Women’s stories this week


Since I read an article in The Guardian newspaper in October written by director Carol Morley on her newest film, Dreams of a Life, I’ve been haunted by the story and following Morley’s film as best I can.  I wrote a short piece here a couple of months back.  Morley’s documentary focuses on the mysterious life and enigmatic subject of Joyce Carol Vincent, a woman who died in her small London flat, only to be found three years later, nearly mummified.  How did it happen? Why? Who was Joyce Carol Vincent?  Carol Morley’s film is being released in cinemas in the U.K. today.

Check out the following links for more information on her and her film, Dreams of a Life:

SCREENING DATES (through March, 2012):  http://dreamsofalife.com/screenings

Website: http://dreamsofalife.com/

Twitter:  @_CarolMorley  and  @DreamsofaLifeUK

Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/DreamsofaLife

Dogwoof (distributor):  http://dogwoof.com/films/dreams-of-a-life



Some of you may have been following the recent developments with regard to the Producers Guild of America’s (PGA) stipulations about accepting English-language only films for awards considerations.  Karin Chien, producer of many films, including the recent Circumstance by director Maryam Keshavarz, has taken issue with this given the complicated production and financing realities of film today.  During the debate surrounding this issue, Angelina Jolie’s film, In the Land of Blood and Honey (her directorial debut) received a major award from the PGA despite the fact that the film is in the Bosnian language.  Karin indicated to me in a tweet about my asking “why?” that celebrities can often get around these rules.  I wonder how often this happens?

Check out the following links to catch up on what’s happening.

Karin Chien wrote a piece for the Huffington Post on Dec. 13:

An Open Letter to the Producers Guild of America – by Karin Chien

(Chien’s letter was also released by Filmmaker Magazine.)

Indiewire posts an article with a response:

PGA Responds to ‘Circumstance’ Producer, Says Rules Will Be Revisited

Marian Evans of Wellywood Woman posted a stellar interview with Karin Chien on Dec. 14 talking about Asian film, women filmmakers in Asia and Chien’s distribution company dGenerate Films.  Check out Marian’s piece: “Karin Chien: Producer & Distributor Extraordinaire” and follow her project, “Development,” on Facebook and Twitter @devt.

You can follow Karin Chien on Twitter, too: @producerkarin and @dgeneratefilms.



At the recent Dubai Film Connection and the Dubai International Film Festival, proper, several women received top awards for their films. Among them are:

Susan Youssef – Habibi Rasak Kharban (Darling There’s Something Wrong with your Head) / Best Arab Feature, Duba International Film Festival

Dalila EnnadreWhen Home Becomes Hell / DIFF Award for Documentary

Kaouther Ben HaniaZaineb Hates the Snow / Screen Institute Beirut (SIB) award for documentary

Nujoom AlghanemAmal / First prize, Muhr Emirati section

Marian Al Sarkal – London in a Headscarf / Special Mention, Muhr Emirati section

Katia JarjouraThe Eye Of The Devil

Najwa NajjarEyes Of A Thief

(Warp Films in the UK and Oktober Productions in Iceland are now attached to Eyes of a Thief.)

Deema AmrA 7 Hour Difference

Danielle ArbidBeirut Hotel  (This film has been censored by the Lebanese government. Read the article here.)

Taghreed ElsanhouriOur Beloved Sudan

Yasmina AdiHere We Drown

Check out more:

Screen Daily (“Women directors take top prizes at Dubai Film Connection”)

The Daily Star (“Arab women filmmakers shine at Dubai Film Festival”)

IBN Live (“Women directors dominate awards night at Dubai film fest”)

Follow Delphine Garde @Delphinegm and the Dubai International Film Festival @dubaifilm and see the lists of winners on the DIFF website.


SWAN Day / Support Women Artists Now Celebrates 5th Anniversary in 2012





The organization WomenArts in San Francisco has announced SWAN Day 2012 and is gearing up for the big event!  SWAN Day is now an international holiday which coincides with Women’s History Month (International Women’s Day is every March 8 and turned 100 this year).  SWAN Day is a special day to celebrate women artists all around the world, and WomenArts has some great ways to become involved, including organizing and posting events, accessing fundraising materials and publicity materials, plus much more.

