March 21, 2008

Women at the Box Office This Weekend

Opening This Week- La Misma Luna
La Misma Luna was, suffice it to say, an unexpected pleasure. While I do like my share of foreign films, I sometimes walk into them expecting something overly serious and sometimes difficult to relate to. This film was nothing like that. La Misma Luna (Under the Same Moon) is a beautiful and touching film which tells the incredibly relevant story of a mother and son separated by the US border each trying to survive the best they can without one another.

La Misma Luna Review
Interview with Patricia Riggen

Remaining in Theatres:
The Other Boleyn Girl
Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day
Mad Money
Girls Rock!

News Briefs

  • Geena Davis is coming back to TV. She will star in Exit 19 a new drama on CBS. Davis will portray a homicide detective in Manhattan while juggling two kids as a single mom in the suburbs of Long Island. Awesome. (Cynopsis)
  • Kimberley Peirce opens her second film Stop-Loss next week, 10 years after the groundbreaking Boys Don't Cry. The movies is very interesting and well done. What's even more interesting is that she is the first woman to make a fiction film about the Iraq War. Women have been making great docs, but she is breaking new ground here.
Peirce on women directors: "I think women are probably not as driven to just turn out the numbers," Peirce said, when asked why she hasn't made more films. "It's a weird thing. Look, I want to make a lot, but I want to love them, because they're a part of me, you know?" Kimberley Peirce (LA Times)

Katherine Heigl, Hollywood Feminist

I gotta admit that this woman has guts. Most people who have been hit with the backlash for comments made about women's place in Hollywood would probably keep their mouths, but as her film 27 Dresses is about to open in England, Heigl again goes on the record about the whole Knocked Up is sexist controversy. (By the way, Judd Apatow has count it four films he's produced opening this year.) Here's some of what she said to the Guardian.

Those comments provoked quite a backlash, and Heigl was described as ungrateful and a traitor. Some people even suggested she would never work again. Was she surprised at that? "I was. Maybe it was naive of me," she says. "I think that the reality of starting to become successful is that [some people] want to slate you for something - put you in a box and put a label on what sort of a person you are. I'm not wild, I haven't been to rehab, I don't do anything eccentric - I'm really boring. So that's where they have to go." She stands by her comment, but says the sexism element "didn't lessen my enjoyment of the movie. That's where the comedy lies, between these polar opposites and stereotypes of female-male behaviour. I don't know a lot of guys that act like Ben, but we know that some exist. I don't know a lot of women who act like Alison, but again we know that some women do. Those are the stereotypes, and they're exaggerated. But it seemed to me that she was such a stiff, she had such a stick up her ass. I wish she had been a little more fun."

"I would never want to be malicious or ignorant," she continues, "but I didn't think that comment was any of those things. It was my opinion and I'm allowed to have one. Isn't it the land of the free?"

I'm sure some people are thinking, yes, Katherine you are allowed to have an opinion, just as long as you don't say anything that matters. Clearly, this woman has a rational brain and is not afraid to stand up for herself and others. (She was one of the first to speak up last year during the Grey's Anatomy homophobic incident that got Isiah Washington fired.)

Full story: Katherine Heigl (The Guardian)
(photo credit: Wire Image)

March 20, 2008

SWAN (Support Women Artists Now) Day Launches on March 29, 2008

It's not news to anyone who reads this site that it's a tough climate for women artists. A new international holiday, SWAN Day (Support Women Artists Now) has been launched by the Fund for Women Artists. The first one will take place on Saturday, March 29th. It's not too late to participate and show your support for all types of women artists!

Martha Richards, Executive Director of the Fund for Women Artists, answered some questions about SWAN Day. More info: SWAN Day

Women & Hollywood: What is SWAN Day & why is it needed?

Martha Richards: SWAN Day (Support Women Artists Now Day) is a new international holiday that celebrates women artists that will take place on the last Saturday of Women’s History Month (March). As a symbol of international solidarity, there will be parties, performances, exhibits and other events featuring women artists all over the world. The public will be encouraged to attend these events and to make donations to their favorite women artists. There are currently almost 140 events across the U.S. and in 8 other countries. They range from a festival of women-fronted rock bands in New London, Connecticut to a performance of "Tales from the Far Side of Fifty" by women aged 56 - 84 in Oceanside, California. All-day festivals are being planned in Washington, D.C.; Cranston, Rhode Island; San Diego, California; and Las Vegas, Nevada.

By focusing attention on the work of women artists, SWAN Day will help people imagine what the world might be like if women’s art and perspectives were fully integrated into all of our lives.

