Her.Stories: West Memphis Three, Iranian women’s rights, feminism in Canada and more

Interview with Director Amy Berg and Producer Lorri Davis – West of Memphis
at Women and Hollywood

This is a film I’ve been looking forward to for a long time.  More than 10 years ago I heard about the West Memphis Three through something I read or heard from Henry Rollins, and soon after, saw a fascinating and heartbreaking documentary film about Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jesse Misskelley, all just kids when they were accused, tried, convicted and sentenced (living for years on death row) for the murder of three young boys in West Memphis, Arkansas.  This was a deliberate effort by the criminal justice system to “hang” these young men for the disgusting and abominable murder of three young boys despite evidence pointing to the stepfather of one of the boys as the murderer.  The story of Echols, Baldwin and Misskelley is a story of injustice that was overcome — in part (they are now out of prison but are still fighting (and paying for, quite literally), to be legally absolved of all charges) — through years of tedious and torturous work by legal teams including Echols’ now wife, Lorri Davis; celebrity supporters (among them Henry Rollins, Margaret Cho, Johnny Depp, Eddie Vedder, and Fran Walsh and Peter Jackson who produced this film); and unfathomable dedication.  Berg’s film opens in theaters on December 25.

Khaleeji women filmmakers push boundaries, gently
at Variety Arabia

Festival addresses Iranian women’s rights
at the Daily Targum

Still from the documentary film “Sister” by Brenda Davis

Interview With Filmmaker Brenda Davis on “Sister,” her new documentary film about healthcare for childbearing women in Ethiopia, Cambodia and Haiti (includes VIDEO CLIP)
at Tadias



For Women’s Sake, the film festival Our Lives…To Live (with a theme of “NO! to gender violence”)
at the Indian Express

No Country for Young Women multimedia project in production on showcase of women in film
at the Virginia Film Office

Heroines of Cinema: An A-Z of Women in Film in 2012
at Indiewire

Top 10 Female Hindi Film Directors to Look Out For!
at Miss Malini

Filmmaker Khadija Al-Salami

“The Scream” raises Yemen women’s voices in Dubai, directed by Khadija al-Salami who was forced to marry at 11 years old
at Middle East Online



Whistler Film Festival 2012: Director Karen Cho on the Status Quo of feminism in Canada
at Straight.com

Filmmaker Nishtha Jain

Interview: Nishtha Jain, Director, “Gulabi Gang” about gender violence, rights of the poor
at Dear Cinema




Interview with Director Stephanie Assimacopoulo of “Le Train Bleu” (includes VIDEO CLIP)
at Disarray

New film: “The Light in Her Eyes” tells story of Muslim woman who teaches the Quran to women & girls

“A woman is a school. Teach her and you teach a generation.”

Muslim preacher Houda Al-Habash teaches women and girls the Quran at her mosque in Damascus, Syria, something she’s been doing for 30 years.  This is the story of “The Light in Her Eyes,” a new documentary film from Julia Meltzer and Laura Nix.  The film will be screening on September 19 in Austin, Texas, and will have several other screenings around the country this fall.  Take a look at the Screenings & Events page on the film’s website for dates, times and locations, or to host a screening yourself.

I missed the film’s premiere, unfortunately, as I was out of the country most of July.  Maybe some of you caught it on PBS on July 19?  If not, you can watch a trailer below, or just catch a screening in your town!

Check out an interview with Meltzer and Nix in The Austin Chronicle by clicking here.

Follow the film on twitter @lightinhereyes.
Read more about the film on the official website.

Her.Stories: interviews with women filmmakers, acquisitions, and the French teach Hollywood about female talent

Her.Stories is a reboot of the Women’s Stories Weekly occasional series which was started in 2011.  Visit the Her.Stories page to peruse the archives.

Round Table: Julie Delpy, Ava DuVernay and Leslye Headland on directing
in the Los Angeles Times

Cinema Libre Studio secures rights to ‘Lemon’ doc
at indieWIRE

Sophia Takal’s ‘Green’ picked up by Factory 25
at indieWIRE

Quote of the Day: Emma Stone points out sexist double standards in media
at Bitch Flicks

Mia Hansen-Love, a firmly ambiguous filmmaker
in the Toronto Star

Marjane Satrapi on ‘Chicken with Plums’ (and her other work)
at Think Progress

Mary Ann Williamson on her short film, ‘Packed’
at Westword

As Executives, Women must Stop Assimilating (How to empower women in Hollywood)
in the New York Times

Finance, Track, Research and Promote (How to empower women in Hollywood)
in the New York Times

Women directors surpass gender politics in showbiz
at Wonderwoman

Hollywood’s Unsung Scouts: THR Profiles Six Hot Casting Directors (most are women)
in The Hollywood Reporter

French film fest fetes female talent  
at SF Gate

A waiata, a betrayal, a surprise and a good deed: 2nd Night at the Maori women’s film festival

Four short films screened on the second night of Whiti Whitiāhua Wāhine, the Matariki Maori women’s film festival, each very different from the other.  But first, university instructor and filmmaker, Ella Henry, talks about this first ever Maori women’s film festival!

