Tuesday 22 December 2009

The Truth (if there's any...)

"In DRAMA, as in LIFE, we are NOT what we SAY we are. We ARE what we DO."

(from "So You Want To be a Playwright?" by Tim Fountain, capitals mine.)



Monday 21 December 2009

Her Name Was Gilda!

In fact, her name was Gilda de Abreu. Born in Paris, France in 1904, during her parents' trip to Europe - her mother, Nicia da Silva was the most popular classical singer in Brazil at the time, and was often invited to perform in Europe.

Gilda's mother taught her lyrical singing. Gilda started performing to audiences, and eventually even writing her own operettas. During her singing career she met the love of her life, the singer Vicente Celestino, whom also was at the top of his filed, being known as 'The Voice of Brasil'.

It did not take long for Gilda, based on the very songs she wrote, to start writing scripts for films she would eventually act on (along with Celestino)and direct.

This woman seemed to be nothing less than a phenomenon, and how anyone in Brasil can grow up without knowing about her (as it was my case) is proof of how Brasil suffers of a very short cultural memory!

Gilda de Abreu films were the biggest box offices (as they call it these days) of her time; they were "Pinguinho de Gente", "Coracao Materno" (in which her husband starred), as well as "Chico Viola Nao Morreu", based on the life of legendary singer Francisco Alves, and "Cancao de Amor", film which was dedicated to her husband.

She died in 1979.

This remarkable woman must be remembered by us all.

I will be back, probably before NYE 2010, to bring in more women who ought to be remembered and celebrated for their creations!

Feliz Natal! (Merry Christmas) x LS

Tuesday 15 December 2009

Kathryn Bigelow nominated for Best Film Director

North American Film Director Kathryn Bigelow has been nominated for an Academy Award on the upcoming ceremonies to be presented in 2010 for her film "The Hurt Locker".

The director of films like "Point Break" (with Keanu Reeves as an FBI agent who infiltrates a gang of bank robbers lead by a surfer played by Patrick Swayze) and the futuristc, dystopian thriller "Strange Days" (with Ralph Fiennes, Angela Bassett and Juliette Lewis), started with the dreams of becoming a painter in San Francisco before dedicationg herself to the Cinema.

"The Hurt Locker" is her first film after a cinematic hiatus of seven-years, and has gathered raving reviews for chalenging a still persistently misconceived notion that a woman would be an unlikely choice to direct action/ war movies.

"The Hurt Locker" is set in Iraq, in its current war, and portrays a group of soldiers led by its "brash, reckless Sargent" with he mission of dismantle explosives in life-threatening situations.

For more info on the film and for an interview with Bigelow, click on the link that is this post's title, and fingers crossed for Bigelow next year.

source: avclub.com

Sunday 13 December 2009

Watch this Space!

Watch "Mistresses of the Universe" for further additions on our very special Hall of Honours!

The next entries will continue to be dedicated to the Ladies of Cinema - and these addtions should undoubtly enrich us all!

Thanks for looking!


Friday 4 December 2009

Sally Potter (from The Guardian today)

Sally Potter: 'There was no such thing as an easy ride'More familiar with life on the fringes of British cinema, director Sally Potter finds herself the subject of a BFI retrospective. But she has no interest in looking back

By Ryan Gilbey

Thursday 3 December 2009 21.50 GMT Article history
'When it's time to let go of my films, I really let go' … Sally Potter.

Photograph: Felix Clay

In the late 1980s, Sally Potter was scratching around for funding to make Orlando, the Virginia Woolf adaptation widely considered her finest film, as well as a formative moment in the career of its star, Tilda Swinton. Potter's friend, the visionary director Michael Powell, had secured her a 10-minute meeting with Martin Scorsese, in which she hoped to convince him to extend a helping hand to a fellow maverick.

The Gold Diggers Production year: 1983 Country: UK Cert (UK): U Runtime: 89 mins Directors: Sally Potter Cast: Colette Laffont, Julie Christie, Thom Osborn More on this film "Tilda and I went with our producer to meet Scorsese in New York," says the 60-year-old Potter, seated at a table in her east London office. "We walked into his place and nearly fainted with admiration. He then proceeded to spend the entire 10 minutes talking about how incredibly difficult life was for him as an independent film-maker because the critics had just 'killed' him over The Last Temptation of Christ." The slender, softly spoken Potter grimaces at the memory before whooping loudly, throwing her head back in a gesture that disturbs her long, red mane.

