The filmmaker accepted Critics Choice Award and called the tennis champ sisters “marvels” before adding, “You don’t play against the guys, like I have to.”
What could have been a global celebratory moment for The Power of the Dog director Jane Campion has caused the filmmaker to be the subject of ridicule. Over the weekend, hundreds of stars descended on the 2022 Critics Choice Awards as several applauded films were honored. Campion and her film are considered to be Academy Award frontrunners this season, but her remarks during this most recent ceremony lit up the internet.
The Power of the Dog took home the trophy for Best Director at this year’s Critic’s Choice Awards, and it was Campion’s speech—or what she said about Serena and Venus Williams—that rubbed people the wrong way.
“It’s absolutely stunning to be here tonight among so many incredible women,” said the director before turning her attention to the winner of the SeeHer Award. “Halle Berry, you have already done my speech…and really killed it. I loved it. You’re absolutely brilliant.” The Williams sisters were there supporting their acclaimed film about their father, King Richard, starring Will Smith.
“What an honor to be in the room with you,” said Campion to the Williams’ as she beamed through her speech. “I’ve taken up tennis — I truly have — and Will, if you want to come over and give me lessons, I would truly love it. I actually had to stop playing because I’ve got tennis elbow.” She then recognized the other contenders in her category, highlighting that she faced off against all-male directors.
“Venus and Serena, you’re such marvels,” Campion added. “However, you don’t play against the guys, like I have to.”
It seemed like a passing statement but as soon as the clip of the speech hit the internet, Campion became a talking point throughout several platforms. She quickly made headlines, as well, as people accused her of dismissing the obstacles that the Williams sisters have faced in their careers as two Black girls from Compton entering a sport that has seen few Black players—and not only excelling but managing to dominate. Also, they have faced off with their male peers on the court, as well.
Campion caught hold of the criticism and according to the Los Angeles Times, returned with an apology.
“I made a thoughtless comment equating what I do in the film world with all that Serena Williams and Venus Williams have achieved,” Campion reportedly said. “I did not intend to devalue these two legendary Black women and world-class athletes.”