Check out the SWAN Day page at http://www.womenarts.org/swan/, and START ORGANIZING!!!

To connect with other women artists, be they painters, filmmakers, sculptors, etc., you can create a profile at WomenArts.  It’s easy and free!  Start networking now by clicking here.

CROSSING THE RIVER: Guest post by filmmaker Emilie McDonald

Filmmaker Emilie McDonald (Photo credit: Tia Schellstede)


Emilie McDonald is an NYC-based filmmaker who graduated from Vassar with a BA in film and drama.  She wrote and directed the short narrative film “Other People’s Houses” in 2010 (Big Apple Film Festival, NewFilmmakers, Blue Sky Film Festival & Flicks in the Garden) and was co-writer and producer of the short “My Elena” (2008).  She is currently in a development on a feature film based on the true story of a doctor she knew as a child, a Bronx-born Jewish doctor who relocated to rural South Carolina in the 1950’s (semifinalist Tribeca All Access 2010; semifinalist Creative Capital 2011).


 Emilie McDonald here.  I’m a female filmmaker and mother to a young child and am based in NYC. I basically grew up in the back of a VW bus, traveling throughout the U.S. and Mexico with my mom and younger brother.  We lived among Cherokee basket weavers in North Carolina; traditional Navajo communities in Farmington, New Mexico; generations of farmers in Oregon; and native residents in Mexico.  I learned to adapt to many different situations and to find connection with many different kinds of people.  It is my goal to continually put people and situations in my films that aren’t often in the limelight, and to seek to understand the misunderstood.

Place plays a large part in the films I write.  South Carolina is one place I lived as a child and has always stayed in my memory as a mesmerizing place that feels like it has frozen in time for decades.  I feel a deep personal connection to the South and to South Carolina in particular as I have dear family there who are among the warmest people I’ve ever known in my life.  I am continually compelled to write scripts that are set there.  There is a languishing, old-fashioned feeling that lends itself to imagination.  Downtowns continue to look as they did in the 1960’s.  Country roads feel as they did when I was a child.  There is a slower, genteel pace that is both appealing for those that are accepted, but alarming for those who are not.  It is a place that is fascinating to me in its contradictions.  There are folks in South Carolina who are fighting for equality and tolerance and always have been (my feature film BUCKLE MY SOUL which I plan to make next is about this very subject), but there are those few who decades later are still holding on to the old Jim Crow laws.

Tree (Photo credit: Emilie McDonald)

South Carolina will be the location for my next film, a short narrative film called CROSSING THE RIVER, which will be shot in rural South Carolina in March 2012.  The film is sadly inspired by a true story and is about a young bi-racial girl who is traumatized when her family is targeted by a cross burning.  This extreme act of hatred is carried out by two white boys who come under the influence of a racist man.  The film explores the points of view of both the victim and the perpetrators, and seeks to reveal how someone can be influenced to do something morally unspeakable.

A year ago, I met my friend Martha’s grandsons Tyler and Landon in South Carolina, and immediately felt that they would be compelling onscreen.  A short time later, I received an article from a friend of my family who runs a civil rights watch group.  The article was about teenagers who were accused of burning a cross on a family’s lawn, and how the family was affected, especially their 13 year old daughter.  I was very moved by the story, and especially by how it was apparent that the girl truly believed that people were good and wanted to continue to believe it despite her experience.  When I later read that the two boys turned to the family in court and apologized, it gave me hope.  The seed of an idea for a powerful short film quickly developed.

Country House (Photo credit: Hunter Desportes)

I’ve recently become reenergized about telling this story, especially after reading a statistic from the Southern Poverty Law Center that estimates that 40-50 cross burnings happen in the U.S. every year!  I was startled and saddened by this, as of course I knew it happened (the incident that CROSSING THE RIVER is inspired by occurred in 2010) but not to that extent.  Most Americans assume that cross burnings are part of the U.S.’s past.  This lack of awareness is partly because these crimes are rarely reported nationally.  I feel it’s urgent to get the word out about this…it should not be happening in our country in 2011!!!!  All the more reason to make this film and release it widely!

