January 22, 2008

January 22, 2008

Oscar Nominations
Really decent day for women at the Oscar nominations this morning. Female screenwriters took three of the five best original screenplay nominations which is amazing considering only 10% of the films made are written by women. So psyched that Tamara Jenkins' script was recognized as was Laura Linney. Surprised that Cate Blanchett got Angelina Jolie's slot at best actress since Elizabeth was not her best work.

"Michael Clayton"
"No Country for Old Men"
"There Will Be Blood"

Cate Blanchett, "Elizabeth: The Golden Age"
Julie Christie, "Away From Her"
Marion Cotillard, "La Vie en Rose"
Laura Linney, "The Savages"
Ellen Page, "Juno"

Cate Blanchett, "I'm Not There"
Ruby Dee, "American Gangster"
Saoirse Ronan, "Atonement"
Amy Ryan, "Gone Baby Gone"
Tilda Swinton, "Michael Clayton"


Diablo Cody, "Juno"
Nancy Oliver, "Lars and the Real Girl"
Tamara Jenkins, "The Savages"

Sarah Polley, "Away From Her"


Sundance Interview with Pietra Brettkelly, director of the documentary The Art Star and the Sudanese Twins.
The Sundance Film Festival is in full swing and I had the opportunity to interview Pietra Brettkelly, director of The Art Star and the Sudanese Twins on January 17th the day before the film's world premiere for a site I am working with Zoom in Online. Here is the interview:

New Zealand director Pietra Brettkelly was in the Darfur region of Sudan working on a documentary when she happened to meet international renowned artist Vanessa Beecroft. Little did she realize that this chance meeting would lead to her next film - The Art Star and the Sudanese Twins.

Melissa Silverstein: Even though Vanessa Beecroft is an international well known artist, she is much better known outside the US. Please introduce us to your subject.

Pietra Brettkelly: From what I understand her persona as an artist is more well known in Europe because she was brought up in Italy, but she is one of the world's top contemporary artists certainly one of the top female artists, and her focus has been tableaus of naked women that she stands in a room or space for three hours and people come and view then. Footage is taken of the tableau and those elements are sold as part of her artwork.
She's been doing this for 13 years and in the 16 months that I was filming her she was thinking about changing and adapting her work as an artist as well. And it seemed that things were coming to a head both personally and professionally in the time I was filming her.
MS: How did you come to pick Vanessa as the topic for your film?

