Women’s stories this week

Oscars Shortlist: Best Foreign Language Film

Agnieszka Holland’s latest film In Darkness makes the Oscars shortlist for Best Foreign-Language Film.  Holland is the only female director on the shortlist of nine feature films.

Amongst the shortlist are four films from Europe, one film from North America, two films from the Middle East, one film from Asia and one film from Africa.  Writer-directors seemed to be the multi-hyphenate celebre of the shortlist this year. Almost every film had a writer-director.

In key creative roles (writing, direction, cinematography, editing) only Pina was photographed by a woman: Hélène Louvart, while Omar Killed Me was edited by Monica Coleman, A Separation was edited by Hayedeh Safiyari, and Footnote was edited by Einat Glaser-Zarhin.  For some great background on the Oscars submissions for foreign language films and the women who directed them, check out Marian Evans’s “Women directors in Foreign Language Academy Award submissions” article and trailers over at her Wellywoodwoman blog.

Belgium – Bullhead (Michael R. Roskam, dir.)

Canada – Monsieur Lazhar (Philippe Falardeau, dir.)

Denmark – Superclasico (Ole Christian Madsen, dir.)

Germany – Pina (Wim Wenders, dir.)

Iran – A Separation (Asghar Farhadi, dir.)

Israel – Footnote (Joseph Cedar, dir.)

Morocco – Omar Killed Me (Roschdy Zem, dir.)

Poland – In Darkness (Agnieszka Holland, dir.)

Taiwan – Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale (Wei Te-sheng, dir.)

Trailer for Agnieszka Holland’s In Darkness

 

Sundance Diaries

Huffington Post is doing a great series this month on the 64 short films selected to screen at the Sundance Film Festival this year.  Titled Sundance Diaries, the filmmakers themselves write diary entries talking about their experiences making their films and getting the notification from Sundance that they’d been selected. The festival officially kicks off tomorrow and runs for about 10 days.  I’ll have consistent Sundance coverage throughout the next week and half.  Check out some diaries from women filmmakers:

Kataneh Vahdani – “Avocados”

Julia Pott – “Belly”

Kelly Sears – “Once It Started It Could Not End Otherwise”

Jessie Ennis – “The Arm” (directed with Brie Larson and Sarah Ramos)

Jill Soloway – “Una Hora Por Favora”

Kat Candler – “Hellion”

 

Full list of Sundance Diaries entries at Huffington Post.

 

 

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Genie Awards nominations announced

In Canada, there’s an annual celebration of film called the Genies.  The Genie is Canada’s top award for achievement in cinema.  (Those who can’t understand its importance without reading “Canada’s version of the Oscars,” well, there you go, I just wrote it.  Understand now?  Good.)  Canada’s film industry is quite interesting, especially given the presence of Quebec which functions much like European countries do, pouring money (relatively speaking) into its indigenous film industry to support it, and seeing a pretty successful box office return.  Its French-speaking audiences go to see Quebecois French-language films.  But in the English-speaking areas of Canada (pretty much everywhere outside of Quebec), the Canadian English-language cinematic landscape is often savagely mowed over by crushing U.S. competition helped in part by the U.S. ownership of Canadian movie theatres.  That’s why I love to pay attention to stories like the Genie Awards nominations and the First Weekend Club‘s plan to introduce a VOD service to stream Canadian films in order to increase audiences and support for Canadian-made movies.

Today, the nominations for the Genies were announced.  See below for a full breakdown of the nominations — women who were involved in the films are highlighted below.  Some key names that jumped out at me were Larysa Kondracki (her film The Whistleblower is nominated for Best Motion Picture, she’s nominated for Achievement in Direction, and she and Eilis McKirwan are nominated for Best Original Screenplay).  Also, I was extremely glad to see that filmmaker Michelle Latimer’s film Choke was nominated for Best Animated Short.  Latimer gave an interview to Her Film back in April 2011 which you can read here: “Authenticity of Voice.”