The first film to screen was Kararaina Rangihau’s Taku Rakāu e, a narrative short that tells the story of a young girl who wants to know the meaning behind a waiata she is taught to sing.  (A waiata is a Maori song which preserves the wisdom and knowledge of ancestors.)   Her grandmother sits with her and tells her the story.  As Kararaina explains in the video below, the waiata was “written” (the Maori have an oral tradition) in the mid-1800’s by a woman named Mihikitekapua.  Kararaina pointed out that although the song is about a man, she as a filmmaker told the story of Mihikitekapua instead!  She has flipped the story a bit on its head to bring the woman’s story to the fore, and it resonated very well with the audience.  One woman in the audience stood up after the screening and talked about how she learned to sing this waiata as a child and how amazing it was to see the story of Mihikitekapua told.

Kararaina spoke about growing up and learning this waiata (and forgive me, but she used a lot of Maori language in her introduction, so I don’t entirely understand or know exactly what she said), and how her passion for the meaning of the waiata grew over the years.  The historical and cultural significance of it was important to her.  The famous late filmmaker, Merata Mita, produced Taku Rakau e but passed away during the process of making it.  About the film, Kararaina said that it took awhile to make and that “it should never take two years to write a short film,” but that “Merata Mita [my mentor] showed me how.  It wasn’t a straight road.”  She went on to say “I’ve learned a lot about myself and who I am.”  Kararaina dedicated her film to the memory of Mihikitekapua and included a dedication to Merata Mita in the end credits.

Kararaina’s interest is in telling stories in Maori and helping to foster the life of the Maori language.  (She will be taking her film to the National Geographic All Roads Project this September in Washington, DC, USA.) It was a major education chatting with her and filmmaker Ella Henry this morning on the ferry, and I really appreciate them letting me ask them so many questions off camera!  Watch a video of Kararaina Rangihau below talking about her work and later in the post, Ella Henry talking about Merata Mita.

The second film to screen was Katie Wolfe’s This is Her, a comedy with some dark undertones of resentment, bitterness and revenge!  (Wolfe couldn’t make it to the festival, unfortunately.)  The film starts off with a woman in sexual ecstasy, then moves on to show her in labor in the hospital.  The story revolves around her recalling giving birth to her child (with husband at her side) while she also narrates the story of how their relationship fell apart after he met a much younger woman.  The woman is shown as a child and the narration goes: “This is the bitch” (who will grow up and take her husband away).  Funny and bitter, much like life!

The third film to screen was The Winter Boy, directed by Rachel House who introduced the film.  Again, she is another filmmaker at this festival who has worked with Merata Mita.  She talked about how she lost her editor during the film and decided to recut the picture.  She talked to Mita about it, and Mita said to do it how she wanted it to be and to “stand by your work.”  At the end of the introduction, Rachel said, “So here I am, standing by my work.”  It’s an interesting film which seems to direct you down a path that is totally different from the path the film ends up taking.  I was surprised by the film as its tone is one of panic as a mother loses her son at an aquarium, but moves into one that is a bit mysterious, then at the end, one that’s funny and joyous.  It’s an interesting dramatic arc with some questions left unanswered.  To a question asked by an audience member, Rachel said that she liked that there were some unanswered things in the film.  (By the way, if you don’t know Rachel House by name, you may know her by her films, including Eagle vs. Shark — a classic, and one of my favorites ever — and Boy, both successful New Zealand films which have also seen a lot of success outside of New Zealand.)

And finally, the fourth film to screen was Ebony Society.  While it’s directed by a male director, Tammy Davis (also an actor on the successful Kiwi series “Outrageous Fortune”), it is produced by Ainsley Gardiner.  And if you don’t know who she is, she produced Eagle vs. Shark, Boy and other films.  Gardiner co-owns Whenua Films which she co-founded several years ago with actor Cliff Curtis, whom you have seen in tons of movies.  (She’s someone whose work I try to follow and someone I look up to much like I do Nira Park in the U.K. who’s produced some of the best comedy to come out of England in the past 15 years.)  This is a lovely film about two teenage (or early 20’s?) boys who break into a house around Christmas time.  They find that there is a baby and a very young boy left alone at night in the house.  While they meant to rob the place, they find they can’t leave these kids by themselves and decide to stay and watch them while their parents are out.  It has a good heart and some funny lines, an interesting and sweet story.

Unfortunately and disappointingly, I became ill during the festival and missed the third night of screenings.  Ella Henry screened her Ph.D. thesis film called Wairua Auaha (meaning something akin to “creative spirit” as she explained to me), which is about “emancipatory Maori entrepreneurship in screen production.”  Sounds great, and I’ll be watching it soon!  Also, two episodes of the series “Songs from the Inside” screened.  This is a successful Maori Television series which follows four Kiwi musicians as they teach songwriting to prison inmates. (I wish I could’ve been there!)

