Michelle Yeoh played Burmese pro-democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi, in The Lady (2010), directed by Luc Besson Photo: UniFrance
After winning the Oscar for Best Actress for superhero comedy Everything Everywhere All At Once at the Academy Awards, Michelle Yeoh will be strutting her stuff at the Cannes Film Festival as the latest recipient of the 2023 Women in Motion Award, sponsored by luxury brand Kering.
Michelle Yeoh: "It’s vital that women - in front of the camera and behind it - keep playing roles and telling stories that reflect the diversity and complexity of the world.” Photo: UniFrance
Born in Malaysia, Yeoh was first person of south-east Asian descent to win the Best Actress Oscar, for her role as laundromat manager Evelyn Wang, who stumbles across a 'multiverse' of alternative realities.
Yeoh defeated strong competition for the Oscar, including Cate Blanchett for Tár and Michelle Williams for The Fabelmans. Previous recipients of the Women in Motion Award include Jane Fonda, Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon, Isabelle Huppert, Patty Jenkins, Salma Hayek and, last year, Viola Davis.
François-Henri Pinault, Chairman and CEO of Kering, Iris Knobloch, President of the Festival de Cannes, and Thierry Frémaux, Director of the Festival de Cannes, have chosen to pay tribute to Yeoh's career. The award will be presented during the official Women In Motion dinner to honour women in cinema. Since its launch during the Festival in 2015, the initiative has been rewarding and highlighting the creativity and unique contribution made by women in culture and the arts.
An actress and producer of international repute, Yeoh has been noted for upturning conventions for decades. “By portraying complex, determined women on screen, she has helped to challenge gender and age-related stereotypes in the film industry,” says a media release from Kering.
Michelle Yeoh: "“By portraying complex, determined women on screen, she has helped to challenge gender and age-related stereotypes …” Photo: Kering
For her performance in Everything Everywhere All At Once, she won a Golden Globe and the Academy Award for Best Actress. When taking the stage to accept these awards, Yeoh memorably said: “I believe that times are changing. There is much more inclusivity. There is more diversity. Look at me. I've been in this business for 40 years and I finally get to be number one on the call sheet. It just shows that if you believe in yourself, if you believe, and you have passion in what you do, you don't give up.” And she added, as a nod to some of her great roles: “Whatever that glass ceiling was, we just ninja-kicked it out, we shattered it… We are at a crossroads. Change has already begun.”
Yeoh said she was “very moved” to receive the new award. “I’m convinced that times are changing; public awareness has certainly grown in recent years. It’s vital that women - in front of the camera and behind it - keep playing roles and telling stories that reflect the diversity and complexity of the world.”
Thierry Frémaux, Director of the Festival de Cannes, concluded “We are thrilled to be honouring Michelle Yeoh, an actress who is passionately dedicated to her films and has made her mark on the industry in so many different ways, and who we had the great pleasure of welcoming to the jury of the Festival de Cannes in 2002. Throughout her career, she has relentlessly explored new possibilities - to the point where this has become her trademark for a large international audience. The awards she is receiving are simply the inevitable outcome of this exceptional journey.”