2012 Genie Awards nominations (five nominees in each category)

BEST MOTION PICTURE / MEILLEUR FILM (Names indicate producers)

MONSIEUR LAZHAR – Luc Déry, Kim McCraw

THE WHISTLEBLOWER – Christina Piovesan, Celine Rattray 

Trailer for The Whistleblower

ACHIEVEMENT IN DIRECTION / MEILLEURE RÉALISATION

LARYSA KONDRACKI – The Whistleblower

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY / MEILLEUR SCÉNARIO

ANNE ÉMOND – Nuit #1

EILIS KIRWAN, LARYSA KONDRACKI – The Whistleblower

Trailer for Nuit #1

BEST FEATURE LENGTH DOCUMENTARY / MEILLEUR LONG MÉTRAGE DOCUMENTAIRE

BEAUTY DAY – Jay Cheel, Kristina McLaughlin, Kevin McMahon, Roman Pizzacalla

FAMILY PORTRAIT IN BLACK AND WHITE – Julia Ivanova, Boris Ivanov

THE GUANTANAMO TRAP – Thomas Wallner, Amit Breuer, Patrick Crowe

LA NUIT, ELLES DANSENT / AT NIGHT, THEY DANCE – Isabelle Lavigne, Stéphane Thibault, Lucie Lambert

WIEBO’S WAR – David York, Nick Hector, C.C.E., Bryn Hughes, Bonnie Thompson

BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT DRAMA / MEILLEUR COURT MÉTRAGE DRAMATIQUE

HOPE – Pedro Pires, Phoebe Greenberg, Penny Mancuso

LA RONDE – Élaine Hébert, Sophie Goyette

BEST ANIMATED SHORT / MEILLEUR COURT MÉTRAGE D’ANIMATION

CHOKE – Michelle Latimer

WILD LIFE – Amanda Forbis, Wendy Tilby, Marcy Page, Bonnie Thompson

There were no female directors of photography nominated in the “Achievement in Cinematography” category.

See the full list of Genie nominees by clicking here.  (Opens a PDF).

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!

NATIONAL CINEMA SERIES

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,

Kyna

BONESHAKER: Interview with filmmaker Frances Bodomo

BIOGRAPHY

Nuotama Frances Bodomo is a Ghanaian filmmaker based in New York City. She grew up on four continents—in Ghana, Norway, California, and Hong Kong—before moving to New York to attend Columbia University as a Kluge Scholar. She received her B.A. in English Literature and Film Studies in 2010. Her thesis focused on making African-generated images part of the popular image of Africa.

Her work features doppelgangers, imaginary friends, ventriloquist dummies, and the un-institutionalized crazies who constantly break society’s view of itself. Her ultimate goal is to make conceptually strong films that bring African images to the forefront. She is currently an MFA Candidate and Dean’s Fellow at NYU’s Graduate Film Program.

Her Film:  Can you talk about your latest project and the path that has led you to this point?
Frances Bodomo: I’m about to shoot a short film entitled Boneshaker. It follows a Ghanaian family taking a road trip to a Pentecostal church in Louisiana where they hope to cure their daughter of a spirit. It’s about the crazy person you become when you’re a mix of clashing cultures, and it’s about the difficulty of performing a ritual when you’re thousands of miles from home. I’m from Ghana, but I grew up all over the place (in Norway, in Hong Kong, and in the U.S.), so I’ve always wanted to make a film about how lost a person can feel without a sense of home, and how constant migration really tests the glue that holds a family together.
The story comes from my own experiences. When I went through my obligatory college depression, my Auntie took me round to various born-again churches to rid myself of the spirit following me. She explained it like this: I come from a family of only daughters, so my relatives in the village were jealous that all my parents’ resources were going towards the college education of someone who would be married off into another family. By affecting me like this, I would be mentally unable to stay in school and the resources would rightfully come back to them.

So I’m here now and I want to make a film that sheds light on this generally unseen experience. It’s the one experience that really streamlined my biography. It was about being a woman, about being African, and about being a nomad. It was life-changing, but I was also interested in how the task became about women physically fighting the patriarchal structure around them. It was something I got to experience with my mother, my aunts, my sisters, but also with my father and my culture. My father always says he became a feminist once his first daughter was born, and I really want to show that side in this film.