Filmmaker Updates: Where are they now?

After two years of interviewing women filmmakers and having a few guest bloggers, I thought Her Film readers might be interested in seeing where some of the filmmakers have landed.  I wrote to a first wave of filmmakers who have been involved with the blog to see how things were panning out for them.  (I’ll solicit more updates from filmmakers not included here and will post them later this summer.)  Check out a few updates below from women filmmakers featured here on Her Film since 2010:

CROSSING THE RIVER (directed by Emilie McDonald)

After a very successful shoot in South Carolina in March, “Crossing
the River” is currently in post-production and preparing for a fall
and spring festival run.  Please read more at our film’s website.

Read Emilie’s guest post about this film by clicking here.

ANNA & MODERN DAY SLAVERY (directed by Magda M. Olchawska)

Principal photography for Anna & Modern Day Slavery was completed on May 29 after nine days of shooting.  The whole cast & crew were fantastic to work with & very dedicated to the project. We worked long hours & once even had a shoot for 24 hours.  Some of the stills taken on the set can be seen on our Facebook page, and anyone interested in supporting the film should visit our website.

Read a Spotlight feature about Magda’s new film by clicking here.

ALICE WALKER: BEAUTY IN TRUTH (directed by Pratibha Parmar)

We have finished shooting and are thrilled to have added Sonia Sanchez, Sapphire and Alexis Pauline Gumb as our final interviewees. We are currently editing the film in California and also fund raising for the final money to enable the finishing post production such as hiring a composer, archive clearances, sound mix, color grade and online.  Read more about the film by visiting our website, Facebook page and Twitter feed @alicewalkerfilm.

Read an interview with Pratibha done by Marian Evans of the Wellywood Woman blog.

METRUK (directed by Orkide Unsur)

Metruk has been screening in different countries, and its last screening was at Montreal (as a Canadian premiere).  Orkide will soon be focusing her attentions on a feature screenplay.  Find out more about the Montreal screening by visiting her website here.

Read an interview with Orkide by clicking here.

ALL THINGS HIDDEN (written by Persephone Vandegrift)

All Things Hidden is set to film this year August 25th-29th. We will be launching our Kickstarter mid July! To keep up to date on its metamorphosis, please join the All Things Hidden FB page.

Read a guest post by Persephone by clicking here.

BONESHAKER (directed by Frances Bodomo)

Boneshaker is currently raising money for post-production and will premiere at film festivals in 2013. View the trailer here. To donate and keep yourself updated, visit our blog here.

Read an interview with Frances by clicking here.

KATE KAMINSKI (Bluestocking Film Series)

The May 20, 2012 Bluestocking screening played to an enthusiastic crowd at the St. Lawrence Arts Center in Portland, Maine.  The biannual Bluestocking accepts rolling submissions through September 15, 2012 via Withoutabox and mail and the next screening is scheduled for Sunday, October 14, 2012. Visit the BFS website here.

Read an interview with Kate by clicking here.

MICHELLE LATIMER (director of Choke)

Choke was named by the Toronto Film Festival among Canada’s Top Ten for 2011, and was nominated for a 2012 Genie Award. It will be featured this summer as part of the First Peoples Cinema Retrospective at the Tiff Bell Lightbox. She begins shooting on her feature documentary Alias for the Independent Film Channel this falland she recently joined iThentic as the Director of Short Film Acquisitions for their digital channel.

Read an interview with Michelle by clicking here.

HOW TO LOSE YOUR VIRGINITY (directed by Therese Shechter)

After a successful Kickstarter campaign that raised over $36K, Therese and the Trixie Films crew will be spending the summer finishing the edit of her film.  She  just returned from the Reel Change Workshop, an audience engagement boot camp, and is putting all her new-found knowledge to use designing the film’s outreach strategy. She continues to write the blog, curate First Person, and figure out what the heck to do with Pinterest.

Read a 2012 interview with Therese by clicking here and a 2010 interview by clicking here.

NICE & ROUGH: BLACK WOMEN IN ROCK (directed by Sheila J. Hardy)

My documentary about black women in rock is building the audience while we complete production.  We recently launched niceandrough.com, a global community for black women in rock and their fans, and now we are about to launch the concert tour.  You can join us at niceandrough.com, follow us on Facebook and on Twitter.  To support this project, visit our Contribute page.

Read a guest post by Sheila by clicking here. (She was Her Film’s very first guest blogger!)

BIG VOICE (directed by Varda Hardy)

The film is in its last weeks of production and we are continuing to develop new relationships with various distribution companies, grantors, and donors who can propel us into post-production, which will begin in the second part of June.  We are in need of additional funds for our post production and are actively inviting sponsors/investors to come on board.  Read more about the film by clicking here and following @BigVoiceMovie.

Read an interview with Varda by clicking here.