Women Breaking New Numbers in Documentaries

carol jenkins:media

On the documentary front, women were best represented as directors (39 percent) followed by producers (35 percent), writers (32 percent), executive producers (31 percent), editors (27 percent) and cinematographers (16 percent). The Wrap, citing a report from The Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University.

The good news comes out of the doc festivals at Sundance, Tribeca and others: women made substantial progress in all the major filmmaking categories.

Dr. Martha Lauzen of  San Diego State’s Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film–who has been doing the definitive research in all genres for years– seldom has anything positive to say about women making movies. This holds true most especially for narrative films…but now here signs of real life in documentaries.

Of course, the budgets are smaller and the potential to make money practically nil…but, we’ll take it. Congratulations to…

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Q + A with Arpita Kumar about her film “Sita”

Filmmaker Arpita Kumar


Arpita Kumar is the director of Sita – a short narrative film about an Indian domestic help who becomes a commercial surrogate. She is a graduate from the MFA program in Film/Video at California Institute of the Arts, and has made several short experimental films about female subjectivity that screened at The Museum of Contemporary Arts (MOCA) in Los Angeles, the 3rd South Asian Film Festival in San Francisco, The Chashama Film Festival in New York City, to name a few.


Her Film:  You recently made a narrative short called Sita.  Can you describe what the film is about?

Arpita Kumar:  Sita is a film that unfolds piecemeal by prying open a window onto a day when the lives of three women and a girl converge. Dr. Angela Sharma, an IVF specialist encounters multiple surrogates regularly. Sita is one such surrogate who is pregnant for a Canadian woman, Kate. However, this is a surrogacy that opens a legal and ethical can of worms for all. The story culminates in tragic irony when the body of a young girl and of Sita becomes sites for opposing narratives on female reproduction.  With everything at stake, Sita makes a choice that is both dignified and disruptive. There are no villains here, just individuals with desperate needs.

HF:  I have read an interview in which you listed questions about commercial surrogacy which your film addresses.  What have your biggest challenges been in delving further into this issue as you made your film?

AK:  During research, writing, and production of the film, the focus was clearly the surrogate – the woman who rents her womb out to strangers and puts her body through such physical and emotional strain. As I started post-production, I became aware that Sita would be a more powerful film if it also brought forth the predicament of the intended parent as well. The challenge then was to edit and mould the film in such a way that the audience feels not only for Sita but also for Kate, the Canadian woman who has struggled to have a baby for many years now. To highlight the complexity of such a commercial arrangement where abuse and exploitation hurts not only the surrogate but also the intended parents was quite a challenge!

HF:  In a recent interview on Open Beast, you mentioned your desire to see activism around medical tourism.  What are the ways in which you are trying to raise consciousness about medical tourism, specifically commercial surrogacy?

AK:  We just finished the film, so now the focus is to get it out into the world. We plan to do the film festival circuit run – showcase it in as many festivals a possible. Once we are done with the festival circuit, the plan is to screen the film at reproductive rights forums, social justice seminars, on television, the local community screenings –anywhere we could reach a wider audience and get the conversation started about the film and the complexity around the commodification of the third world female body. Of course, posts on blogs such as Her Film are excellent steps towards this goal.


To connect with this filmmaker and to support her work, please visit these links:

Sita’s Facebook page: www.facebook.com/SupportSita

Sita’ s Twitter page: @Support_Sita

Sita’s website: www.sitathefilm.com/

Sita IMDB: www.imdb.com/title/tt2211660/

SPOTLIGHT: “Sweet, Sweet Country”

Dehanza Rogers is a third year MFA student in directing and cinematography at the University of California Los Angeles School of Theater, Film & Television.  She’s currently crowdfunding her film, “Sweet, Sweet Country,” which is “a refugee’s tale set in the South – an exploration of the American Dream.”

Dehanza Rogers (writer/director)


With her parents and younger siblings living in a refugee camp in Kenya, 20 year-old Ndizeye struggles to support not only herself, but provide for a family she’s not seen in five years. Living in a small southern town, her struggle becomes so much more when her family literally shows up at her doorstep.

The trailer


Raising funds through:  Kickstarter (campaign page)

Campaign goal: $5,000 (At the time of this post, the campaign is 40% funded)

Campaign ends: September 4, 2012

“Ernesto” and “Ndizeye” (Gbenga Akinnagbe and Danielle Deadwyler)

“Ernesto” (Gbenga Akinnagbe)

Director’s Statement
I grew up firmly rooted between the Southern black experience and the Immigrant experience. Growing up black in Georgia meant I was tied—bound really—to a troubled past that still plays out in the present.  The same can be said of the Immigrant experience. The vitriolic spirit behind the sentiment of the “hyphenated American” is alive and well, just repackaged. Sweet, Sweet Country is set in a small Southern town and while there is goodwill by some, the idea of these Others holding fast to their culture while in America seems to offend.  (Read more.)