You see all I had to write to explain myself? This is why I’m making a movie!

Photo courtesy of the Kheel Center, Cornell University

HF:  One of your interests is African-generated images.  How do African images play a role in your work, especially concerning Boneshaker which shows a Ghanaian family in the deep American South (Louisiana)?

FB: My college thesis was about the power of Africans creating images for themselves, rather than relying on the Bob Geldofs and Bonos and Blood Diamonds and Hotel Rwandas that use Africa as a device to really reflect on Europe or America (to put it politely).  I think the very fact of Africans making films to regain their image—whether overtly or not—is a political one. This is not about excluding Europeans or Americans from the topic of Africa: Claire Denis makes complex films about Africa, but she also grew up on the continent.

Boneshaker doesn’t simply fit into all this because I am African and making a film. I want to create images that use America to reflect on Africa as a way of making visible the characters’ struggle. It’s about Africans trying to bend the American myth (the South, the delta…) to fit their own myth, and for their own purposes. They run into problems—problems that wouldn’t occur if it were the other way round—for this simple reason. I want it to be America as the “dark continent” and I want it to make at least some Americans feel something of what it’s like to have Band Aid speak of your home as a place “where the only water flowing is a bitter sting of tears.” Ultimately it’s not about a rebuttal—that would be hypocritical—it’s about using the very same mechanism to emphasize the difference in experience. It’s about showing an African interiority, which is the whole point of making films that come from Africans.

Photo courtesy of the filmmaker

HF:  Your film also deals with themes of immigration and alienation.  Can you talk about these themes and how you try to incorporate them into Boneshaker?

FB: Foreigners are always reminded that they are walking on someone else’s land, that they have the privilege of going back to “where they came from.” What of those of us who don’t have that place? Who also don’t have this place? I’ve been thinking a lot about how I’m going to convey this sense of being lost using the cinematic tools at my disposal. Fun!

In Boneshaker, the family is constantly in motion: they’re in a car for a lot of the film. We’ll shoot them against sky and reference-less background, always moving. While we do establish space, they’re never going to be comfortable within it. The big word I’ve been throwing around for this film is nostalgia. I want the film to feel like a memory because it hits home the idea that we don’t have concrete land on which to place our feet. It’s also a huge reason why I want to shoot in Louisiana. The delta consists of specks of land submerged in water. It says everything I want it to say: there is no land. And we have to grapple with that fact.

HF:  As you move into pre-production, then production in December, what have you experienced (or what do you expect to experience) in terms of culture clash?  Does religion play a role in this type of clash as well?

FB: I just got back from my location scout in Louisiana. What a wonderful trip! Adjusting and assimilating is instinctive to me at this point (though I’m not entirely proud of that fact), so I had no problems moving around New Orleans and its neighbouring bayous. I did, however, have a hard time finding Africans down there. The Africans I did find gave the general response of, “I don’t socialize with other Africans here.” I felt most alienated and saddened by the dismissiveness of a majority of the people I approached. You feel most alienated when the people you have learned to call “yours” want nothing to do with you. In retrospect, I find this extremely interesting. It’s exactly what my film is about (with regards to the people at home sending a spirit) and I intend to use it. It solidifies why I want to shoot down there.

I didn’t find a community in Louisiana, but I found one in the Bronx. I spent September going to a Pentecostal/born-again church on Sundays. I went to a Ghanaian deliverance ministry in the Bronx and got prayed over. These were some of the most welcoming people I’ve experienced in my research. I’m shooting in an African deliverance ministry in Louisiana (hopefully Dr. Stella’s Fire Power Ministries) so there won’t be much of that black-family-going-into-a-white-church kind of clash. I’m more interested in being rejected by the people you feel you should connect with.

Photo courtesy of the filmmaker

HF:  What are your thoughts on the role of women in African-made films (both as filmmakers and actors) and how they are received by the larger world community?

FB: This is another thesis! Women play a huge role in the story of Boneshaker. We have a family of only daughters, and I explained why that’s significant. This underlying situation suggests the reason why the Mother character believes her daughter is possessed. It also puts the film in the hands of the matriarch. This is important to me because women in Nollywood (and its off-shoots) are still reduced to objects of desire: how many pans across glossy, shaved legs have I had to sit through? That’s why I’m excited to make this film in which a woman is the driving force and is moving to protect her daughters.

