For Valentine’s Day 2020: Men We Love

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To celebrate Valentine’s Day 2020, AWFJ is posting this virtual Valentine to express our love for and to honor our male colleagues who’ve embraced the causes of gender parity and inclusively, and whose work has and is leveling the playing field for women working in film. For many of them, advocacy and activism for better representation of women on camera and behind the lens dates back to before #MeToo became an iconic hashtag and the feminist movement marched into the spotlight.

Thanks to AWFJ members Erica Abeel, Betsy Bozdech, Diane Carson, Sandie Angulo Chen, Leslie Combemale, Marilyn Ferdinand, Pam Grady, Loren King, Nora Mandel, Jennifer Merin, Nell Minow, Lynnette Nicholas, Danielle Solzman, Liz Whittemore and Susan Wloszczyna for contributing to our Men We Love List, presented here in alphabetical order:


For being a writer/director who is uniquely devoted to women’s stories, we salute Spanish auteur Pedro Almódovar, who has launched and supported the careers of a who’s who of Spanish female actors, including Penelope Cruz, Carmen Maura, Julieta Serrano, Marisa Paredes and Chus Lampreave, among others.

As a social activist, Chaz Bono has been a strong and influential advocate for LGBTQ entertainers and for the LGBTQ community, speaking up about gender-related violence and human rights violations, campaigning against the Defense of Marriage Act, and serving as Entertainment Media Director for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD).

Filmmaker Andrew Bujalski’s Support the Girls didn’t get enough attention when it opened in 2018. Not only did the warm, humorous yet serious film provide a wonderful role for Regina Hall, Support the Girls focused on issues faced by women working in the casual-food restaurant industry and the importance of female solidarity.


Belated love to Daniel Craig for debunking James Bond’s legendary chivalry in a comment he made in 2015: “Let’s not forget that he’s actually a misogynist.” Craig, most often recognized for portraying 007, also said at the time that he’d rather die than play Bond in another movie. We’s love to see him cast as female-friendlier characters.

Terry Crews brought sexual harassment of men to attention by not being afraid to speak up and share his own story of abuse by a Hollywood honcho. He refers to himself as a feminist, and publicly decries the idea of the “man code.”

Two film titles: Monster’s Ball and Precious. Three great actresses: Halle Berry, Mo’Nique and Gabourey Sidibe. And Mariah Carey. As a director, Lee Daniels digs deep into the female psyche and draws forth complex and authentic characters who demand feminist respect.

Producer Cassian Elwe supports emerging female filmmakers through the Horizon Award, covering all-expense-paid attendance at Sundance Film Festival where recipients screen their films for influential directors and producers, attend workshops, screenings and events, and are mentored by Elwes and other producers.

In addition to writing and directing femme-centric films, Paul Feig is a founding member of and ambassador for ReFrame, the parity organization run by Women in Film and Sundance Institute and committed to combating Hollywood gender inequality by mentoring mid-career women directors and opening work opportunities for them. Feig also advocates for the inclusion rider.

Thanks to Ronan Farrow, many who got away with so much for so long have been exposed. Farrow reported allegations against Harvey Weinstein, supported women who spoke out. His investigative journalism exposed predators hiding behind institutional protections. His book, Catch and Kill, and his riveting podcasts detail intimidation tactics used to silence witnesses, destroy careers and protect shameful behavior.

Todd Haynes’ Carol (2015) is a perceptive, gorgeous story of two women in the repressive 50s who must navigate their attraction to one another and social conventions requiring marriage, subjugation and silence. Tender, painful, erotic and hopeful, Carol shows the power of the female gaze despite the weighty obstruction of patriarchy. Carol is the women’s companion to Haynes’s Far From Heaven (2002), also about forbidden love in the 50s, and featuring a stellar performance from Julianne Moore, whose film career Haynes launched in Safe (1995).

Charles D. King left his lucrative, influential position as a top talent agent to establish Macro, a production company dedicated to providing a platform for diverse filmmakers — especially women and men of color — to tell authentic, relatable stories of interest to their communities. As a producer of Mudbound, King furthered the careers of director Dee Rees, cinematographer Rachel Morrison and actress Mary J. Blige.

Auteur filmmaker Terrence Malick is loved for his portraits of powerful, complex women as portrayed by powerful actresses. As one example, in A Hidden Life (2019), the character of Fani Jaggerstatter (Valerie Pachner), wife of Nazi-hater Franz Jaggerstatter, expresses Malick’s appreciates a woman’s emotional fortitude, as well as her ability to marshal her physical resources to manage the family farm and keep it afloat.