Although she didn't come away from chez Scorsese with a fat cheque in her fist, she did leave with something of greater long-term value. "It was fascinating to observe that somebody who was the very definition of a loved and respected film-maker should himself be carrying real wounds from criticism he'd received, and could still be struggling. It was bizarrely reassuring. I realised I was part of a spectrum. There was no such thing as an easy ride – just different kinds of difficulties."

What has occasioned these reflections is a season of Potter's work at BFI Southbank, ranging from avant-garde shorts that were in the can before she was out of her teens, to Rage, the 2009 murder-mystery set in the fashion industry and comprised entirely of talking heads, including Jude Law, Judi Dench and Steve Buscemi. Potter is indisputably an arthouse film-maker, but if there's one thing she can do, it's reel in the stars: Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci, Joan Allen and Julie Christie are among past collaborators.

She is, she says, largely averse to revisiting the past. "I'm completely absorbed in my films until the moment of letting go. Then I really do let go. I barely even remember them." What's most striking about the retrospective is the continuity between films made over a 40-year-span. The split-screen short Play, filmed in 1971 from the window of Potter's bedsit using two cameras running at different speeds, is a perfect example, foreshadowing some of the same ideas about the untrust-worthy image that are explored in Rage.

Potter is essentially a product of late-60s London, when the capital was a hive of underground creativity: you could scarcely throw a dissertation on Derrida without hitting a leftist collective or an arts laboratory. Potter had already whiled away many long days at the Drury Lane Arts Lab, where audiences would lounge around on mattresses for screenings of, say, Andy Warhol's eight-hour Empire. Having harboured dreams of film-making since before she left school, and high on Eisenstein and Vertov, Potter pitched up at the London Film-Makers' Co-Op. "The deal was that you just walked in and lurked about," she explains, "and if you were lucky you got to use something. My memory is of standing in the background, blushing and feeling terribly shy, trying to get a foothold. When I did get to use the editing equipment, I remember unwinding the film all over the floor, and just crying."

Play brought the young director the recognition from her LFMC colleagues that she wanted, but she still felt like an outsider. "There simply weren't a lot of women making films. It was just on the cusp of the women's movement. I went on marches, but I always wondered if the real movement was somewhere else. When people ask me if I was part of the women's movement, I tend to think, 'I dunno.'"

Potter then enrolled at the London School of Contemporary Dance, and devoted much of the 1970s to choreographing and performing. Her return to film-making proper came in 1979 with Thriller, a playful short in which Mimi, the seamstress who expires at the end of Puccini's La Bohème, unpicks the manner of her own demise. "I was on my own with Thriller, not really having any reference points to guide me. But also in the physical sense of editing the film alone at night, with the lights off and a thermos of coffee, using borrowed equipment out of hours while the rest of the city slept." Told largely through still images in the manner of La Jetée, but bristling with erudite wit, the film was a labour of love that became a calling-card. It can only have raised expectations for her 1983 feature debut, The Gold Diggers.

Watching the picture now, it's extra–ordinary to think that this cheerfully adventurous piece analysing the role of women in cinema and society – starring Julie Christie – could have attracted the opprobrium it did. "It was supposed to be a comedy," she shrugs. "I couldn't understand why no one was laughing." Maybe Britain simply wasn't ready for a socio-political screwball-feminist discourse on gender, with added tap-dancing. Potter had employed an all-female crew, the better to reflect the film's feminist thrust – a clear instance of positive discrimination before that term was coined. "Many of the women weren't very experienced. And there were all the tensions and mutinies that come with that kind of idealistic project. But the idea was that the behind-the-scenes situation needed to reflect some of what was going on in the story itself. You couldn't believe what an issue it was then. The flak we got! We were called anti-male. We were derided and ridiculed."

With The Gold Diggers savaged by all but a handful of critics, Potter was back to being an outsider again. I had always pictured her, rather sentimentally, as an established part of that British arthouse scene funded by the BFI in the 1970s and early 1980s – Jarman, Peter Greenaway, Terence Davies, Bill Douglas. But she sets me straight on that. "I was on the margins," she says brightly, in the manner of someone putting a jolly spin on bad news. "The idea of us as any kind of group is a product of hindsight." So you weren't hanging out in Soho pubs, arm-wrestling Terence Davies? "Hugging Terence Davies, certainly," she says. "Though not very often. I love Terence, and Derek was a good friend too. But film-makers work very much in isolation. We only ever see each other every three or four years when we come out of the dark to attend festivals."