But I’m intensely optimistic about up-and-coming African female filmmakers. Julie Apea and Shirley Frimpong-Manso in Ghana are making the highest-quality films in the country. Outside the continent we have wonderful women like Akosua Adoma Owusu, Sam Kessie, Nikyatu Jusu, and Rungano Nyoni (to name a few) changing the game. The larger world community may not be listening yet, may be thinking, “oh, here’s another film about being a black woman,” and rolling their eyes to oblivion. But check their films out! We’re on the brink of something big.

HF:  What is it that you hope to achieve as a filmmaker with Boneshaker?

FB: First and foremost, I want this to be the film for people like me: people that have always felt positively lost and homeless. It’s a beautiful thing to live outside the false security of home. This goes for anyone. We live in a world with so much migration and movement that the idea of home is arbitrary at best (across the board, class and privilege considered). I think this idea of existing in an undefined—but also very much defined by concrete microaggression—space is central to what it feels like to live on this earth and in this century, so let’s talk about that.

I want these concepts to come from an African story and an African voice. Because, to put it in a cheesy way, we’re nomads (traditionally, and given the slave trade, colonization, and subsequent brain drain).  When your entire continent is so painfully and continuously devastated, you’re forced to move around. I want African voices to be at the forefront of the international discourse on what it feels like to be in this world today (goodbye to looking to Africa for heritage films, issues films, and images of primitivity).

So yeah, I’ve got small goals.

_____________________

Learn more about Boneshaker and filmmaker Frances Bodomo by visiting the Kickstarter campaign now with eight days left and in need of about $3,000.

Kickstarter for Boneshaker

Follow Frances Bodomo on twitter @tobogganeer


DVD Releases

Below is a list of recent DVD releases and releases coming up in the U.S. of films directed by women or about women, and also starring women. Updates on other releases will be posted when they’re discovered.

August:  THE BEAVER (directed by Jodie Foster, starring Cherry Jones & Jodie Foster)

September:  HANNA (directed by Joe Wright, starring Saoirse Ronan & Cate Blanchett); THE ARBOR (directed by Clio Barnard, starring Manjinder Virk, Christine Bottomley & Natalie Gavin);  MEEK’S CUTOFF (directed by Kelly Reichardt, starring Michelle Williams); JIG (produced & directed by Sue Bourne); ED HARDY: TATTOO THE WORLD (directed by Emiko Omori); GO FOR IT! (written & directed by Carmen Marron, starring Aimee Rodriguez & Jossara Jinaro)

October:  BUCK (directed by Cindy Meehl)

November 1: SNOW FLOWER AND THE SECRET FAN (directed by Wayne Wang, co-written by Angela Workman, based on novel by Lisa See); TABLOID (directed by Errol Morris) – read the New York Times article about Joyce McKinney, the subject of the film; AN INVISIBLE SIGN (directed by Marilyn Agrelo, co-written by Pamela Falk, starring Jessica Alba & Bailee Madison, based on a novel by Aimee Bender)

November 8: ATLAS SHRUGGED, part I (directed by Paul Johansson, starring Taylor Schilling, based on the novel by Ayn Rand)

November 22: SARAH’S KEY (directed by Gilles Paquet-Brenner, starring Kristin Scott Thomas & Melusine Mayance, based on the novel by Tatiana De Rosnay) 

November 29: ONE DAY (directed by Lone Scherfig, starring Anne Hathaway); ANOTHER EARTH (directed by Mike Cahill, co-written by and starring Brit Marling)

December 6: THE HELP (directed by Tate Taylor, based on the novel by Kathryn Stockett, starring Emma Stone, Viola Davis & Octavia Spencer); THE DEBT (directed by John Madden, co-written by Jane Goldman, starring Helen Mirren); LIFE, ABOVE ALL (directed by Oliver Schmitz, starring Khomotso Manyaka, Keaobaka Makanyane & Lerato Mvelase) 

