AWFJ EDA Award @ DOXA 2017 Filmmaker Interview: Heather White on COMPLICIT

HEATHER WHITEWhile people in the West use smartphones to live healthier, happier lives, the construction of such devices has horrific health effects on the people who actually make them. Complicit shines a light on the dark irony of the global electronic manufacturing industry in China, where 90% of the world’s consumer electronics are produced, including 70% of its cell phones. Read what Complicit co-direcxtor Heather White has to say about her compelling expose on THE FEMALE GAZE.

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AWFJ EDA Award @ DOXA 2017 Filmmaker Interview: Julia Hechler on LES CLOYS

julia hechler doxa2017In a particular Parisian neighborhood, residents have devised a means of establishing their own cultural identity and reclaiming their person power through the creation of a slanguage they call Verlan (back to front). American filmmaker Julia Hechler captures their trending tongue on film. Read what she has to say about the importance of language, getting to know your subjects and her next career moves on THE FEMALE GAZE.

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AWFJ EDA Award @ DOXA 2017 Filmmaker Interview: Clara van Gool on VOICES OF FINANCE

van gool doxa short 2017 filmmakerDutch filmmaker Clara van Gool’s short dance documentary takes us to London’s bleak financial district, where traders, bankers, and hedge fund managers describe an atavistic society, blood red in tooth and claw. As they move through the city streets, bodies become a metaphor for the extremity of an industry that twists and bends human nature into torturous form. Read what Clara van Gool has to say about making the film, dance as metaphor and her career on THE FEMALE GAZE.

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AWFJ EDA Awards @ DOXA Filmmaker Interview: Elisa Chee on LUCY

elisa chee filmmaker doxaNominated for the AWFJ EDA Award or Best Female-Directed Short at DOXA 2017, Vancouver-based filmmaker Elisa Chee uses masterful animation to recall the story of a domesticated chimpanzee called Lucy and a human named Janis Carter, the caretaker who made it her life’s work to rehabilitate Lucy and return her to her natural environment. Read what she has to say about her beautifully crafted short film, its subjects, animation in documentaries and her career on THE FEMALE GAZE.

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AWFJ EDA Award @ DOXA 2017 Filmmaker Interview: Alexandra Gaulupeau on LIFE AT A SNAIL’S PACE

alexandra gaulupeau for doxa2017.Filmmaker Alexandra Gaulupeau takes us into the unique world of Marla Coppolino, a malacologist (snail expert), artist and self-proclaimed spokesperson for the largely misunderstood diminutive species of land snails. Through the creation of elaborate miniature scenes and cello scores, Coppolino displays her own mighty appreciation for the tiny, slimy (and surprisingly sexy) creatures! Read what Alexandra Gaulupeau has to say about making her first film, microphotography and mini-budgeting and connecting people to the natural world on THE FEMALE GAZE

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AWFJ EDA AWARD @ DOXA 2017 Filmmaker Interview: Yan Chun Su on DROKPA

yan_chun_su_headshot 2Filmmaker Yan Chun Su’s gorgeous observational film captures life on the Tibetan Plateau. The last of Tibet’s drokpa (nomads) lead herds of yak and sheep over hilly grasslands. No longer limitless and free- ranging, they move across sections of pasture, now allotted to them by the Chinese government. Read what Yan Chun Su has to say about the changing environment, nomadic life, organic filmmaking and her career on THE FEMALE GAZE.

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SPOTLIGHT May 2017: Sheila Nevins, President HBO Documentary Films, Producer and Author

nevins head 2Sheila Nevins is a straight shooter. Answer her casual “How are you?” with “Can’t complain. And you?” and you’ll get “I’ve got a lot to complain about!” in reply.

Nevins’ career could be viewed as an active response to the many complaints she has about the world in which we live.

During her 35-year tenure in HBO’s documentary programming division, culminating with her appointment as president of documentary films in 2004, Nevins has facilitated the creation and distribution of more than 1,000 short and feature-length nonfiction films. She says her work isn’t a mission, but rather recognizes that “some people are more lucky than others.” She has a “desire to talk back at what was wrong” and a belief that “the more you look away, the more you keep looking away as a kind of emotional blindness.”