When doing research on cross burnings, we discovered that this hateful act often targets bi-racial families.  The perpetrators’ intention is to send a message to the families that they are unwelcome in the community.  This act terrorizes families in their own homes and has a lasting psychological impact on its victims.  CROSSING THE RIVER is being made to bring to light the importance of putting an end to this hate crime.

“It is my goal to…seek to understand the misunderstood.”

We are thrilled to be partnering with WNCCEIB (Western North Carolina Citizens for an End to Institutional Bigotry), an amazing community organization and nonprofit in Western North Carolina that has been coordinating individual and community responses to hate activity, hate crimes and institutional discrimination on a shoestring budget for more than 20 years.  Our partnership will include promoting the organization’s work and mission and raising funds for WNCCEIB in conjunction with CROSSING THE RIVER film screenings.

I am working with a team to create an educational distribution component of the film, including a curriculum and teacher guide for educators to incorporate the film into their lesson plans, hopefully at colleges and high schools around the country and Canada.   We are interested in working with anti-racism and social justice teaching organizations such as Teaching Tolerance and Facing History and Ourselves, and will target film festivals that make a difference such as Media That Matters.  The film’s website will also link to anti-racism advocacy efforts happening all over the U.S.

Grant and Shawn (Courtesy of Anonymous)

It is important to note that cross burnings don’t just occur in the South (and as I mentioned earlier, there are many people in the South dedicated to eradicating racism).  There have been recent cases reported in New Jersey, Southern California, and Canada, to name only a few.  We are hopeful that ignorance can be turned to understanding, as challenging as that is, and CROSSING THE RIVER will reflect that.

I want to mention that I am extremely excited about working with an amazing team of women: producer and social justice advocate Tammy Arnstein, independent film producers Natasha Giliberti and Robyn Mackenzie, marketing director Andrea Rose, and editor Erin Fisher.  Of course I am looking forward to working with some amazing men as well, including my husband Bruce Smolanoff, (in the role of “Ted”) and Robert Kennedy doing sound design, but it is a pleasure to be surrounded and supported by women filmmakers.

Thank you for this amazing blog and resource, both illuminating and important for the global female filmmaking community!


To connect with this filmmaker and to learn more about her work (or to support it!) visit the following links:

Kickstarter campaign (five days left to go!)

Tumblr:  http://crossingtheriverfilm.tumblr.com/

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/CrossingTheRiverfilm

“Other People’s Houses”: http://www.otherpeopleshousesfilm.com/

Blog:  http://filmmakermama.blogspot.com/

Twitter:  @emiliemcdonald

UNCONDITIONAL LOVE: Guest post by filmmaker Danae Grandison


Born on the island of Jamaica, Danae Grandison grew up between two cities: Kingston and New York.  By the age 17, she was clear she wanted to be in the creative field and made her way to F.I.T. in New York to study Advertising and Graphic Design.  While she attended SVA for filmmaking, she made her first short film titled “Unconditional Love”. She discovered her new passion for Directing and creating motion art.

Photo courtesy of Danae Grandison

With a deep interest in the topic Love, she is currently preparing to direct a documentary on this topic. She wants to empower the world through Love. She says “if you let go, great things will happen in your absence” – namely love.


I was encouraged by my pastor, Rev. George Anasis, to start researching schools for filmmaking last year. I never understood why until the class began. He knew this would be a new creative outlet I had to pursue! Filmmaking opened a new heartbeat within me; I suddenly felt alive again. I don’t know how to explain it.  Being from a creative background, already I have rediscovered surprises, uncertainty and freedom to create and then recreate, especially when editing. I hope to be one of the leading women in film and make real, impactful, universal, yet clear, conscious, thinking films like those made by women before me.  In order to get there, I continue on the learning curve.