The French-Canadian director of Dallas Buyers Club and femme-centric Cafe de Flor (2011) went on to helm Wild, the truth-based film which super-charged the careers of Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern, both of whom received Oscar nominations for their performances. Marc-Vallet then doubled-down on the acclaimed lady-led HBO projects Sharp Objects, starring Amy Adams and Patricia Clarkson, and Big Little Lies, marshaling the extrordinary talents of Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley, Zoë Kravitz and Laura Dern, among other leading ladies.

Producer Ryan Murphy launched the Half Initiative, aiming to make Hollywood more inclusive by creating equal opportunities for women and minorities behind the camera. Less than one year after launching Half, Ryan Murphy Television’s production slate boasted 60% women directors, reaching 90% of its women and minority requirements. Concurrent with the hiring goals, the Initiative launched the Half Director Mentorship Program in which every director on Ryan Murphy Television productions — including American Horror Story, American Crime Story, Scream Queens and others — mentors emerging women and minority directors through pre-production and post-production along with offering significant stipends for travel, lodging, and daycare for working mothers, allowing them to meet personal financial obligations while gaining unprecedented access to further education and career growth.

Producer, writer and director Dan Palladino and his wife, Amy Sherman-Palladino, have merged into a mighty team as collaborators on female-forward television projects such as the under-appreciated Gilmore Girls and the streaming game-changer The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. And, the feminist producer has absolutely no qualms whatsoever about allowing his top-hatted wife to get most of the attention and acclaim of what they have accomplished together.

John Sayles’ attention and sensitivity to women, including them as central characters in his films, began in the 1980s with Return of the Secaucus Seven,, continuing with “Lianna” (1983), “Baby It’s You” (1983), “Matewan” (1987), “Passion Fish” (1992), “The Secret of Roan Inish” (1994), “Sunshine State” (2002), “”Casa de los Babys” (2003), and “Go for Sisters” (2013). Sayles and his wife, producer Maggie Renzi, were ahead of their time and deserve acknowledgement for groundbreaking depictions of complex, fully realized females on screen.

Working to raise awareness about sexual harassment, David Schwimmer credits his social activism to having grown up in a strong feminist household, citing both his mother – a feminist activist and lawyer – and sister as examples of women who have shaped his perspective. Schwimmer, in an interview with The Guardian, acknowledged his privilege as a heterosexual white male and explained how he uses his platform as an influencer to advocate for the end of sexual violence. Being a public supporter of the #MeToo movement, in 2018 Schwimmer also produced a number of short films called #ThatsHarassment, and he currently serves on the board of directors for the Rape Foundation in California.

Paul Weitz and his brother, Chris, garnered success and opportunity when they co-directed the R-rated American Pie, a raunchy male-driven comedy about high-schoolers that somehow managed to bestow a measure of dignity upon the female actresses in the film’s fresh-faced ensemble cast. But the real reason Paul is a true sweetheart is his 2015 comedy Grandma, which gave Lily Tomlin a rare gem of a lead movie role — the role of a lifetime — backed by brilliant performances by Julia Garner, Marcia Gay Harden, Judy Greer, Laverne Cox and Elizabeth Pena in a story that used charismatic humor to delve into hot topics such as lesbian relationships, transgender issues, child raising and abortion.

Film publicist John Wildman has always been an advocate for his female filmmaker clients, one who goes above and beyond to promote femme-centric films in his representation of and work with innumerable film festivals across the country. He boosts awareness of the opinions of female film critics’ coverage on social media platforms, and fully supports the talents and efforts of his wife, Justina Walford, founder of the Women Texas Film Festival, based in Dallas and now approaching its fifth year. John Wildman is a feminist in the purest form, a real ally, and a genuinely great friend to women who make movies and write about them.

Filmmaker Benh Zeitlin’s two feature films, Beasts of the Southern Wild and Wendy, celebrate the lives of young girls. The children at the heart of Zeitlin’s work, Hushpuppy in Beasts of the Southern Wild and the eponymous Wendy, are winning female protagonists distinguished by their courage, inner fortitude, independence and sense of adventure. They are girls who will give in to neither despair nor fear. Zeitlin and his co-writers (Lucy Alibar, whose play Juicy and Delicious, was the basis of Beasts of the Southern Wild, and Eliza Zeitlin, the director’s sister, for Wendy) have created two of the strongest and most resonant heroines of this century.

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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 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 a member of the Critics Choice Association in the Film, Documentary and TV branches and a voting member of the Black Reel Awards. For her AWFJ archive, type "Jennifer Merin" in the Search Box (upper right corner of screen).