Also, SWAN Day is designed to empower women artists to do more fundraising for their projects. Since government and foundation funding for the arts has decreased over the past decade, women artists need to approach more individual donors, but many artists are shy about doing that. By validating the contributions of women artists, SWAN Day helps them feel more confident about asking for money. They are proud to tell prospective donors that they are part of an international celebration.
W&H: How can people get involved in their community?
MR: The easiest way to participate is to attend a SWAN Day event. People can use the official SWAN Day Map to search for events in their area. Many people are celebrating SWAN Day by having private parties where they get together with friends to watch a movie that is written or directed by women or to talk about their favorite women artists.

If there are no events in their area, they can organize one of their own – the event can be a party, performance, exhibit, or any other activity that celebrates women artists. People are welcome to post their events on the SWAN Map by filling in a form Sign Up
W&H: If you can’t organize an event, how can you participate?
MR: Another way to participate is simply to send a check to your favorite woman artist. You can find someone to support through the WomenArts Network, an online directory of over 1,000 women artists Women Artists Network, or you can choose to support any other woman artist that you know. Almost every woman artist has projects that she cannot do because of lack of funds, and any woman artist that you support will probably use the funds wisely. You can also make a donation to The Fund for Women Artists to help support future SWAN Days by clicking on any Donate Now button SWAN Day

Many people are celebrating SWAN Day by wearing t-shirts, jewelry or other items with swans on them. You can order t-shirts, hats and mugs with the SWAN Day logo Buy SWAN Day materials or you can download the SWAN Logo from the Publicity Tools section of SWAN Day and put it on items of your own.

Think also about writing a letter to the editor of your local newspaper or create an op-ed piece about the status of women artists. In San Francisco, Chicago, Portland, New York, Boston and Washington, DC, women have asked their Mayors to issue a SWAN Day proclamation, and we are optimistic that each Mayor will respond. If you want to contact your Mayor, The Fund for Women Artists has posted sample proclamations.
W&H: Why is it important to support women artists?
MR: It is important to support all artists these days – men as well as women. We are living in such war-torn times and we need better tools for understanding each other. The arts provide some of the best ways for people to learn about each other and to become more tolerant of differences. If we invest more money in the arts, we will have a better chance of creating a more tolerant and peaceful society.

It is important to focus on supporting women artists because in the past women have been ignored and severely underfunded. We have been deprived of the creativity of half the population because women have not received the funds they need. We have missed out on the inspiration, empowerment, and healing that their art might have provided. Women artists should be funded because it is the fair thing to do and because we need to see beautiful and moving works of art that reflect women’s perspectives.

There is a myth in this country that when there is no arts funding, great art will still be made by “starving artists”. Actually women artists are much more likely to be serving as your waitress than “starving.” When there is no arts funding, women artists are often forced to take menial jobs that take up most of the time that they should be devoting to their art. As a society, we are wasting a major asset when we force these talented women to do jobs that squander their talents instead of developing them.
W&H: What would you like to see come out of SWAN Day?
MR: SWAN Day is inspired in part by Eve Ensler’s V-Day celebrations which raise over $4 million a year for programs responding to violence against women. In the same way that organizers of V-Day events donate a portion of their proceeds to local women’s shelters, SWAN Day organizers are encouraged to use their events as benefits for their own work or as fundraisers for other women artists in their communities.

Ensler started with only one benefit performance, but after 8 years, there were 2,500 V-Day events all over the world. Our long term goal for SWAN Day is simply to help our constituents to raise as much money as possible for their work and the work of other women artists. Eight years from now, we will be thrilled if we are raising $4 million a year that is distributed to women artists through a global network of individual artists and women-led arts organizations.

Virginia Madsen- Hollywood Feminist

Who would have thunk? Virginia Madsen best known for her Oscar nominated role in Sideways has started her own production company - Title IX Prods with Kelly Meola. Anyone who names their film company after Title IX has got have some serious feminist chops.

The company's name, Title IX, comes from the 1972 U.S. law forbidding discrimination in schools and universities based on gender, but Madsen and Meola said that doesn't mean they will only produce female-driven films.
"We kind of saw it as we want to be able to play on equal ground," Meola said. "Of course, we want to talk about female issues but not just tell stories about women."

Added Madsen, "I like the idea we're leveling the playing field."
First film is I Know a Woman Like That, a documentary directed by Elaine Madsen (Virginia's mother) about women 64-94.

Madsen, Meola Form Title IX Prods (Hollywood Reporter)

March 19, 2008

Review: La Misma Luna (Under the Same Moon)

La Misma Luna was, suffice it to say, an unexpected pleasure. While I do like my share of foreign films, I sometimes walk into them expecting something overly serious and sometimes difficult to relate to. This film was nothing like that. La Misma Luna (Under the Same Moon) is a beautiful and touching film which tells the incredibly relevant story of a mother and son separated by the US border each trying to survive the best they can without one another.