Being an outsider meant there was no kind of support network to cushion the blow of The Gold Diggers' commercial failure. "It was dreadful. I felt really cast out. I thought there was a very real chance that I'd blown my one opportunity. It was a long haul back." But while Orlando took Potter the best part of eight years to realise, it feels like the film she was born to make. The storytelling is breezy and dextrous, spanning 400 years in the life of a time-travelling nobleman (Swinton) who jumps genders. The casting alone is manna from gay heaven: Ned Sherrin, Jimmy Somerville, even Quentin Crisp as Queen Elizabeth I. It was also one of the first films to straddle the divide, rigid in those days, between arthouse and mainstream, looking back to the muscular conundrums of Greenaway's The Draughtsman's Contract or Rivette's Céline and Julie Go Boating, but also forward to the period-piece irreverence of Shakespeare in Love.

Potter isn't short of explanations for Orlando's popularity. It's snappy (she hired the editor of Delicatessen to give it some punch) and, she says, better made all-round than The Gold Diggers. But her precarious prospects at the time must have forced her to be all the more driven. "I can assure you I was very determined with The Gold Diggers," she points out. "But with Orlando it felt like life or death. If I didn't make a film that worked in the eyes of the world, rather than just a few diehard supporters, I knew I wasn't going to be able to do what I perceived as my life's work."

Tilda Swinton as Orlando

Did she ever feel like giving up? "Sure. I got close many times. Especially financially – you have to learn to live in debt constantly. But once you discover that you don't actually starve, every obstacle becomes an opportunity to redefine what you're doing, a vehicle for transformation. That's perfect for taking the fear out of things. It's like Gertrude Stein said: 'Considering how dangerous everything is, nothing is really very frightening.'"

Tuesday 1 December 2009

Kelly Reichardt

There seems to be almost no information at all about Kelly Reichardt on the web. I found some interesting interviews though, and I selected the following extract - the interview is made by maverick film director GUS VAN SANT (Drugstore Cowboy, My Own Private Idaho, Elephant amonsgt others). Enjoy!

Director Kelly Reichardt first gained widespread notice with her 2006 film Old Joy, a paean to post–9/11 political and personal miasma played out in the campfire conversations and road-trip recollections of two longtime friends in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon. Together they drive into the wilderness, get lost, find the hot spring they’ve been looking for, and return to Portland. What this threadbare narrative really underscores is the unspoken impossibility of their reconnection. Wendy and Lucy, Reichardt’s latest, debuts on December 10 at Film Forum in New York. Centered around the escalating hardships of Wendy (played by Michelle Williams; Lucy is her dog) whose car breaks down in a rural Oregon town en route to a well-paying summer job, the film shows how seemingly minor setbacks can lead to devastation. Reichardt’s other films include her 1994 debut River of Grass and several short films: Ode, Then a Year, and Travis. Currently a visiting assistant professor at Bard College, she lives in New York City. Revered auteur Gus Van Sant met with Reichardt this July in Portland to discuss the joys and hardships of filming on the cheap, local hot springs, and Wendy and Lucy.

Gus Van Sant So, your last two films have been in Oregon.

Kelly Reichardt My last three films. Before Old Joy there was a short called Then A Year. Mostly I’m shooting in Oregon because I’m working from Jon Raymond’s stories and they’re set here. Wendy and Lucy is not supposed to be Portland per se, but small-town Oregon. Old Joy was written specifically about the Bagby Hot Springs.

GVS I’ve never been there. I’ve always heard about it. I’ve been to hot springs in the Northwest but they’re not necessarily built. They’re natural hot springs.

KR I went to a built one last week in Fields, Oregon. It sits at the foot of the playa out in the middle of the desert.

GVS There’s something about the springs that have an enzyme, or something in them that can be bad for you.

KR I never heard that, but on Old Joy we had a ranger with us who told us about all the things he’d found in the tubs—including a dead body—which actually wasn’t the worst of it. He said the temperatures are just hot enough to keep all the bacteria alive.

GVS Those rangers see a lot.

KR A ll kinds of things, I’m sure.

GVS They have to be responsible for busting meth labs and such.

KR With Wendy and Lucy, I was thinking of not shooting in Portland again. I scouted all over. I went to like 20 states. Then I was sitting in this Safeway parking lot in the middle of February in Butte, Montana, thinking, What the hell am I doing? What are we going to spend bringing a Portland crew out to Butte to shoot in a parking lot that looks so much like the one in Portland that Jon wrote about? So Jon ended up getting his way. We shot at the Walgreen’s right down the street from his house.

GVS In the same place he was thinking of?

KR Yeah. Jon ends up getting his way every time with the locations. Like right now we’re working on this Western; the story takes place out near Fields—there’s nothing out there. At first glance it seems super impractical to shoot there. But I’m sure somehow that’s where we’ll end up. It’s cool though; scouting other places and driving around the country helps me figure out the movie, so even if I end up back in Portland it’s a worthwhile process.