December 13:  KUNG FU PANDA 2 (directed by Jennifer Yuh); CIRCUMSTANCE (written & directed by Maryam Keshavarz, starring Sarah Kazemy, Nikohl Boosheri & Reza Sixo Safai) 

January 3:  I DON’T KNOW HOW SHE DOES IT (directed by Douglas McGrath, written by Aline Brosh McKenna, starring Sarah Jessica Parker, based on novel by Allison Pearson)

January 31: JANIE JONES (directed by David M. Rosenthal, starring Abigail Breslin and Elisabeth Shue)

Women’s stories this week

Magnolia Pictures picked up writer-director Sarah Polley’s latest film, Take This  Waltz, for U.S. distribution beginning summer 2012.  Polley’s film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September.  Read Katherine Monk’s article here, an interview with Polley in the Toronto Star, and a video of her at The Globe and Mail talking about the film.  Visit the film’s website for more information.

Finnish director Zaida Bergroth wins the Gold Hugo in the New Directors competition at the Chicago International Film Festival for her feature film The Good Son.  The fest states that Bergroth’s film provides “real psychological insight.” Read my review of it here (third film listed) that I wrote after seeing a screening at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival.  Visit the film’s website here and click on “English” at the bottom to get a translation.

Mohamed Diab’s film Cairo 678 about the sexual harassment of women in Egypt received the Silver Hugo in the festival’s International Feature Film competition.  I wrote about this movie in conjunction with the 20th anniversary of Anita Hill’s testimony on Monday of this week.  Read the piece here and watch a trailer for the film.  Visit the film’s website here.

Jennifer Siebel Newsom’s documentary Miss Representation on media misrepresentation of women and the dearth of women in positions of influence and power screens tonight on OWN at 9:00 PM (EST).  It premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.

The second film in the Women, War & Peace series on PBS, “Pray the Devil Back to Hell” aired on Tuesday night.  This film shows the power of Liberian women to band together to demand an end to war and the creation of peace.  The Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Leymah Gbowee, was prominently featured through both interviews and video footage shot during the war in Liberia.

Watch “Pray the Devil Back to Hell” online at PBS.

The next film in the series will be “Peace Unveiled” about women in Afghanistan (airing Tuesday, October 25 on PBS affiliate stations in the U.S.)  Check your local listings.

First Weekend Club & VOD Distro

The First Weekend Club has launched a campaign to raise funds for VOD (video-on-demand) distribution of Canadian films as a way to fight against the approximately 95% of Canadian box office revenues going to support American films (around 83%) and foreign films.  In fact, only about 3.4% of the national box office take in Canada actually goes to Canadian films.

The FWC is an organization dedicated to supporting Canadian films in cinemas in Canada to increase the screening dates and get butts in the seats!  You can join the FWC for free and receive updates on all the awesome films coming out of Canada.  Didn’t you know of the massive talent base that exists in Canada?  No wonder, the U.S. tends to drown them out.  What a coup this would be to have VOD distro for Canadian films!

Check out the indiegogo campaign with now 48 days left to go and about $18,000 left to raise. Do you love Canadian film?  Can you give?

 

Addendum

Just in the past two years, some of the films the First Weekend Club has supported which were directed by women or had a woman in the lead role include:

Act of God (dir. by Jennifer Baichwal)

Amazon Falls (dir. by Katrin Bowen)

Black Field (dir. by Danishka Esterhazy)

Daydream Nation (dir. by Michael Goldbach)

Faith, Fraud and Minimum Wage (dir. by George Mihalka)

Grown Up Movie Star (dir. by Adriana Maggs)

The High Cost of Living (dir. by Deborah Chow)

Modra (dir. by Ingrid Veninger)

Music from the Big House (dir. by Bruce McDonald)

A Touch of Grey (dir. by Sandra Feldman & Ian D. Mah)

Trigger (dir. by Bruce McDonald)

A Wake (dir. by Penelope Buitenhuis)

The Whistleblower (dir. by Larysa Kondracki)

The Year Dolly Parton Was My Mom (dir. by Tara Johns)

Year of the Carnivore (dir. by Sook Yin Lee)