Rosario (Kate Del Catillo) has crossed the US border from Mexico in order to provide for her son Carlitos (Adrian Alonso) who she left with her mother. She tells him that when he misses her he should look up at the moon because they would both be looking at the same moon (La Misma Luna) and would feel closer together. When Carlitos' grandmother dies unexpectedly, the 9-year-old sets off on the perilous journey to find his mother just as she is struggling with the decision about whether to return to Mexico to be with him.

The film was written by Ligiah Villalobos and was directed and produced by first time feature director Patricia Riggen. Riggen takes the hot political issue of immigration and humanizes it in a profound way. It never gets preachy, is extremely moving, and has an amazingly breathtaking performance from a talented young actor, Adrian Alonso.

La Misma Luna opens today in 250 theatres in over 150 cities across the country.

Go see this film!

La Misma Luna

Interview with Patricia Riggen, director of La Misma Luna

Patricia Riggen's first feature film La Misma Luna opens on 250 screens across the country today. She answered a few questions about the film and being a female director.

Women & Hollywood: The issue of immigration is so highly charged and you were able to humanize it and also to show that it is a women's issue.

Patricia Riggen: Women are now crossing the border. It used to be men. Now, there are 4 million women in this country who have left a child behind. When people ask me if this is a true story, I tell them that it is based on 4 million true stories. These women have no other options and make the most difficult sacrifice of all because no mother would leave her child unless she was desperate. That was something I wanted to explore. Rosario has a huge dilemma having made this decision in order to provide for her child because she loves him, while at the same time feeling like she's sacrificing that love. It's not just a statistic to me. These are human beings and that's what I wanted to show.
W&H: This film feels very female -- it's from a woman's eye. It's no coincidence that both the director and screenwriter are women. These films are few and far between in Hollywood these days.
PR: It's something that I have struggled with in my career. I'm Mexican, and I never could have become a director in Mexico. I moved here and that allowed me to do this work.
W&H: In Mexico, you didn't have an opportunity to work as a director?
PR: In Mexico, I never gave myself the chance to imagine myself in the director's shoes. It took me a while to discover what I wanted to do. I was already working in the business doing different jobs and feeling unhappy. When I was growing up in Mexico there weren't any women directors around for me to see that it was something I could do. Funny enough I wrote my college thesis on women directors in Mexico when I didn't even know I was going to be a director. There were four, and I interviewed them feeling like being a director was equivalent to being an astronaut -- the hardest most strange thing to be. Completely unaccessible, and it shouldn't be like that.
W&H: Women feel that it is so difficult to be a director here.
PR: That's what my friends tell me and I feel it is so easy here.
W&H: Have the Fox Searchlight people (the film distributor) been supporting your vision?
PR: Fox Searchlight has been wonderful and I'll tell you why- they're all women. There's one guy at the top and then it's all women. Their sensibility is very feminine and it makes it really wonderful for a women's movie. They totally get it and care about the film.
W&H: Adrian Alonso performance as Carlitos really astounded me. Talk a little bit about how you directed him and how you were able to elicit his spectacular performance.
PR: Thank you, nobody ever asks me about this. They always say, where did you find him. It's not the finding, it's the directing. It's all about the directing. I think most kids can act and it's a matter of directing them properly. In this case, Adrian is very talented but he's also a child and has no criteria to understand if he is doing something good or not. Older actors know what they are doing, kids don't.
W&H: The whole movie rests of his shoulders -- if he wouldn't have been good, the movie wouldn't have been good.
PR: I basically knew that if I didn't find the right kid I shouldn't even attempt to make this movie. But the truth is that I worked with him very closely and my eyes were always on him to protect and help him.
W&H: How did you get the script?
PR: I made a documentary called Family Portraits and Ligiah saw it and loved it and sent me the screenplay. I immediately connected with it. We started working together , and when we had the script ready to shoot the financing was there. She was great to work with, she's very smart and she always stood by me. When I felt that the movie wasn't going to happen she came and worked for no money. She did all the drafts and revisions and waited and waited for the movie to happen.
W&H: You are also the film's producer.
PR: This is an important aspect. I did have a way to make this at a studio, and I started working with them but felt I was losing creative control and the decisions being made were wrong and it wasn't going to be a good movie. I was thinking that I was a director for hire, but it was a project that I brought and realized this is not a way I wanted to make my first feature. Fortunately, it was a very low budget so I decided to raise the money myself to keep control which enabled me to make every single decision which allowed me to make the best movie I could.
W&H: What do you want the audience to feel after seeing the film?
PR: I want them to have a good time, and to feel engaged and moved. I want people to see the humanity of those who surround us that we don't necessarily notice like the waiter or gardener and think about their lives.
W&H: What's next for you?
PR: I have several offers from Hollywood. I am keeping my feet on the ground knowing that my fellow female directors have taken a long time to shoot again. They have made successful first films and then it has taken them a long time to shoot their second. I don't want to take 10 years to make another film. I am developing some projects for Hollywood including a romantic comedy and a period drama. But I also have a project of my own that I control in case the Hollywood films don't happen.

