Tuesday, January 31, 2012

French women directors: the great news & the not-so-great

Maïwenn after she received the Prix du Jury, Cannes 2011 
The nominees for the French Césars have been announced. Unlike this year's nominations for the American Oscars, these acknowledge women's work. Directors Valérie Donzelli (La Guerre Est Déclarée, France's submission for the Best Foreign Language Academy Award) and Maïwenn (Polisse, winner of the Jury Prize at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival and best director at the Lumiere Awards, France’s equivalent to the Golden Globes, voted upon by foreign press correspondents in the territory) are two of seven directors nominated for Best Director. That's 28%, pretty good, and their films are also nominated for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay. There are only five nominations for Best Original Screenplay, so the gender proportion there is stronger: 40% (Valérie Donzelli co-wrote with Jérémie Elkaïm and Maïwenn co-wrote with Emmanuelle Bercot). Polisse has the highest number of nominations for any film: 13. And the Césars have a First Film category, where women directors are even more strongly represented: out of five nominations, three of the films have women directors: Delphine Coulin and Muriel Coulin (17 Filles); Alix Delaporte (Angèle Et Tony) and Eva Ionesco (My Little Princess). Yasmina Adi is the only nominee of five in the doco category (20%), for her Ici, On Noie les Algériens/ Here We Drown Algerians, about 17 October 1961 in Paris, when the National Liberation Front organized a rally for the independence of Algeria. Maurice Papon, the chief of police of Paris at the time, gave orders to quell the demonstration, and as a result dozens of dead bodies were found in the river Seine. When I look at the trailers for these films, I'm delighted by the presence of women in them. But alongside my delight, and as I warmly congratulate the nominees on their successes, I'm saddened by something new I've learned about gender and French film funding.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Celebration at Sundance!

Women's films have done wonderfully well in the Sundance Awards. Ava DuVernay has just won the Directing Award for United States Film: Dramatic, with her second feature in two years, Middle of Nowhere. She's the first African-American woman ever to win this award.  Lauren Greenwood won the Directing Award for United States Film: Documentary, with The Queen of Versailles. Alison Klayman's Ai Wewei: Never Sorry won a Special Jury Prize. Maria White won the Short Film Audience Award with The Debutante Hunters. The Finally, the World Cinema Screenwriting Award went to Young and Wild, available on MUBI and directed by Marialy Rivas (Chile), who co-wrote the screenplay with Camila Gutierrez and two men.

Lucy Walker had already won the Jury Prize in Short Film Non-Fiction The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom (and is also an Oscar nominee). Blerta Zeqiri's The Return/Kthimi won the Jury Prize in Short Film, International Fiction, and Brie Larson, Sarah Ramos, Jessie Ennis won a Special Jury Award for Comedic Story-Telling with The Arm. (Thanks to Kyna Morgan at HerFilm for the info re this group of awards.)

Warm congratulations to all these women storytellers! (I know there are also women producers of other award-winners, but storytellers are the usual focus here: I hope I haven't missed any of the directors/screenwriters, and that you'll tell me if I have!)

Here's the Middle of Nowhere trailer, and a Sundance interview with Ava DuVernay, one of my heroes, who also founded the African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement (AFFRM), which will distribute Middle of Nowhere in the United States, with Participant Media.*

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Women directors in Foreign Language Academy Award submissions

Last year, women directed, or co-directed, nine of the sixty-five films submitted for the Foreign Language Academy Award (14%). They wrote and directed only four (6%). And I thought and wrote about that. And Susanne Bier won the award with her In A Better World.

This year women directed ten of the sixty-three films submitted (16%) and wrote and directed three (4.75%): Leticia Tonos wrote and directed Love Child, Athina Rachel Tsangari wrote and directed Attenberg and Juanita Wilson wrote and directed As If I Am Not There. Others directed another writer's screenplay, or co-wrote their screenplays—usually with men—although Pernilla August co-wrote Beyond with Lolita Ray. Here are the trailers, in alphabetical order by the directors' first names. Now I've watched them, I want to see ALL these films, and am glad some are available on MUBI. Which one would you most like to see? Is it time for a major international women filmmakers award, to celebrate films like these and encourage investors to fund more of them?

Agnieszka Holland's In Darkness from Poland