PB: I was in the Sudan filming another documentary and in southern Sudan there is an area where foreigners can rent a tent at night -- it's mostly aide workers or NGOs. At night you sit around a tree and she and her team were there and they didn't look like aide workers and we started talking to them. When we were leaving she said to me "I'm thinking of adopting the twins [Madit and Mongor Akot] at the orphanage next door that I've been breastfeeding during my last two visits to the Sudan." A couple of days later I emailed her and said that international adoption is a topic that I've wanted to discuss and if you are interested I'd like to follow your story. I didn't even know she was an artist, I didn't even know what performance art was.
MS: It must have been hard as a director not knowing the direction your film was going to go in?
PB: That's what I love about documentaries. It certainly was a curve ball when it gradually became obvious that her art was a very strong part of her and that she was of some note. So then I had to work out how much of that side of her needed to be a part of the film and how I could incorporate it. I wasn't doing a profile of an artist. That was never my intention. My intention was to discuss international adoption. I did grapple with how much of her art needed to be in the film.
MS: Understating her as an artist helps you understand her pursuit of these children.
PB: The situation with a lot of international adoptions is that there are parents and that's one of the aspects I wanted to discuss. They do have parents but it's through circumstances like poverty, war or separation of some kind that they end up in orphanages or in situations where they don't have adult support. We think orphans have no parents but in developing countries they often have parents.
MS: This brings up the issue of the fact that many women don't survive childbirth in these countries.
PB: I was in Afghanistan on another film two and a half years ago and I went to this region where one out of five women die in childbirth. Those numbers are horrific. That just shouldn't be happening and as the so-called privileged people there is so much more we can be doing so that these children don’t need adoption to save them. I don't think it should be a given that our world is better than their world. One of the things I wanted to discuss was do we want our future as a global community to be a situation that we have the better world and the better life so therefore we try to bring these children to our world.
MS: We realize very far into the film that Vanessa's husband [Greg Durkin] knows nothing about her intentions of adopting the twins. Why didn't she tell him?
PB: It's hard for me to say what she was thinking because I would tend to think in a different way as would you, so it's hard to figure out her motivation. She seemed to have convinced herself that she was researching the subject and then she would broach it with him and he would say of course. I do think she was generally surprised that he wasn't interested in adopting the children. He's an intelligent person, socially and culturally sensitive, and he could appreciate that all children need an education and clean water something all children should have and these children didn't. I think she thought that he would agree to it.
MS: She seems to be the type of person who gets her way a lot.
PB: Yes.
MS: She thought she could probably convince him to do this and she fell apart when she realized it wasn't going to happen. Talk about the scene where she has a breakdown after this realization.
PB: We were shopping with her and she got a phone call and we just wandered out onto the street hanging out in the mall and then she came out and we could see that she was crying and I'm like oh my goodness that obviously was a phone call with Greg. You can see that initially we weren't focusing on her we were just walking with her and then I realized that she's ok for me to film this. I do have a conscience and some things aren't appropriate to film, but I knew that it was ok to film it. It was an incredible moment where she has this clarity that Greg is not going to agree to the adoption and that it isn't going to go forward. She was thinking well how do I now express my emotions that I had for the twins and the Sudan and for her it was through her work.
MS: You are an active participant in the story almost like a character behind the camera.
PB: Those are the types of films I like to make, telling people's stories and following them through a particular or influential part of their lives. I'm not a great writer but I'm good at asking questions and I'm fascinated by people and those are the stories I want to tell and all my films are like that.
MS: Vanessa says at the end "I couldn't adopt the children I wanted to adopt so I had to do something." Is that what fueled the final sceneat the Venice Biennale?
PB: The Biennale was for her an exploration of wanting to do something to express how she felt about the Sudan situation. She couldn't adopt the twins so she looked for another way. One of the things that the film shows is that there is no line between Vanessa's art and her life and so therefore the expression of her emotion for these twins is expressed in her art and the Biennale performance was that.
MS: What are you hoping people think about when they leave the theatre?
PB: To discuss international adoption and to think about people from so-called privileged countries and how we should be helping people in developing countries. I don't think we can make a blanket statement that international adoptions are either right or wrong. But now also because adoptions take so much longer I'd like people to appreciate that she is a complex character. She's different from anyone I've ever met and this is a window to someone like that.
MS: We have many male performance artists who are more famous and I was really shocked that I had no clue about the breadth of her work. She seems to be so controversial because her work is about women and women's bodies.
PB: I know that she really struggles with her place as a woman in the art community because there aren't a lot of successful female artists in her field. She struggles with where she fits in. She was born in London, grew up in Italy, and then she immigrated to the US. She's English and speaks with an Italian accent yet in Italy they call her a British artist. Strangely, she feels really comfortable in the Sudan even though she has no connections to Africa. Finding herself has been a lifelong struggle for her.
For more information about the film: http://www.theartstarandthesudanesetwins.com/

Weekend Box Office Assessment- How did 27 Dresses and Mad Money Do?
27 Dresses has grossed a little over $27 million in its first four days of release. Budget was between 20 and 30 so that means that it will make its money back and then some. Word of mouth will probably be decent. Mad Money grosses a little over $9 million for the long weekend and since Overture bought it for $6 million they should be sitting pretty. Both films will be successes on the balance sheet, but because they are not monster hits in terms of dollars on the opening weekend, they will never get talked about as successes. Can we maybe get a wider definition of success?

GLAAD Nominees
Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) announced the nominees and honorees for its 19th Annual GLAAD Media Awards
Film - Wide Release
Across the Universe (Revolution Studios)
The Jane Austen Book Club (Sony Pictures Classics)
Stardust (Paramount Pictures)

Film - Limited Release
Itty Bitty Titty Committee (Pocket Releasing)
Nina's Heavenly Delights (Regent Releasing)

Drama Series
Brothers & Sisters (ABC)
The L Word (Showtime)

Comedy Series
Desperate Housewives (ABC)
Exes and Ohs (Logo)
The Sarah Silverman Program (Comedy Central)
Ugly Betty (ABC)

Cruel and Unusual: Transgender Women in Prison (WE tv)

Reality Program
Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List (Bravo)
Work Out (Bravo)

A new Criterion set has four films spanning the career of Agn├Ęs Varda, the matriarch of French New Wave.
Mother Varda's Movies (LA Times)

Emily Blunt works double shift at Sundance