Ana Lily and Sofia and the Diversity Issue — Jennifer Merin comments

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Ana Lily Amirpour and Sofia Coppola are female directors whose unique perspectives in filmmaking have attached the term auteur to their names and bodies of work. Yet, both directors are being tagged as ‘racist’ in criticism of their current productions. Continue reading…

Amirpour is the subject of massive controversy on the Internet, stemming from an incident at a post-screening Q&A re The Bad Batch, her current release, a dystopian vampire thriller. According to reports, Amirpour has been accused of being racist because she was (allegedly) disrespectful towards a woman of color who asked a question about characters of color in The Bad Batch, and why they are all killed off in the film. Amirpour’s answer was deemed dismissive by the questioner, who complained about it on the Internet. Amirpour, who was shocked by the complaint and accusation, has since responded to the flap with a reasonable explanation about her work and purpose.

Similarly, Sofia Coppola’s The Beguiled has been criticized because the director chose in her revisioning of the 1971 antebellum thriller to eliminate the slave, a woman of color, from her cast of characters. Like Amirpour, Coppola has been called upon to explain, justify and defend her choices.

Details of the controversies are readily available elsewhere, so let’s skip to the issue at hand. The instant controversies poses an interesting question about the current mandate and expectation for inclusion and how the quest for diversity in media impacts or would/should determine/influence artistic vision. And whether the demand for diversity actually splinters the movement for inclusion. The latter consideration is almost taboo at the moment– nobody seems to want to think through the divide-and-conquer prospectus.

Statements from auteurs Amirpour and Coppola indicate that they don’t consider ‘inclusion’ as a major player in their character development or casting considerations.

Should artists be held to justifiable and much needed social mandates for inclusion and diversity, and how are we to measure personal artistic statements in the presence of those pressing social mandates? Comments welcome.

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Jennifer Merin

Jennifer Merin is the Film Critic for Womens eNews and contributes the CINEMA CITIZEN blog for and is managing editor for Women on Film, the online magazine of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, of which she is President. She has served as a regular critic and film-related interviewer for The New York Press and About.com. She has written about entertainment for USA Today, The L.A. Times, US Magazine, Ms. Magazine, Endless Vacation Magazine, Daily News, New York Post, SoHo News and other publications. After receiving her MFA from Tisch School of the Arts (Grad Acting), Jennifer performed at the O'Neill Theater Center's Playwrights Conference, Long Wharf Theater, American Place Theatre and LaMamma, where she worked with renown Japanese director, Shuji Terayama. She subsequently joined Terayama's theater company in Tokyo, where she also acted in films. Her journalism career began when she was asked to write about Terayama for The Drama Review. She became a regular contributor to the Christian Science Monitor after writing an article about Marketta Kimbrell's Theater For The Forgotten, with which she was performing at the time. She was an O'Neill Theater Center National Critics' Institute Fellow, and then became the institute's Coordinator. While teaching at the Universities of Wisconsin and Rhode Island, she wrote "A Directory of Festivals of Theater, Dance and Folklore Around the World," published by the International Theater Institute. Denmark's Odin Teatret's director, Eugenio Barba, wrote his manifesto in the form of a letter to "Dear Jennifer Merin," which has been published around the world, in languages as diverse as Farsi and Romanian. Jennifer's culturally-oriented travel column began in the LA Times in 1984, then moved to The Associated Press, LA Times Syndicate, Tribune Media, Creators Syndicate and (currently) Arcamax Publishing. She's been news writer/editor for ABC Radio Networks, on-air reporter for NBC, CBS Radio and, currently, for Westwood One's America In the Morning. She is also a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Read Merin's recent articles below. For her complete archive, type "Jennifer Merin" in the Search Box (upper right corner of screen).