On a magical evening during the Toronto International Film Festival, Ossington’s La Banane played host to Chanel and Variety’s inaugural Female Filmmaker Dinner. The intimate soirée honoured actress and Chanel ambassador Keira Knightley for her exceptional work in film. “She’s always been a trailblazer and a feminist, and has spoken out for issues that are important to women. She represents an empowered woman in Hollywood,” explains Variety’s New York bureau chief Ramin Setoodeh, who also gave a speech thanking the English actress for being a leader and advocate for female visibility in front of and behind the camera.
The dinner was abuzz with top talent in town for the world-class film festival, with friends of the brand Elizabeth Olsen, Pom Klementieff, Sofia Boutella, and Charlotte Cardin all donning pristine getups from Chanel’s latest collections. Other notable guests in attendance included Big Little Lies star Alexander Skarsgård, Kindergarten Teacher’s Gael García Bernal, and French film director Eva Husson.
Inside the kitchen, La Banane’s head chef extraordinaire and co-owner Brandon Olsen prepared a delicious menu featuring some of the restaurant’s signature and food critic–approved dishes, such as the eurobass en croûte, albacore tuna, and of course, the must-have dessert and Olsen’s masterpiece, the Ziggy Stardust Disco Egg.
In a year that felt like a turning point for women in film, Knightley’s latest and incredibly timely film, Collette, explores the real-life story of French novelist Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, who became the ghostwriter of her husband’s novel, which went on to become a bestseller. The triumph of her husband’s book prompted the young novelist to fight for creative ownership at a time when strong female voices were discouraged, and went virtually unheard as a result. The career trajectory and life of the heroine at the centre of the Wash Westmoreland–directed film—which took an astonishing 15 years to make—inadvertently parallels Gabrielle Chanel’s own artistic path and feminist spirit, as both women challenged societal conventions in their respective fields and defied gender roles on their road to recognition and success.
When asked why Colette took such a long time to make, Knightley admits that the public was simply not ready for a film with such a strong female narrative. “It’s a story of female empowerment, and 15 years ago, we were all being told feminism didn’t need to exist. Thankfully, the discourse is changing, and we’re acknowledging that women’s voices are still not being heard, and that there still isn’t 50 percent representation,” explains the English actress.
As the evening drew to a close, the shift that Knightley so elegantly articulated was indeed present in the room: women in film—and some gents as well—from around the world banding together to stand up for inclusion, equity, and films that empower.
Photographed by Shayne Laverdière