"Unconditional Love" (Photo courtesy of Danae Grandison)

I opened this door to filmmaking knowing that I wanted to explore the concept of love on screen. I believe there is a deeper understanding to self loving in order to have a fulfilling life. I began with my first short film project which is titled “Unconditional Love,” a story that took a little deeper understanding to get to. I first believed Unconditional Love was only the love between two people. I began writing a love story between two people at first; I battled with “how can I be sure I can capture love between two strangers (actors) in a short space of time?”  I wanted to pour my own understanding of this feeling of love on the screen, so you can imagine in my thoughts I debated as to which two people as characters would translate this feeling best. Would the ideal pairing be two lovers, a mother and a child … what or whom? At some point I wrote a love story which began to reveal itself as a love affair, so I had to step back and really think about this message.  Then it all became clear to me that unconditional love is actually about the individual’s ability to first have unconditional love for oneself.  When one reaches that awareness they must be willing to move past an old identity, which is compact, with amazing yet painful memories. Let them go and embrace the evolution. It was such a liberating aha! moment, as I was going through the process of moving so I was truly emptying the bag ladies’ bags of past memories. Needless to say, it really helped with props and, of course, writing the unspoken language for a silent film.

"The Edge" (Photo courtesy of Danae Grandison)

The day of the shoot: We aimed to start at 9AM when the temperature reading would be at 86º before rising to an unbearable 100º+ by noon. I had a small crew and a talented actress by the name of Berrette Macaulay (now an aspiring photographer); I had her dig deep to a place she once reveled in — acting.  Needless to say, we had a late start, one too many retakes and people walking through the shots  I had one roll of 100ft film left with more to shoot. Panic!  I began editing on set as I visualised how I could make this work when you have the odds against you on a one-day shoot mixed with unbearable heat by midday. Thank goodness the short had to be from one to four minutes max.  We eventually wrapped up and walked away with a grace of hope. I made it to the editing room where I watched the story come together; I was excited despite it all. I found myself obsessed with this first film, playing it over and over and humbly sharing it with other viewers. When it’s all said and done, I believe there is still a clear message. I realised with the finish product in my hand that this was only the beginning. I want to do more, and go further with this possibility of learning more about love and addressing all the possible outcomes of experiencing love.

Follow me on vimeo to see how I continue to move forward with this topic. I am currently working on a new project – a documentary – which I am not yet ready to share details on, but stay tuned.


To connect with the filmmaker and to learn more about her work, visit the following links:

Vimeo:  http://www.vimeo.com/kgn6

Twitter:  @kgn6

National Cinema: Call for interviews & guest posts

Returning after a much-appreciated hiatus, the Her Film blog will be hitting it hard beginning this month as we move into the new year in a few weeks.  More interviews with women filmmakers and posts on films about women will go up on the blog in the coming weeks.  The “Her Film News” monthly newsletter will officially launch the first week of January 2012.  I can’t wait!


In 2012, a new series focused on national cinema will be introduced.  This series will help me delve into the experiences and work of women filmmakers from particular areas in the world, with a new area or country featured about every quarter of the year.  Filmmakers are wanted for interviews (short Q&A’s, standard interviews and long-form multiple part interviews) as well as guest posts.  For information on how these interviews work and how to participate, please check out the Join in! page.

Beginning in January, the first areas to be featured in the National Cinema series will be Turkey and Sweden.  Turkey purportedly has more working women filmmakers than Hollywood, and Sweden is actively engaged in enforcing mandates to increase funding of films made by women and films with at least 40% women in key positions.  We’ll be discussing women filmmakers from these countries as well as the films themselves, funding schemes, audience reception and the history of women filmmakers, plus much, much more.

If you would like to participate by conducting an interview with a Turkish or Swedish woman filmmaker, writing a guest post, being interviewed or participate in another way, please email me to let me know how you would like to become involved in the National Cinema series.

THANK YOU to all of you who have subscribed to the blog, signed up for the newsletter or connect with Her Film on twitter, facebook or some other way.  It is vital that we support each other and stay in contact.  I am back on track and rested up from the hiatus, and I’m ready to reboot this blog & global project!

Happy to be back and to know you’re all out there trying to make a difference,