First features are usually a shaky affair for most filmmakers but Deniz Gamze Ergüven sails through with her debut feature Mustang, catching a handful of awards on the way, as well as numerous nominations including Best Foreign Film at the Oscars. Told through the eyes of Lale, the youngest of five sisters, Mustang is a bitter sweet coming of age story about growing up as a girl in rural Turkey. Unfolding over one summer, we see the girls go from enjoying a seemingly carefree, happy childhood to becoming prisoners in their own home, or “wife factory” as aptly described by Lale.
The film is visceral both in form and content and the feeling of being stifled and the desire to fight back is palpable. Mustang is ultimately a film about female empowerment and the fight for freedom through sisterhood, determination and rebellion. It will break your heart, and mend it again, it will make you laugh and make you cry, but mostly, it will make you think about the choices you have in your life and those that still need to be fought for (and not necessarily just for yourself).
International Collective of Female Cinematographers
Diversity on screen is a hot topic, but its sister topic – diversity behind the camera – is one that is just as important and, although gaining more of a foothold in the conversation surrounding diversity, still needs a bit more shouting about. Enter the International Collective of Female Cinematographers (ICFC), a collective uniting female cinematographers from around the world. Their aim; “to establish that female Directors of Photography are not, in fact, an anomaly…”
The UCFC provides community support and industry advocacy for its members by putting on events and meet ups, creating an online platform to share resources, opportunities, and events. They also act as a database to find female cinematographers around the world as well as creating mentorships and skill sharing opportunities within the community. Check out their website for more info on how to join.
Andrea Arnold kicks it in Cannes
The last few weeks have been awash with news of Cannes and although it has been well covered, it’d be wrong not to mention the festival in this report. As usual, the stats were bleak. With a line up of 21 films in the running, only three were female led. As a result, much of our hopes lay with Andrea Arnold, and let’s just say we backed the right horse. With American Honey, her spectacular film and her first made outside the UK, introducing the street-cast newcomer Sasha Lane, Arnold (for the THIRD TIME) brought home this year’s Prix du Jury.
Her work is striking, through its lyrical realism that runs within the stories she tells, as well as the largely unscripted and improvised way in which she constructs her films with longtime collaborator, celebrated cinematographer Robbie Ryan, with whom she won her two previous Jury Prizes for Red Road (2006) and Fish Tank (2009).
Fund-amental Change for BFI Funding
More encouraging news came from Cannes with the announcement from BFI’s CEO Amanda Nevill and Film Fund director Ben Roberts who spoke on a diversity panel about the BFI’s aim to allocate 50% of it’s funding to women by 2020. The panel was hosted by Directors UK which recently released a report revealing some awful but unsurprising statistics: from 2004-2014, only 13.6% of working directors in the UK were women. The report claimed that there was an “unconscious, systemic bias” towards male directors in the UK and called for 50:50 public funding for female directors by 2020. This target is something the BFI agrees with and there was also talk of looking into the difference that offering childcare costs as part of their funding would make for women and single parents.
Glorious Queens Viola Davis and Kerry Washington launch Production Companies
Not ones to sit around and wait for change, Viola Davis and Kerry Washington have both entered their production companies (JuVee Productions and Simpson Street respectively) into deals with ABC Studios. Talking to Variety, Davis said, “We started JuVee because we wanted to see narratives that reflected our multi-ethnic and multi-faceted culture. We wanted to be a part of classic storytelling, and we didn’t want to wait”, whilst Washington told Deadline, “I believe strongly in the importance of having a seat at the table, which makes starting this production company thrilling for me. It’s an honor to be at a point in my career when I can help generate projects that that are exciting, necessary and truly reflect the world around us.”
It’s so great to see amazing women kill it in front of the cameras and then take their success and power behind the scenes and influence the change they want to see. Also, watch the video of Viola Davis just being every kind of wise, inspiring, and fabulous.