Champion of the Human Experience

The subjects she has championed have ranged across human experience and social justice issues, from legal assisted suicide (How to Die in Oregon, 2001), wrongful conviction (The Trials of Darryl Hunt, 2006) and slavery (The Carpet Slaves: Stolen Children of India, 2001) to homosexuality in entertainment (The Celluloid Closet, 1995) and Down Syndrome (Educating Peter, 1992). The profiles she has presented focus on the famous (Rita Hayworth, Studs Terkel, Carrie Fisher, Elaine Stritch), the unheralded (burlesque dancers, AIDS patients) and the infamous (Tammy Faye Baker, Jack Kevorkian, Lenny Bruce).

nevins podium

“I find stories all the time. I have to stop myself from finding stories,” Nevins says.

Intellectual Engagement Is Fundamental for Nevins

Nevins was born in Manhattan, raised in an intellectually engaged home and earned degrees from Barnard College and the Yale School of Drama. She said, “I always thought I was given a big chunk of fair in my life. I was the only woman in a family of four brothers. I grew up with women like Ethel Rosenberg around me, their intellect and energy.” Her early years engaged her curiosity and heightened her sense of how society is constructed.

nevins made in ny

“You’re born, there are great injustices and you’re here for a very limited time,” she says, “The uncertainty of life and the fact that you might not be able to make choices — how you survive, how people make it work for them. It engages me. It keeps me interested in being alive.”

Telling Her Own Story

nevins bookWhile Nevins is tireless in presenting other people’s stories to the world, only now has she chosen to tell her own story. Debuting this month is her wonderfully cheeky You Don’t Look Your Age, and Other Fairy Tales (Flatiron Books), a collection of poems, essays and stories about “people who may or may not be me” covering everything from sex to cosmetic surgery.

For Nevins, writing the book was partly about ensuring that she wouldn’t be misrepresented after it was too late to set the record straight. “I lost a college friend five years ago,” she says, “and I went to her memorial service. And it was everything she wasn’t.”

Nevins is very proud of the audio version of the book, which is narrated by a formidably talented group of luminaries, including Alan Alda, Bob Balaban, Christine Baranski, Kathy Bates, Ellen Burstyn, RuPaul, Gloria Steinem, Meryl Streep and Lily Tomlin. “I’m amazed I had the chutzpah to call them all and got them to do it.” But as she says herself, “I have done this on behalf of other people all my life.”

Why We Chose Her

nevins headThere is little Sheila Nevins has not accomplished in her chosen field. We agree with the Peabody Board of Jurors, who presented Nevins with a prestigious personal Peabody Award for being “one of the true independent spirits in television today, whose passion and vision consistently create excellence.” As she now adds author to her long and impressive list of achievements, AWFJ is honored to SPOTLIGHT Sheila Nevins for the month of May 2017.

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Women’s Media Summit in P-town — Loren King reports

Most cinephiles know that there’s a gender gap in today’s Hollywood. The question is, what can be done about it? “This is not a fight about jobs. This is a fight about how our stories are told. This is a fight about the perspective from which our universal stories emerge,” notes Maria Giese, a film director who in 2015 instigated an industry-wide federal investigation into discrimination against female directors in Hollywood. Giese joined Christine Walker, CEO of the Provincetown Film Society, and Caroline Heldman of the Geena Davis Institute for Gender in Media to organize the recent Women’s Media Summit in Provincetown. Continue reading…

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SPOTLIGHT April, 2017: Katell Quillévéré, Filmmaker, HEAL THE LIVING

awfjspotlightsmallsmallWhen Katell Quillévéré was awarded France’s Jean Vigo Prize in 2010 for her first feature film, Love Like Poison, the cinematic community knew they had an exciting and original new filmmaker to follow. Quillévéré, who studied philosophy and cinema at the University of Paris, shows a unique talent for asking big questions through the lives of her characters. Read on…

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THE WEEK IN WOMEN: King Kong’s leading lady gets a much-needed upgrade — Brandy McDonnell reports

skull island brie larsonKong: Skull Island emerged as box office king, debuting at No. 1 with a $61 million take. The latest cinematic outing for the “eighth wonder of the world” topped international charts, too, earning $81.6 million from 66 territories. Since this version of Kong is here to stay for a while, it’s a good thing the director and screenwriters Dan Gilroy (Nightcrawler), Max Borenstein (Godzilla) and Derek Connolly (Jurassic World) gave the female lead (Brie Larson) an overhaul nearly as dramatic as the supersizing of the gigantic gorilla. She’s a seasoned and fearless “anti-war photographer” who doesn’t tote a gun, but gets her team out of harrowing encounters with the Skull Island’s myriad monsters. She’s first to empathize with Kong and realize he’s not the mindless killing machine soldiers and scientists believe him to be. Read more on THE WEEK IN WOMEN