GVS I’m usually not that concerned with literal hope. Although I have had really hopeful endings, to the point where it’s, like, ridiculous. I don’t know about your own history, but it seems to follow the presence of hope. Like, when times are good, you’re going to be making a certain kind of film. And when times are not good, you’re going to be making another kind of film. Without any sort of plan. It’s just your reaction to your environment.

KR During the “good years” I couldn’t get a film made to save my life. There were 12 years between my first film River of Grass and Old Joy. I made smaller films, like Ode. But even that has a downer ending.

GVS I’m into downers. As a storyteller, I feel that it’s a valid point of view.

KR This summer I’ve been watching all the Kitchen Sink films from the ’60s. The heroes of those films are all stuck in lower economic classes and resentful of their lack of options. Your films have some of that.

GVS Lack of options?

KR People who are aware that people are living another way but they can’t get to it—whatever the restraints are; it might not be class.

GVS Right. I think in my sense, it’s the audience that’s aware. Probably more than the characters. It depends on which film. In certain films that can be the theme. Or there’s indication that maybe the characters are aware but you’re not sure. I’m usually not committing to that.

KR I guess your characters aren’t so interested in being part of the majority or whatever the idea of the American dream is.

GVS In Wendy and Lucy there was a feeling that I don’t think I’ve ever actually had, and it did relate to certain situations, especially with Italian neorealist films, now that you mention that you actually were watching them.

KR In those films there’s the theme of certain people not being of any use to society—maybe they’re too old or poor so they’re a blight—they’re like stray dogs.

source: bombsite.com

Safi Faye (b.1943)

This is part of the research I am doing for Film Directing 4 Women.

I have discovered many, many women filmmakers from various countries, with the most varied journeys. Women who have made sure their visions are materialized in celluloid, that their cinematic voices are heard.

It has been difficult to pick one of them to represent the many filmmakers I found, especially because I myself have never heard of them until now. So I am sharing this as I learn about them.

To start this research, I have chosen Safi Faye from Senegal. Faye is also an ethnologist, making the very interesting crossing from documentaries to fiction. I personally find the line in between both to be quite blurred. For me, the research of daily life and how people live (socially, culturally, and economically) is the base for all fiction. I can't, and I do not intend to, tear them apart.

Faye was born in 1943 in Dakar. She obtained her teaching certificate at the age of 19 and continuing teaching for the next six years. During the Dakar Festival of Negro Art in 1966, Faye met the renowned French ethnologist and filmmaker Jean Rouch. Rouch encouraged Faye’s interest in Cinema as well as its use as an ethnological tool.

Faye acted in Rouch’s film “Petit à petit ou Les Lettres Persanes 1968 (Little by Little or the 1968 Persian Letters)” which
allowed her to become acquainted with Rouch's technique of cinéma-vérité (an unobtrusive camera eye, spontaneous shooting, improvised nonprofessional acting, and mostly single takes), which was to influence her greatly in the course of her future career as a filmmaker. (Francoise Pfaff, 1988)

In 1969 Faye moved to Paris and enrolled at “the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes to study ethnology and at the Louis Lumière Film School in 1972”, and supported herself working as a model, actress and film dubbing.
Her first film, La Passante (The Passerby) derives from Faye’s experience of estrangement in Paris. After making a collective film with other students from the Ecole (Revanche, The Revenge), Faye went back home to Dakar to work on the research for her next film, “her first feature length docudrama, Kaddu beykat (Letter from My Village), with a crew of three, including a French cameraman and her uncle, who worked briefly as a soundman.”

The film was actually financed with a $20.000 grant given to Faye by the French Ministry of Cooperation and was released in 1975. It went to be shown at the Cannes Film Festival and “ won an award at the Festival International du Film de l'Ensemble Francophone (FIFEF) held in Geneva. ln 1975-1976 this film obtained the Georges Sadoul Prize in France and a special award at the Fifth Pan-African Film Festival of Ouagadougou (FESPACO) in Burkina Faso, and won the International Film Critics Award at the Berlin Film Festival (FIPRESCI).
Whilst pursuing her cinematic ambitions, Faye received her diploma in ethnology from Sorbonne, concluding her PhD in 1979 at the University of Paris.

to be continued.

scene from Mossane (1996) by Safi Faye

Source: Francoise Pfaff, "From twenty-Five African Filmmakers", Greenwood Press 1988


In this blog I intend to do some historical justice to the many, many women who have contributed with their genius, creativity, adventurous spirit, nurturing - amongst other qualities - to the apparent linear and male dominated prescribed notion of History. This is just the beggining.