WEEK IN WOMEN news roundup: Agnes Varda receives honorary Oscar, Women in Film launching sexual harassment help line, Kate Nowlin talks playing a woman veteran in ‘Blood Stripe’

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Agnes Varda appears in her film "The Beaches of Agnes." PBS photo

Agnes Varda appears in her film “The Beaches of Agnes.” PBS photo

Agnes Varda, the trailblazing French New Wave filmmaker who is still making movies at age 89, received an honorary Oscar Saturday at the Governor Awards, an untelevised dinner gala in Los Angeles.

In her wonderfully irascible way, the Belgium-born auteur didn’t seem too impressed in an interview with the Associated Press, estimating that she receives a lifetime honor every three months.

“I’m old so they don’t know what to do with me,” she said with a smile.

“It’s ridiculous. I’m well known but still remain poor, with poor audiences and poor box office. It’s like a consolation,” said Varda in an interview earlier this fall. “My daughter says I should go. But it’s the side Oscar. It’s not even in February. It’s in November. I think it’s the Oscar of the poor. I’m flattered but not that much.”

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences indeed often honors film artists who have previously never won or been nominated for an Academy Award with its honorary Oscars.

Varda never received an Academy Award nomination, and neither did fellow honorees Donald Sutherland, a popular actor with a variety of credits over his lengthy career, and Charles Burnett, the groundbreaking independent filmmaker of “Killer of Sheep.” Of this year’s winners, only cinematographer Charles Roizman (“Network,” ”The Exorcist”) has previously been nominated, according to the AP.

But Varda’s 1956 film “La Pointe Courte,” is considered the first film of the New Wave, and her real-time 1962 masterpiece, “Cleo from 5 to 7,” is regarded as one of the best of the historic era. Originally a photographer, she’s also known for her fierce feminist 1985 landmark “Vagabond” and her tender 2009 autobiographical documentary “Beaches of Agnes.”

“Life comes through the frame and through the stock. It’s like a filter,” Varda told the AP. “We filter life to make it accessible to us. We want to learn and then give to other people images, song and emotion and discovery. We are artisans. I feel I am an artist but I am a movie maker. I make a film with my hands. I love the editing, I love the mixing. It’s a tool to make other people exist. It’s giving understanding between people.”

She’s the only female filmmaker who was part of France’s historic New Wave, and she estimated there were only three women filmmakers in the country when she started out.

“When I started, my point was not to be a woman. I wanted to do radical cinema,” Varda said. “Now, France is a country where 25 percent of the filmmakers are women. We have an incredible amount of women film directors and DPs. More than here, I have to say. Because we have pushed the idea that they can do it, that there’s no reason they can’t do it. All the jobs of filmmaking can be made by women. And they are smart. And they are strong.”

She is continuing to make movies: Her newly released film, the documentary “Faces Places,” co-directed with the 34-year-old street artist JR, has been widely acclaimed. In it, the unlikely duo travels the French countryside meeting regular people and then putting up huge photographs of them in public spaces.

In 2009, the Alliance of Women Film Journalists named her the recipient of our EDA Award for Perseverance for “Beaches of Agnes” as well as our Lifetime Achievement Award. To read about her in our Oct. 2017 Spotlight, click here.

Louis C.K. appears in his shelved film "I Love You, Daddy." The Orchid photo

Louis C.K. appears in his shelved film “I Love You, Daddy.” The Orchid photo

Women in Film launching sexual harassment help line

Women in Film Los Angeles is establishing a help line for men and women who experience sexual harassment in the entertainment industry, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The help line, which is expected to go live by Dec. 1 and be available year-round, will serve as a confidential crisis center for callers and refer them to follow-up resources, including mental-health counseling and law-enforcement and legal services.

“Our phones have been ringing off the hook since these harassment stories began to break,” Women in Film executive director Kirsten Schaffer said in a statement. “We are hearing that victims feel isolated, that there is nowhere safe to go to tell their stories, that they believe they must keep their experiences silent or they will be sued or black-balled and that they feel helpless, fearing the legal costs of trying to do anything about what has happened to them.”

Greenberg Glusker partner Bonnie Eskenazi is putting together a panel of employment, labor, contract and civil-rights lawyers, who each will provide at least 10 hours of pro-bono service to the help line, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

“This plan provides victims of sexual harassment with certain resources to take actions consistent with their level of comfort and gives the victim control over how to address the violation and when,” Eskenazi said in a statement. “It also decreases concerns about legal costs.”

The help line, which is receiving seed funding from Women in Film founding partner WME, comes amid more than a month’s worth of personal testimonies of sexual harassment and assault from current and former members of the entertainment industry.

