Monday, July 30, 2012

A Golden Age For Women Who Make Movies? (1)

This is based on  a study done by the USC Annenberg School for Communications & Journalism and comes from Equality Myth
This wonderful infographic illustrates some of the complex problems that face those of us who want to enhance our lives with more films by and about women. It's a call to action. But sometimes it's difficult to unpick the problem and find spaces where it's possible to make change. So I was delighted when I fell over Kurt Andersen's A Golden Age For Women in Hollywood? podcast and text summary at Studio 360, with extended interviews with Sarah Polley and Lynn Shelton. Collectively the post is a fine update on the current state-of-the-play for women filmmakers. But it also provides a possible vision for the future. I've never cross-posted before, but Studio 360 kindly gave me permission, and here it is below.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

New Zealand Update 1: Women Directors


Pietra Brettkelly Oasis image
I'm a sucker for What Happened Next. Everyone I interview or write about interests and excites me, and this John Psathas tweet inspired me to gather together updates about New Zealand women directors, which I've been collecting for a wee while.


Here they are, under links to the earlier posts. Some directors have nothing they want to share at the mo.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Men's docos about women at NZ International Film Festival

Edith Collier Counting the Catch St Ives ca 1918-1921 (Ta Papa Tongarewa image)
Here's the final instalment of films by and about women in the New Zealand International Film Festival: men's documentary films about women.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Women-directed docos about men at NZ International Film Festival

Still Maori Boy Genius
Following on from yesterday's Documentary films by & about women--

More details and bookings through the New Zealand International Film Festival site.

1. Pietra Brettkelly's Maori Boy Genius is a coming of age film about Ngaa Rauuira Pumanawawhiti, an astonishing 16 year old. It debuted at the Berlinale earlier this year. It is a must-see, the followup to Pietra's highly successful The Art Star and the Sudanese Twins, and has just had two sold-out screenings at the Sydney Film Festival. (NB This is not the same film as the one you may have seen on television.) Maori Boy Genius is edited by Molly Stensgaard, known as Lars Von Trier's favorite editor.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Documentary films by & about women at NZ International Film Festival

Still from The Red House
Last night's 7 earthquake was unsettling. And misogyny is in the air. Aaron Sorkin's woman problem for instance. And the distressing online abuse of women in the gaming world. I've been following the current battles there because gaming's an ever-growing and powerful segment of the storytelling world. As well, it's an excellent source of information about the likely beliefs which underlie the misogyny that exists in all other story-telling systems, where it tends to be expressed more subtly and less publicly. Today I felt very tired by it all. And for a moment there I forgot about the good things.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Women-directed features at NZ International Film Festival (2, features)


When people ask me why films by women writers and directors matter, I find it quickest and easiest to respond with Jane Campion's classic question: "Women may be 50% of the population but they gave birth to the whole world. Why wouldn't we want to know what they think and feel?" And this year, I've decided that because I so much want to know what women think and feel I'm going to watch only movies that women have directed, for twelve months. I do believe that men can write women and direct women just as women can write and direct men but I want to challenge myself to commit to films women write and direct to see how I'm entertained, educated, stimulated and nourished (or not).

This is difficult. I love some men's films and learn a lot from them. I'm envious of a mate's New Zealand International Film Festival (NZFF) list, filled with movies men directed which I'd like to see. I'm going to cheat a bit, watch a couple of films men directed which have women as central characters (and if you see someone who looks like me at the animation sessions, please pretend it's not). But I'm thrilled that some of the NZFF women-directed features are among those I've longed to see. And now will see,  in my very own women's film festival, courtesy of the NZFF. Starting with Existence.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Women-directed films at NZIFF (part1); & Cannes Film Festival (part4)

Helen Mirren at the Karlovy Vary Festival
Distinguished actors advocate for 'women's' films in a variety of ways and I love their activism. There's Geena Davis, with her Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media. There's Judi Dench with Daniel Craig in Sam Taylor-Wood's celebrated We Are Equals clip (below), which – like Geena Davis' work – links 'women's' story-telling on film to wider gender issues. At least once a year, Meryl Streep reminds the world that there's a big audience for 'women's films', as she did the other day, referring to the $1.6 billion paid to see five 'little' women's films in the last five years (three of them starring her) and to the "shocking underrepresentation of women in our business". And now, at the Czech Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, Helen Mirren. Accepting a lifetime achievement award last week, she said: "I don’t know how many female directors are presenting their films in this festival. I very much doubt that it’s 50%" and added that, should she return to Karlovy Vary in five years, she’d want to see at least 50% of the films at the festival being presented by women directors.

Between them, these actors cover many of 'gender' problems that affect the films we see in cinemas and at festivals: the under-representation of women behind the camera; the under-representation and misrepresentation of women in front of the camera; funders' unwillingness to invest in films by, about, and for women; gender imbalances at festivals; the societal context that affects all of these things. And they highlight the essential complexity that underlies even a brief discussion about the issues: what 'women's' filmmaking means. Does it mean films about women that are made for a 'women's' audience, as Meryl Streep implies (and who does the 'women's audience' include, given our diversity?) Does it mean films by women, that women write and direct, like those that Helen Mirren wants to see? When is the by, about and for combination necessary, and when is it less important? No wonder many conversations get bogged down.