Skip to main content

Celebrating Activism – Yay!


This year, with half the feature films funded by the New Zealand Film Commission (NZFC) directed by women, it's arguable that discrimination against women directors is in remission here. Though probably not far away. A bit like a herpes virus. Lurking forever within the body, grasping at opportunities to act. Globally, the good gender statistics now available from places like Australia, Sweden and the United States, show that for various reasons including discrimination, women direct far fewer feature films than men.  But the number of women directors of feature films is increasing, slowly. And more quickly in some places. Like the diverse Arab world and its diaspora. Two obvious examples are Nadine Labaki (Caramel, Where Do We Go Now?) and Saudi Arabian Haifaa Al Mansour whose Wadjda attracted a lot of attention at the Venice Film Festival, the first feature written and directed by a Saudi Arabian woman. But there are so many more. Just the other day, Ana Lily Amirpour posted about her A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night: "BIG BIG VERY BIG NEWS– A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is officially partnering with The Woodshed Horror Company! The production company of Elijah Wood, Daniel Noah and Josh C. Waller! Somebody pinch us!" This is how Variety explains the project, which had a marvellous Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign that even Margaret Atwood supported.
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is an Iranian Western about vampires that will mark the feature debut of writer-director Ana Lily Amirpour. The film is described as a love story set in a fictitious Iranian ghost town reeking of death and loneliness, where a strange and jaded population is haunted by a lonesome vampire who preys upon the city's most depraved denizens. The mash-up of genre and culture will include a modern soundtrack of '60s-inspired Western guitar music and Iranian pop."When I first heard about Ana's project, a vampire Western noir, shot in black & white, in Farsi, and utilizing an entirely Iranian soundtrack, I was extremely excited. I then saw her proof-of-concept short and was convinced that this was a film that we'd be proud to be a part of bringing to life," Wood said.  
I can't wait for this film!

When I started work on my PhD, more than six years ago, women directors in New Zealand did not speak publicly about their experience of discrimination, nor about the work choices they had made and were making. And that inspired me to develop New Zealand statistics about the NZFC's development process, which showed where women directors were applying for funds for feature development and production (or not) and where they were being successful (or not). And I learned that it was useful to provide hard data because it helps to identify problems and to stimulate open discussion. But the problems are complex. And finding solutions is very difficult. And that's why the latest post in Women Directors – Navigating the Hollywood Boys' Club is so terrific. "Women Directors Fighting for Parity" is a careful analysis of why the Directors Guild of America's diversity programmes fail, written by Maria Giese, herself a member of the DGA. And she suggests some very useful strategies to resolve aspects of the problems that cause the statistics. My response when I read the article was delight. And I thought about other organisations that support diversity, like the Writers Guild and Women in Film & Television. Perhaps they could benefit from a similar analysis of their programmes, and consider Maria's alternative strategies.

From a distance, it seems that thoughtful, practitioner-based, activism is on the rise on the west coast of the United States and that the various organisations and individuals involved are beginning to link up. It's not a surprise to see that Maria's working with Heidi Honeycutt, from Viscera, another strong activist organisation.  As I mentioned the other day, Bitch Pack's The Bitch List, and the Los Angeles Female Playwrights Initiative are planning to work together. Women Directors – Navigating the Hollywood Boys' Club has connected up with Destri Martino's list of women directors. There's the Anonymous Production Assistant's blog, too, with the Anonymous Production Assistant being a Bitch Pack Advisory Board member. Collectively, all these initiatives and their alliances will enrich problem-solving processes and provide a powerful platform. It's very exciting and I salute their courage and imagination.

And now my reader has sent me her notes on the first draft of my Muriel Rukeyser play. I'm thrilled. And with a March deadline, I need to focus on that, an onstage experiment with media convergence, exploring the conditions which make it possible for women to tell their stories. I'm also writing an entry for one book, about New Zealand women directors, and a chapter for another book, about women screenwriters in New Zealand. (New Zealand writers and directors, please feel free to send me ideas and stories you think I may have missed: wellywoodwoman[at]gmail.com!) And I'm thinking about a short film that investigates obsession, to accompany Interrogating Tinkerbell, which investigated anxiety. So I'm taking a little break to catch up with my creative writer self and to write with my little-used Dr Evans hat on, in a more academic context.