“Ndizeye” (Danielle Deadwyler)

“The Simbagoye Family” (left to right: Tammy McGarity, Josphine Lawrence, Dave Sangster, Ce Ce Sandy)



Danielle Deadwyler (“Ndizeye”)
Gbenga Akinnagbe (“Ernesto”)

Dehanza Rogers (Writer/Director)
Dana Gills, Doug Turner (Producers)
Autumn Baily-Ford, Shadae Lamar Smith (Co-Producers)
Ragland Williamson (Director of Photography)
Sarah Jean Kruchowski (Production Design)
Brianna Quick (Costume Design)
Vivia Armstrong (Casting Director)

“Fahkta” (Tammy McGarity)

“Danai” (Dave Sangster)

Connect with this filmmaker and learn more about this new film:

Kickstarter: http://kck.st/QMNWAk

Facebook: /sweetsweetcountry

Twitter: @dayerogers (director) / @sscfilm (the film)

Website:  www.hercelluloidself.com

Blog:  www.sweetsweetcountry.com/blog

(All photos and information courtesy of the filmmaker.)

Do you have a film you are trying to finance that you would like to feature here?  Visit the Contact page to submit your information.

Review: “Year of the Carnivore” (2009)

A film by Sook-Yin Lee

“Year of the Carnivore” is a coming of age film about Sammy, played by Cristin Milioti.  She is a grocery store detective and is a tomboy and quirky.  Sammy feels different from everyone else because she was ill as a child and has a slight limp.  Her parents are constantly reminding her that the world is not a safe place and she is better off at home.  They want her to quit her job because they think it is dangerous.   Her main goal is try to figure out how she can attract the attention of Eugene (Mark Rendall).  Eugene is an aspiring musician and lets Sammy know that he is not interested in a relationship and that love is a sickness.  His father was heartbroken by his philandering mother and warns him to never get married.  He tells her to just forget about him and get some experience with other people.  Eugene wants to remain friends but gets jealous when he sees Sammy with other men.  She sets out to experiment and her adventure takes many twists and turns.  Sammy gets advice from some unlikely characters including customers that she catches shoplifting.  They obviously don’t want to get busted so they are willing to teach her a little about sex in exchange for letting them go.  Although, when she tries this stunt with one particular customer she gets an unwelcome surprise.

She gets some help from her friend Mrs. Nakamura.  She is an older woman that doesn’t get out so Sammy helps her and walks her dog.  Mrs. Nakamura is very frank and tells her that she just needs to have fun and get some variety.  She lends Sammy some clothes so she can dress more like a lady.  They both find a way to grow and have fun in their unlikely friendship.

I enjoyed the understated comedy in the film.  You want to root for Sammy because she is so awkward and just trying to find her way.  Sook-Yin Lee’s directing style is straight forward and gets you quickly interested in the characters.  Lee is a former VJ for Much Music in Canada and seems to have made a seamless transition into film.  Lee has created a fun and lighthearted film that keeps you entertained from start to finish.

“Year of the Carnivore” was written and directed by Sook-Yin Lee.

(Coming up soon!  I review the 2010 documentary “Bag It,” directed by Suzan Beraza and written by Michelle Curry Wright.)


Lotus Wollschlager is the official Her Film movie reviewer.  Find her bio on the. HF.Reviews page.

Her.Stories: Uma Thurman on sexualization of women in film, women in Hollywood (we don’t look like men), filmmaker Maryam Keshavarz, Venice film festival

Women’s Film and Stage Roles! Are Any Good, Dramatic Parts Being Written?
at Technorati

Women directors take front row at Venice film festival
at The Express Tribune

Women Can’t Gain Influence in Hollywood Because Women Don’t Look like Men
at Forbes

Zimbabwe: LIFF 2012 to Laud Successful Women
(International Images Film Festival)
at All Africa

Filmmaker teaches movie magic to Chile’s slum kids
at NBC 29

Every Woman’s Story Counts — Including Yours                                                        (Thanks to Marian Evans for tweeting this story!)
at The Huffington Post

A Feminist Look at The Women of ‘Arrested Development’
at Bitch Flicks

Maryam Keshavarz, interview: ‘Iran’s women like to kick up the dirt a little’
at The Telegraph

Women of Bhakti film screening
at The Washington  Times

Uma Thurman on the Sexualisation of Women in Film: ‘It Felt Paralysing’
at Grazia 

All-female broadcast crew that strives to keep it reel
at This Is Scunthorpe