g The Film Panel Notetaker: “Children” Cut in Half by Amazing Women in Film

Thursday, October 08, 2009

“Children” Cut in Half by Amazing Women in Film

Amazing Women in Film
Woodstock Film Festival
October 3, 2009

I know the headline for this blog sounds a little macabre and something you might see in Weekly Weird News, but it’s just a pun for saying that I watched half of Tze Chun’s “Children of Invention” and half of the panel, Amazing Women in Film. How is that even so? Well, the Woodstock Film Festival has such an amazing array of both films and panel discussions that it was so hard to choose between what to see and what to do. I had originally anticipated seeing “Children of Invention,” which started during the panel’s timeslot. On my way to see the film, I ran into a festival press rep that wondered why I wasn’t at Amazing Women in Film, because Uma Thurman (who was in Woodstock for her new film "Motherhood") and Mira Nair had been added to the panel at the last minute. I was torn. So like King Solomon in that story in the Bible (which I don’t exactly remember the whole story), I was presented with the offer to cut the child in half, just like the mother in the story, except the mother begged the king not to cut her child in half, and I actually ended up cutting both “children” in half…in a way…I guess...which makes me a horrible mother. The point is, I saw the last half of Amazing Women in Film, and then because that cut into "Children of Invention"’s timeslot, I got the see the last half of “Children of Invention,” which by the way, I loved, and also stayed after for the Q&A (notes coming soon)…and Tze, if you’re reading this, I hope to see your film in its entirety really soon. In the mean time, below you will find some highlights of my notes from the second half of Amazing Women in Film. (As a result of this panel, I really want to go see Mira Nair’s new film “Amelia”).

Thelma Adams

Marian Koltai-Levine
Pamela Koffler
Katherine Dieckmann
Uma Thurman
Signe Baumane
Barbara Hammer
Mira Nair

Adams mentioned that the Sandra Bullock film “The Proposal” was number 10 at the box office this year so far, and has grossed $286 million worldwide. This isn’t necessarily a validation for women dominating the box office, but an interesting figure, she pointed out. Koltai-Levine said there are opportunities out there for women, but it’s a re-tooling. Ancillary markets will support theatrical. If a film breaks even, then it’s ahead of the game.

Nair talked about her latest film she just completed, “Amelia,” starring Hilary Swank. It will be released on between approximately 1,800-2,000 screens. She said this is not an over-the-top women’s movie. It’s a full-on action/adventure about Amelia Earhart’s life through her final flight. Nair questioned, what is a film about a woman? Can these films make money at the box office? Her film is about a woman who balances her life on a see-saw. In Nair’s version, Amelia is the beloved and her husband is the lover, which would probably be reversed in most other films. The film is marketed like an action/adventure, like Out of Africa. It’s a very organic film with that epic sweep. Nair said she was intrigued by Earhart’s goofy humility. She just wanted to be flying. People don’t know how to be humble. Nair likes the idea that a young girl can dream it and actually do it.

When the panel was open to questions from the audience, one question was about the feminine journey. Is it different than the hero’s journey? Dieckmann, the director of “Motherhood” (that was part of the Woodstock Film Festival) starring Thurman, said she’s more interested in the internal complexity of a character. It’s not necessarily a gender thing. Thurman asked how does one dramatize an internal battle? Adams recalled a scene in “Motherhood” where Thurman’s character becomes ecstatic when she connects with who she was when she was 18. Through this external action, you see an internal struggle. Dieckmann said one of her favorite performances of Thurman’s was in Nair’s film “Hysterical Blindness.” She loved the moments of patience watching an emotion happen. Nair said an actor has to be brave enough to be absolutely raw. That’s what she was going for. It’s a simple story of a woman looking for love in all the wrong places. Nair said Thurman had to create the ability to be truthful and honest. Thurman said that both Nair and Dieckmann are two of some of the only female directors she’s ever worked with. She added that it’s difficult for a male director to tell a woman what he wants for the woman. They still can’t help to objectify a woman.

Another question asked was if there are any plusses or minuses working for a studio versus an independent? Nair said that a director has to have conviction or purpose and a point of view. She said you have to have a heart like gossamer, but your skin has to be elephant tight when working with the studios. She said you have to dance with them, and to pick your battles. Thurman reminisced about when she worked on Stephen Frears’ “Dangerous Liasons.” Frears told her, “Always say yes!”

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