Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Beyond 'Career'

White Lies: Tuakiri Huna: the book
White Lies|Tuakiri Huna premiered on 27 June. It's a story about three women. And (yes!) it's New Zealand's very own Bechdel Test film. Adapted – from Witi Ihimaera's Medicine Woman novella – and directed by Dana Rotberg, a Mexican director living in New Zealand, it's doing well. Here in Wellington, it's towards the end of its theatrical release. The producer, South Pacific Pictures, is "very pleased", because it "continues to have terrific word-of-mouth which we know has contributed to its extended run at cinemas, both in New Zealand’s main centres and regionally." And White Lies|Tuakiri Huna is off to the Toronto International Film Festival's Contemporary World Cinema programme soon, where it will screen alongside some other interesting women-directed films. Dana Rotberg (Dana, although I've met her only once, very briefly) will travel to Toronto for Q & As following screenings on 9, 11 and 14 September.

The film has also generated a book. It includes three versions of the story – a new White Lies novella from Witi Ihimaera, the original novella, and Dana Rotberg's script. There are also stills from the film, an introduction from South Pacific Pictures' John Barnett ('John' although I don't know him) explaining how he met Dana Rotberg  and gave her a Witi Ihimaera collection to read, notes from Dana and from Witi Ihimaera, a thoughtful collection of acknowledgements from Dana and a full list of cast and crew. For me, it was a solid, fascinating read.

But today, I want to focus on two elements of the book, the Acknowledgments and the Introduction.

I often hear or read that if women are in a majority (on a selection committee, say) or in charge (of a gatekeeping function), things will improve for women artists of various kinds, including scriptwriters and directors for film and television. And every time I read that, I sigh. Because that hasn't been my experience. Most of those who've advocated for me and my own work have been men. Many of those I've observed advocating for women storytellers, as storytellers, have been men. There are a few notable exceptions, but as women, we're all socialised to support golden boys and stories about men.  And within institutions we tend to become part of the patriarchy. This is often necessary, to survive. Some of us bring resistance with us, are highly resilient and strongly supported and may be able to sustain our resistance. Others don't and aren't and can't.

I also sigh when organisation-speak – ‘career’, ‘mentorship’, ‘networking’ – and its associated paradigms dominate discussions about how to ensure that more work by and about women reaches screen audiences. I sigh at their primary focus on paid work, including circumstances where individuals, organisations and systems withhold appropriate payment from artists, in the contexts referred to in this poster, in internships and through illegal downloading.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Min-Young Yoo and 'Cho-De| Invitation' at Venice

Min-Young Yoo with her award

Women's film festivals are increasing their reach. They're collaborating: the International Women's Film Festival Network and many cross-border initiatives like the Belgian fest Elles Tournent's partnership with the first Beijing Women's Film Festival. And all the activity is just as well. This year the gender balance among the directors of Sundance's United States selections is an exception among the big festivals. Women directors are not well-represented even at Venice,  where women directors participated strongly last year.

So it's great to have the opportunity to celebrate a woman director's achievement at a major festival. I was delighted, thanks to translator Rose Chang (then International Business Manager at Indiestory)  to interview  24 year-old Min-Young Yoo whose Cho-De (Invitation) won the Orizzonti YouTube Award for the Best Short Film. She was the only woman director to win a major award at Venice in 2012.

Monday, August 5, 2013

You Cannot Be Serious – Berlinale 2013

Francine Raveney, Mariel Macia, Kate Kinninmont, Melissa Silverstein

Even with the internet, women like me – who live far away from Europe and almost as far from most of Asia and the Americas, and who don't have the money to travel – can sometimes feel uninformed or even isolated. So I was thrilled when I saw that coolwomenandfilm had uploaded a record of You Cannot Be Serious, a meeting of women in film, at this year's Berlinale.

The videos here provide an opportunity to meet so many special activists: Stefanie Görtz from the Dortmund|Cologne International Women's Film Festival; Britta Lengowski from Film und Medien NRW; Silke J Räbiger, director of the Dortmund Cologne IWFF; Kate Kinninmont CEO of WIFT UK (who invites women in the audience to identify themselves by their occupation – there's even one who works in costume!); Francine Hetherington Raveney from EWA, the European Women's Audiovisual Network; Tove Torbiörnsson from the Swedish Film Institute, which has done so much good work for women. And then there's the panel discussion, chaired by Kate Kinninmont, with Mariel Macia from MICA, Mujeres Iberoamericanas del Cine y Medios Audiovisuales, Francine Raveney and Melissa Silverstein from Women & Hollywood and the Athena Film Festival. The International Women's Film Festival Network is a presence, because some of the women are also involved with that and this  reminded me of a post I wrote when the network started up, a year ago.