Saturday, May 3, 2014

Who Will Speak These Days, If Not I, If Not You?

It's been a while. I've been writing an essay for a book: Women Screenwriters: An International Guide, edited by Jill Nelmes and Jule Nelbo, to be published by Palgrave Macmillan. I had to catch up with New Zealand women's screenwriting for features, and I've been wholly absorbed with that. What an amazing and talented and diverse group our women screenwriters are, and very generous with their time, answering my questionnaire, expanding on their responses by email, phone and in person. Asking me questions. I learned lots. Today's most interesting women screenwriter facts? In the last decade 14 percent of New Zealand Film Commission-funded feature films had female protagonists. But over 70 percent of my respondents' feature film scripts had female protagonists. Questionnaires are still coming in and I'll take another look at them all in a future post. Many thanks to Katalin Galambos for her help with the stats.

Now the chapter's done, except for editing conversations, and I'm back. With news of four books. And a poem. Like writing that chapter, in their various ways they remind me of Muriel Rukeyser's question in her poem The Speed of Darkness, which I've used as the title of this post. And of Jacqui Scott's involvement in courageous campaigns against the (ab)use of vaginal mesh and in a personal campaign to fund removal of the mesh inserted into her after she was raped.



First up– Celluloid Ceiling; Women Film Directors Breaking Through, edited by Gabrielle Kelly and Cheryl Robson, who both work in film, so it's not an 'academic' book. I'm still reading this and hope to interview the editors before too long. So far, I've most enjoyed a reprinted Ana Maria Bahiana interview with Kathryn Bigelow (from 1992). Look out for Sophie Mayer's review, forthcoming over at The F Word.


Then there's Bridget Conor's Creative Labor and Professional Practice. I haven't it yet seen but am looking forward to a careful read. It "analyzes the histories, practices, identities and subjects which form and shape the daily working lives of screenwriters" and includes a chapter on inequalities. Bridget's a New Zealander, whose earlier analysed the political economy of the New Zealand film industry and the ‘runaway production’ phenomenon in the context of the filming of The Lord of The Rings trilogy.


I read some of Helen Rickerby's Cinema in Unity Books and loved it. Am debating whether to buy these poems and probably will, though I own only a couple of dozen books and rarely buy them. Here's Paula Green's review, which is better than anything I could write.



Then there's Snakes' I Hate Plot. 'Snakes' is New Zealand filmmaker Rachel Davies and I Hate Plot is astonishing and breathtaking and gave great thumps to my heart. I read it in a single gulp and decided that Rachel is New Zealand's Nora Ephron, but without anxiety about how her neck looks. The title story alone is a must read for any woman with connections to the film 'world'. I think I Hate Plot is an instant classic, and now it's forever grouped in my mind with Virginia Woolf's A Room of Her Own and Tillie Olsen's Silences and Audre Lorde's Sister Outsider. You can download a Kindle edition for free until Monday (U.S time). But if you want to read any of these books, why not order them from your local bookshop?

Finally, Fiona Lovatt's #bringbackourgirls poem. Fiona lives and works in Nigeria and is one of my heroines. Another New Zealander.

Night After Night

Night after night after night
They drop the K: no knights.
No chivalry. No rescue.

Night after night after night
The girls remain in the forest
While submarines sweep the ocean
Searching for a black box.

Night after night after night
Women's stories, women's lives
Rank as nothing without heels

So we wear red today
We march today
We weep today
We ask today for
Knight after knight

To saddle up



2 comments:

  1. I've got a chapter in Celluloid Ceiling, the Europe chapter. I hope it isn't boring! :)

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  2. Hi Heidi, haven't reached the Europe section yet and am hugely looking forward to getting there and reading your 'A Century of Mädchen: Femmes and Frauen in Facist, New Wave, and Contemporary European Cinema'! (I've been a bit worried too, that my scriptwriting chapter might be boring!)

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