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Kristen Stewart on Personal Transformation and PERSONAL SHOPPER — Loren King interviews

kristen stewartThe megastar of the Twilight franchise when she was barely out of her teens is now a respected indie actress with a prodigious output. Last year alone, she won praise for roles in Woody Allen’s Cafe Society, Kelly Reichardt’s Certain Women, and Ang Lee’s Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, and directed a short film, Come Swim. Oh, and she hosted Saturday Night Live, delivering an opening monologue that affirmed her coming out, while also skewering her own tabloid fame. Read more>>

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SPOTLIGHT March 2017: Amy Hobby, Feminist Film Producer and Activist

awfjspotlightsmallsmallLast year, during one of Tribeca Film Festival’s Tribeca Talks, Jodie Foster famously commented that women who’ve maneuvered their way into the upper echelons of the Hollywood hierarchy have not been particularly helpful to women working behind the lens.

amy hobby head 1But Tribeca Film Institute’s recently anointed Executive Director Amy Hobby disagrees. While acknowledging some validity in Foster’s statement and noting that statistics continue to show dismal gender disparity in the movie industry, Hobby claims that the scene is changing.

Take note: Amy Hobby is in the know, and she’s in a position where she can actually make it so. Read on…

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THE WEEK IN WOMEN: ‘Mary Poppins Returns,’ plus Chastain, Bening and Kidman get gigs and Women in Special Effects — Brandy McDonnell reports

Disney has announced that production on “Mary Poppins Returns,” the studio’s sequel to its 1964 “Mary Poppins,” has commenced at Shepperton Studios. The film stars Golden Globe winner Emily Blunt and Emmy, Grammy and Tony Award winner Lin-Manuel Miranda. Directed by Oscar nominee, Emmy and DGA Awards winner Rob Marshall, the film is scheduled for a Dec. 25, 2018 release. Jessica Chastain is producing a TV series about NASA women. Nicole Kidman’s Blossom Films has optioned Janice Y.K Lee’s The Expatriates for a TV series. Annette Bening joins the cast of FX’s Hurricane Katrina anthology series. And, women rule in special effects at Lucas’Industrial Light & Magic. Read more on THE WEEK IN WOMEN.

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Anne Hamilton talks Gender Politics, Career Moves and AMERICAN FABLE – Interview by Gill Pringle (Exclusive)

anne hamilton head 1Director Anne Hamilton was on a date with an agent after moving to Los Angeles three years ago, when he casually mentioned how female directors “paint better on small palettes”.

“I wanted to punch him!” recalls Hamilton, 32, whose debut feature film, American Fable is anything but small; a gothic-style suspense story presenting a desperate rural America rarely depicted on screen.

“I have a huge palette which I intend to use, and I want to be another female director who demonstrate that’s not the case,” says this protege of visionary film-maker Terrence Malick. Read on…

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SPOTLIGHT February 2017: Amma Asante, Filmmaker, A UNITED KINGDOM — by Marilyn Ferdinand

awfjspotlightsmallsmallamma with mask“We whopped Spider-Man, and that is my claim to fame!”

With the good humor and energy that have helped her break through to the front ranks of the film industry, director/ screenwriter/actress Amma Asante celebrated the opening week box-office victory of her spellbinding feature Belle (2013) over the popular superhero franchise. Belle tells the moving true story of a biracial woman, Dido Elizabeth Belle, brought up as an aristocrat in 18th century England. While it luxuriates in the kind of genteel elegance that is catnip to audiences, Asante also offers a penetrating look at the abomination of slavery upon which such rich lifestyles were based, and the confusion its title character feels as a result. Read on…

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THE WEEK IN WOMEN: Carrie Fisher’s Princess Leia Legacy — Brandy McDonnell comments

princess leiaWhen my sister and I were kids during the 80s, it was ALWAYS a good time to play Star Wars. We were Star Wars diehards, determined to follow the good side, not the dark. But there was a problem: There was only one heroine in that far away galaxy. So, when it came time to play Stars Wars, tough decisions had to be made. Would one of us play Han Solo or Luke Skywalker? That was no good: We were tomboys, not boys. Sometimes we both played Princess Leia, and sometimes we created our own female characters — because when we were growing up there was only one woman who got to be a hero. And while that may have been severely limiting, at least Star Wars had one. Read more on THE WEEK IN WOMEN.