As I reported on my BAM’s Blog, Louis C.K. admitted that “these stories are true” Friday after the New York Times published a Thursday story featuring interviews with five women who alleged that the popular comedian had subjected them to sexual misconduct. After the report, independent film distributor The Orchid announced it would shelf C.K.’s movie “I Love You, Daddy.” HBO announced that C.K. would no longer be performing on its charity event “Night of Too Many Stars” and that his past projects would be removed from HBO On Demand services, while Netflix announced it was scrapping plans for his upcoming stand-up special.

C.K. joins the ranks of more than two dozen media and entertainment power players who have faced consequences for sexual harassment and misconduct following last month’s downfall of producer Harvey Weinstein. Others include actor Kevin Spacey, director Brett Ratner and writer-director James Toback. The AP posted an updated list of the men in Hollywood who have been accused of sexual wrongdoing that you can see in slideshow form here.

Kate Nowlin appears in the film "Blood Stripe." Tandem Pictures photo

Kate Nowlin appears in the film “Blood Stripe.” Tandem Pictures photo

Kate Nowlin talks playing a woman veteran in ‘Blood Stripe’

Saturday was Veterans Day, and as the Washington Post observed, women who have served in our armed forces often are overlooked when it comes time to honor our military members.

But the movie “Blood Stripe” centers on a Marine sergeant returning home after her third tour in Afghanistan who flees deep into the North Woods of Minnesota in an attempt to escape symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. Star Kate Nowlin, who has earned rave reviews for her performance, wrote the drama with her husband, Remy Auberjonois, who directed.

“Neither of us had any military background and we were so inspired by what we were learning. There weren’t many stories about returning female combat veterans. So once we decided on the topic and committed to it, its uniqueness and power rallied an incredible amount of support,” Nowlin said in a Q&A with Aced Magazine.

“Whenever we hit setbacks, we would think about the strength and resilience of the service men and women we read about. Our motto was, we fall down, we get back up.”

Shot on a shoestring budget in just 16 days, “Blood Stripe” has already garnered several awards: It received the U.S. Best Fiction Feature Film Award at the 2016 Los Angeles Film Festival; the Audience Award at the 2016 Austin Film Festival; the John Schlesinger Award for First-Time Filmmaker at the 2016 Provincetown International Film Festival; and both the Audience Award and the Indie Vision Breakthrough Performance Award at the 2016 Twin Cities Film Festival.

It opened in New York on Sept. 29 and Los Angeles on Oct. 13 and continued its festival run with screenings Nov. 6 and 8 at the Hawaii Film Festival.

“As an actress, I did my best to observe and absorb. We had a number of veterans on set, including a Marine, Amber Patton, who was invaluable. Out of respect for their experience, I immersed myself in the topic via conversations, books, documentaries, and current reportage on stories of returning veterans,” Nowlin told Aced Magazine.

“Part of that is kind of mysterious to me. How do we expect these people to shed this fundamental part of their identity? How does that just come off in a plane ride home? How do you normalize or re-integrate into our civilian day-to-day life, which is so very different? What pieces of it stay with you? They may be leaving an incredibly stressful and demanding environment, but many veterans I talked to said they would go back in a minute. For them, the military created a sense of order, they knew where they stood, there was unity and a sense of purpose. So we wanted to honor the ways in which combat veterans come home and re-create some shred of drive and rank. It was a way to make sense of a world that is so drastically different.

Lily Tomlin. Provided photo

Lily Tomlin. Provided photo

Lily Tomlin among Society of Voice Arts & Sciences honorees

The Society of Voice Arts & Sciences hosted its 2017 Voice Arts Awards Nov. 5 at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Fredrick P. Rose Hall in New York City, where Lily Tomlin and Ken Burns received special honors.

An award-winning actor, Tomlin took the stage at the event to accept the Voice Arts Icon Award, according to a news release. Bob Bergen, also known as the voice of Porky Pig, introduced a video of Tomlin’s lifetime achievements in film and television before she was presented with the award by Society of Voice Arts & Sciences founders Rudy Gaskins and Joan Baker.

“I am floored by the caliber of talent and competition tonight,” Tomlin said in accepting the award.

Tomlin, 78, provided the voice of Professor Frizzle in the series “The Magic School Bus” in the 1990s and is now reprising the role in “The Magic School Bus Rides Again.”

A critically acclaimed documentary filmmaker, Burns also was in attendance to accept the prestigious Muhammad Ali Voice of Humanity Honor. Three-time Emmy winner Keith David presented a tribute to Burns, who received a standing ovation.

“What is so extraordinary about this evening is the name of this award for Muhammad Ali is one of the people who took this world and widened it so that everyone in the world could see, that he spoke his voice even when he no longer had one,” Burns said in accepting the award.

The Society of Voice Arts & Sciences is a nonprofit organization created to enhance opportunities for gainful employment across all aspects of the voiceover industry and its related fields. The 2017 Voice Arts Awards featured more than 50 winners across multiple media genres. For the full list of 2017 Voice Arts Awards winners, go to sovas.org/2017-winners.

-BAM

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