|Helen Mirren at the Karlovy Vary Festival|
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.
I'm becoming more and more interested in the roles of those who affect what's shown at major festivals: agents and marketing and public relations people and others who advocate for specific films and who influence the selectors' decisions, all of them working quietly away from the public eye. The stakes are high and of course dodgy things happen. For instance, Sydney Levine (who also had a very interesting series of interviews with industry professionals at Cannes 2012) recently translated and cross-posted an article from Le Monde, about a possible confict of interest involving the President of the 2012 Jury, Nanni Moretti.
Le Pacte Reality co-produced Nanni Moretti's last film Habemus Papam. It is run by Jean Labadie, ex-owner of Bac Films which, before Le Pacte was founded in 2008, was the historical distributor of films of Nanni Moretti in France. And four of six films awarded by the 2012 jury were co-productions with and/or distributed by Le Pacte: Reality, The Angels' Share, Post Tenebras Lux, and Beyond the Hills; a fifth Le Pacte feature film also appeared in the official competition: The Taste of the Money. Maybe Le Pacte is consistently producing more superb films by men than other producers do. Or maybe not. But I think that those of us who want to resolve the complex problem of under-representation of women directors at major film festivals may need to address a few more issues than we have in the past.
In the meantime, the New Zealand International Film Festival (NZFF) has launched its programme. It includes Reality, The Angels' Share, Beyond the Hills and The Taste of the Money: a useful reminder that success breeds success. Sadly, it doesn't include any of the women's work from Cannes' Un Certain Regard, its new talent section, a useful option if the festival is serious about showing films made by women.
But this year, it's exciting that New Zealand women directors are strongly represented in the NZFF local short film programmes. This makes me hopeful for the future and I can't wait to see them all! Of the six short films in competition for New Zealand's Best Short Film Award (selected by Roger Donaldson) women directed three: Zia Mandviwalla's Night Shift, Marina Alofagia McCartney's Milk & Honey (about the infamous dawn raids) and Michelle Savill's Ellen Is Leaving, written by Martha Hardy-Ward. Women directed five of the seven Ngā Whanaunga Māori Pasifika Shorts, Libby Hakaraia's Lawnmower Men of Kupu, Briar Grace-Smith's Nine of Hearts, Justine Simei-Barton and Nikki Si'ulepa's Snow in Paradise, written by Nikki, Chantelle Burgoyne's Tatau and Louise Leitch's Whakatiki, written by Bernadette Murphy.
In the last few years, the NZFF has not had a high proportion of women-directed feature films and documentaries. I did the numbers re women-directed features scheduled for Wellington (different cities have slightly different programmes) in 2010 (13%) and 2011 (12.5%). And I've checked them again now, thanks to the online resource that the NZFF provides, which is excellent. (I especially like to be able to click on the little calendar for a day's programme; and to search for something away from the site and then click back precisely to the place I left from on the relevant page, instead of back to the top of that page.) This year's gender share is the best to date (just): women directed eleven out of seventy-eight features, just over 14%. And, exciting for me-as-audience, there are some features I didn't already know about, possibly because they haven't reached the social media platforms I'm familiar with. Here are the trailers for Valerie Massadian's Nana, Alice Rohrwacher's Corpo Celeste, Julia Loktev's The Loneliest Planet (for which I couldn't find an English trailer, but I found this interview interesting) and Ursula Meier's Sister, which you can read more about here.
Tomorrow, the women-directed features that I had already heard about!
PS When looking for more on Helen Mirren in Czechoslovakia, I came across this clip where she discusses women directors and cinematographers. I liked it so much that I wanted to share!
Judi Dench and Daniel Craig, by Sam Taylor-Wood for Annie Lennox's We Are Equals campaign!
More on women-directed features at NZFF (documentaries)