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Oscar-bound Annette Bening Shakes up the Screen — Profile by Thelma Adams (Exclusive)

anette beningIn 20th Century Women, Annette Bening redefines what it is to be an actress over forty – okay 58 – while gunning for an Oscar as Santa Barbara single mum Dorothea. Smart, sexy, searching: just three adjectives that describe the Kansas native. Fold in funny and touching, too. But what makes this mother-of-four married to former matinee idol Warren Beatty so disruptive, so eruptive, is that as a craftswoman and artist, she never stands still. Read on…

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Greta Gerwig on Female Co-stars, Sexual Role Play in 20TH CENTURY WOMEN — Thelma Adams interviews

Project Cobalt Presents a New York Special Screening of A24's "20th Century Women"There’s a bit of Diane Keaton to Greta Gerwig: smart, idiosyncratic and appealing, both neurotic and loose-limbed and glowy. But the proof that Keaton and Gerwig came-of-age in different generations is the way in which Gerwig, 33, has taken the reins of production, turning from muse to master, so early in her career. Read more>>

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Greta Gerwig and Mike Mills on 20TH CENTURY WOMEN — Interview by Tomris Laffly

20th-century-women-posterGreta Gerwig says Mike Mills is at his core a listener and he started 20th Century Women from a place of being a listener. “He was raised by women basically. But he didn’t make any assumptions and he interviewed them all. It’s why the film feels like it’s about real women, and not about imagined projections of women by a man, which is what it usually feels like.” Asked whether he would call himself a true feminist, Mike Mills opines that it’s not really his place to say. “Well, I’m a male ally to women. A feminist? That’s something for women to decide.” Read more>>

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SPOTLIGHT January 2017: Ava DuVernay, Film Director and Crusader — by Marilyn Ferdinand

awfjspotlightsmallsmallava-duvernay-head-shotIt’s hard to think of a more galvanizing, charismatic woman in film than Ava DuVernay. The 44-year-old producer, director, writer, distributor and crusader for social justice broke into the larger cultural zeitgeist in 2015, the year her acclaimed film Selma was nominated for two Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and four Golden Globes, and won the AWFJ EDA Award for Best Woman Director. She is the winner of three AWFJ EDA Awards in 2016, including those for Best Documentary and Best Female Director for 13th and Outstanding Achievement by a Woman in Film. Read on…

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HIDDEN FIGURES stars on how working at NASA in the 1960s is a little like Hollywood — interview by Stephanie Merry

“Any upward movement for one of us is upward movement for all,” Octavia Spencer said. “If we don’t get there together, we don’t get there.” The spirit of teamwork also shows up in the plot of their movie, Hidden Figures. During the space race, NASA’s Langley Research Center employed black female mathematicians to calculate, among other things, launch and landing for the country’s first astronauts. After all, John Glenn didn’t make it into space alone, and one person who helped was Katherine Johnson, played by Henson. Spencer and Monáe play two other real-life math virtuosos, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson. Read more>>

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Alex Kurtzman on Unwrapping THE MUMMY — Gill Pringle interviews

In the 2017, Universal is once again doing their darnedest to forge their old and much-loved monster properties into a unified and hopefully lucrative shared-world franchise. The Mummy is not necessarily the first such creature to come to mind, and first-time director Alex Kurtzman is not necessarily the first filmmaker, but the screenwriter-turned director tells us why he – and it – are the best possible choice. Read more>>

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SPOTLIGHT DECEMBER 2016: Maren Ade, Director and Producer, TONI ERDMANN — by Julide Tanriverdi

awfjspotlightsmallsmallmaren-ade2The German filmmaker Maren Ade is making waves with her third feature Toni Erdmann which caused a sensation at the Cannes Film Festival. Now it opens in theaters and this is a movie no one should miss. Read on…

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AWFJ EDA Awards @ IDFA 2016 Filmmaker Interview: Areum Parkkang on AREUM

areum-parkkangIn her first documentary feature, South Korean teacher and filmmaker Areum Parkkang takes a look at her own difficulties in finding a boyfriend. When her numerous blind dates don’t lead anywhere, she asks her students for their advise. They tell her that it is her appearance that is off putting. They advise her to make herself more attractive by slimming down, dressing up in a more feminine way, and wearing makeup. Read her interview on THE FEMALE GAZE

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Mia Hansen-Løve on THINGS TO COME and Writing — Interview by Tomris Laffly

mia-hansen-loveMia Hansen-Løve talks the way she writes: There is an effortless breeziness to her prose. Her casual smarts evidently come easy to her, as she packs multitudes of meaning in each seemingly straightforward statement. Listening to her take a brainy journey from one idea to the next, I note how her in-person demeanor matches the on-the-page and behind-the-camera storyteller. Read more>>

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