It's hard to do this. Readers of this blog have almost doubled in number over the last couple of months and I love it that by far the largest proportion is based outside New Zealand – thank you for visiting. I'd like to keep the momentum up. And there's so much I want to check out because there are still so many gaps in available knowledge about women who write and direct films. For instance, Beti Ellerson's Center for the Study Of African Women in Cinema provides information about African women filmmakers, but as far as I know, there's nothing similar in English about women filmmakers in Asia and Latin America and the conditions they work in, and I think these women may offer some inspiring models.

But for now, I'm back to Muriel, a poet and activist who speaks to me across the decades (sternly now and then). Back to her onstage mates. And back to where I started, with New Zealand women storytellers on screen. See you on Twitter and Pinterest & tumblr and Facebook now and then! And then back here as soon as I can!

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
Facebook
Twitter A Girl Walks Home
Twitter Ana Lily Amirpour
Indiegogo campaign

Anonymous Production Assistant's blog
Facebook
Twitter

Beti Ellerson's Center for Study and Research of African Women in Cinema site (English and Francais)
African Women in Cinema blog
Facebook
Twitter
(also on Pinterest, Vimeo, Youtube, etc.)

Bitch Pack site Working together for a #betterHollywood
The Bitch List a tally of industry votes for scripts seen in 2012 that pass The Bechdel Test
Facebook
Twitter

Destri Martino site
Pinterest
Twitter

Destri's Mixed Blooms webseries

Los Angeles Women Playwrights Initiative site
blog
Facebook
Twitter

Viscera Organization site
Facebook
Twitter
tumblr

(nb there are different social media accounts for the Viscera Film Festival)

Women Directors: Navigating the Hollywood Boys Club site
Facebook
Twitter


That's The Life of Poetry, not of Poe!

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

'Water Protectors', by Leana Hosea

Leana Hosea's Water Protectors isabout ordinary women in Flint, at Standing Rock and on the Navajo reservation who have had their water poisoned and are at the forefront in the movement for clean water.

Water is a big issue in Aotearoa New Zealand, too– the degradation of our waterways; drinking water contamination; the offshore sale of our pure water; the debate about Maori sovereignty over water, under Te Tiriti o Waitangi/ the Treaty of Waitangi, signed in 1840.  Partly because this has raised my awareness about the significance of access to water, my heart is absolutely with the women in Leana's work. And with Leana, editing through the night as I write this.

Leana is a reporter/producer for BBC's World Service Radio and has held many other roles within the BBC. As a highly experienced multimedia journalist she's originated ideas, fixed stories, written scripts, filmed and edited them.

She was a shoot/edit/reporter/producer for the BBC in Egypt during the revoluti…

Safety in Paradise?

Children play in safety on the beach beyond my window. Some aren't safe at home, but they do not die in rocket attacks. Along our promenade, this year’s most sustained sirens wailed from motorbike cavalcades, as they escorted royalty to and from the airport. At school, our children may arrive hungry. But they're safe from abduction. The closest I’ve ever been to a war is my parents' silence about 'their' war, refuge women's stories about men returned from wars and Bruce Cunningham’s stories, after I met him selling Anzac poppies. (He was a Lancaster pilot in World War II and then a prisoner-of-war and I’m making a short doco about him.)

Yes, in many ways Wellington, New Zealand is paradise and I’m blessed to live here and to benefit from love and generosity from women and men, my beautiful sons now among those men. But in an interview with Matthew Hammett Knott earlier this year, I found myself saying–
We have to deal with serial violation, direct and subtle, on…

The NZ International Film Festival – 1. New Zealand Women

The Context
This week, the United Nations women's agency, UN Women, joined forces with activist and Academy Award-winning actor Geena Davis, to support the first global study of how women and girls are portrayed in family films. The study will examine the top-grossing international movies in Australia, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Russia, Spain and the United Kingdom. According to Geena Davis, the current dearth of female characters of substance in family films means that children are being taught that girls and women 'don't take up half of the space in the world'. And for Lakshimi Puri, acting head of UN Women:
Gender representation in film influences the perception of women and girls, their self-esteem and the relationships between the sexes... We cannot let the negative depiction of women and girls erode the hard gains that have been made on gender equality and women's empowerment.Also this week, in a  report for CNN, Melissa Silverstein of Women &…