Barbera, who was hit with a fierce social media backlash overnight after appearing to play down the lack of women being showcased at the 74th edition of the world's oldest film festival.
"I don't think it is our fault, we are not producing films," Barbera was quoted as saying, prompting the Hollywood Reporter to observe that the festival was in danger of appearing like "yesterday's old boys club."
The lack of films made by women at major festivals was highlighted earlier this year when Nicole Kidman and Jessica Chastain spoke out over the under-representation of female directors in the official selection at Cannes.
Bening said women had to be "very sharp and shrewd and creative ourselves about what we choose to make as films," if the gender balance was to be improved.
"Most people that I know whether they are veterans or newcomers, whether they are men or women, most people struggle to get their movies made," she added.
"It's a long road. We have a long way to go in terms of parity in production, directors, writers, actresses appearing in film festivals, and all that but I think the direction that we are going in is positive."