Federal Government Investigates Discrimination Against Female Directors in Hollywood
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has announced that two federal government agencies, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, have been working on an investigation into the hiring practices of Hollywood studios. The investigations was prompted by the ACLU’s two-year audit into discriminatory practices and the report which resulted. Melissa Goodman, a lawyer with the ACLU, said, “We are encouraged by the scope and seriousness of the investigation. Over the last year, there’s been a lot of lip-service paid to furthering opportunities for women in Hollywood. But there have been very few definitive steps to solve the problem. It’s a really deep structural problem in the industry. The number of women who are actually being hired is not changing. It’s been stagnant for decades.”
The EEOC has the power to determine whether systemic discrimination is taking place and to file charges, rather that individuals having to. Goodman succinctly summed up the importance of this issue: “Film and television are among our most powerful and influential cultural products, and they’re overwhelmingly made by men, telling male stories, depicting women through a male lens, and reinforcing stereotypes. I think it shapes the way women and girls see themselves and limits the opportunities that the world presents to them.”
And finally…SKMY Launched A Web Series!
To mark a year since SKMY’s formation and to launch the webseries, we (Sorta Kinda Maybe Yeah) threw a party, of sorts. We invited all our friends, new and old, IRL and URL to celebrate, not only turning one, but all the wonderful and supportive friendships we have formed along the way. We felt it apt to screen the first episode of our the webseries, Sorta Kinda Maybe Yeah, and get other rad creative babes along to talk about their projects and share their work.
First up was Georgia Murray of GIRLS/CLUB, a self-published zine showcasing female creative talent. Georgia is the type of person that makes you seriously wonder whether you have the same amount of hours in a day as her because she is just so ON IT. The third issue, Quarter Life Crisis (featuring us on the cover eek!), is hot off the press and about to hit the racks – you can pre-order here or buy in person at the launch on the 10th of June at Blondies.
Reel Good Film Club followed up with a hilarious (but also very informative) Mariah-Carey-gif laden presentation of their film club devoted to celebrating people of colour in all aspects of cinema. Maria Cabrera, Grace Barber-Plentie and Lydia Heathcote who run the show, force us to remember what we were doing at their age (and then cringe and swiftly pretend we don’t).
Third up was Selina Roberts from queer feminist film curating collective, Club des Femmes who screened ChantalAckerman’s “Saute ma Ville (Blow up my Town)”. Selina is the type of person you see/hear on panels and are sorta in awe of but a bit too nervous to talk to, until you finally do at an event and become a babbling mess, but even faced with that, she’s still the sweetest… and you’re the sweatiest (this happened, word for word, to Aya at the launch – we love you Selina!). Born in 2007, Club des Femmes has been bringing seminal, queer feminist cinema and educating a wider audience for nearly a decade and they are an important pillar in the female creative community.
The next presentation was from Jenn Nkiru filmmaker extraordinaire, who screened her beautiful and fierce short En Vogue, documenting the Baltimore Ballroom Scene, scored by the brilliant Mike Q. Jenn is the type of girl that you want to be: she is wise, funny, supportive, beautiful and uber talented. Talking to her is guaranteed to leave you inspired. She also co-runs The Orange Soda Club who’s calendar you should all have on your phones.
And last but not least, spoken word artist Liv Wynter closed the event with several of her powerful pieces on society, creativity, creative institutions, love, emotions and being a woman. The energy she brings on stage is all encompassing and she will move you to tears as well as make you cackle. Her words are strong and tough as well as delicate and gentle and bring something out of you that you have been feeling deep inside you but never found the words to say them out loud. You basically just don’t ever want her to stop.
The wonderful women of Born’N’Bread contributed girl-power playlist to top our night off, packed with Beyonce (pre and post lemonade jams!), Tweet, Missy Elliot – SO GOOD. We would’ve loved to have them come down and talk but they are absolutely smashing it at the moment and couldn’t spare the time but were kind enough to make sure we had a great send off!