March 18, 2008

Leslie Mann Takes the Bait

Leslie Mann is Judd Apatow's wife. She's been in his last several movies and this week opens as the female foil to the Apatow produced Drillbit Taylor starring Owen Wilson (film looks really, really bad.) She had some success early in her career and then after she co-starred with Jim Carrey in The Cable Guy she couldn't get a job. (Funny though that Jim Carrey the actual star of the film still got work.) Lucky for her she hooked up with Apatow and for a while she focused on her family.

This week EW gives her their "spotlight" and she really gives it to Katherine Heigl about her comments regarding Knocked Up.

Having emerged in the last couple of years as a compelling female voice in what's often perceived as the Apatowian boys' club, Mann strongly defends her turf. She says she was surprised when Knocked Up costar Katherine Heigl publicly critiqued the film as being 'a little sexist,' saying it paints the women as shrews, as humorless and uptight. Mann retorts, I didn't think I was a humorless shrew in Knocked Up. I think the women are just as funny as the men in that movie. 'Humorless shrews'- who even says that? I just think its an odd choice of words.
Here's what I think Leslie, you took the bait. Katherine Heigl told the truth. Knocked Up was more than a little bit sexist. It was very sexist, but it was also funny, that's why we're (OK, me) are so uncomfortable with it.

If Judd Apatow is as close to god as Hollywood thinks he is, he should be able to make films that are less demeaning to women.

I'm standing up for Katherine Heigl all the way.

The Anti-Choicers Are At It Again

Now that abortion issues are pretty much off the the national radar for the moment, leave it to the antis to find another way to get some press. This time they erupted during the premiere of Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who after Horton's most infamous line "a person's a person no matter how small" was uttered.

Guess that they are so desperate for attention that they think that going into a Hollywood premiere will help their cause. Doubt it cause I'm sure that episode pissed off some Hollywood biggies who had brought their kids to the premiere.
Slate- Kim Masters

TV Tonight

Miss Guided starring the always perfect sidekick who finally gets the spotlight to herself Judy Greer premieres tonight at 10:30 on ABC. Premise is that a former geeky girl returns to her high school as the guidance counselor. Show is created by Caroline Williams.
High School Geek to Hollywood Chic (LA Times)

Iron Ladies Of Liberia
Documentary by Siatta Johnson and Daniel Junge on the first year of Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, the first freely elected female head of state in Africa. The resulting film is a joyous, inspirational testimony of the political power of women's leadership and diplomacy.
10pm on PBS

March 17, 2008

Voice of the Next Generation: The Fusion Film Festival

Women & Hollywood is dedicated to get a diverse group of voices out to the community. Today marks our first guest post by Rebecca Bellotto, who with Grettel Batoon was the co-directors of the Fusion Film Festival, a student-run film festival dedicated to the work of female filmmakers.

The Fusion Film Festival, New York University and Tisch School of the Arts’ only student-run film festival dedicated to the work of women, wrapped its three-day schedule of events on Saturday, March 1 with a retrospective on the work of the late writer, director, and actress Adrienne Shelly. The event was led by Shelly’s husband and Executive Director of the Adrienne Shelly Foundation Andy Ostroy and featured producer Peter Newman and actors Lara Harris, Ally Sheedy, and Paul Rudd as guest speakers – each spoke about Shelly’s life and work before playing a selected clip from one of her shorts or features.

As this year’s Festival’s co-directors, Grettel Batoon and I could not have been more pleased with the Adrienne Shelly Retrospective as Fusion’s closing event. The speakers’ messages were all resoundingly positive, paying loving tribute to the late artist and reminding the packed audience that Ms. Shelly’s example as a woman who gave all of herself in her work and never let the label of gender get in her way is one that should inspire and encourage all other women filmmakers. Fusion’s goals have always been to support aspiring female filmmakers and promote the work of established women – as well as to encourage artistic collaboration between the sexes – so we were incredibly proud that our closing event communicated such a strong message in support of our mission.

The Fusion Film Festival was founded in 2003 by then-students Gina Abatemarco and Emma Mason Heald, women who wanted to create an event that would celebrate the work of female student filmmakers and women in the industry at large. They were also interested in putting together a film festival that would be completely student-run. Fusion has gone through a different set of leaders each year since then, but each program has done a spectacular job of continuing the mission of promoting and encouraging women and collaboration as well as putting together an amazing line-up events through the sheer hard work and determination of undergraduate, graduate, and even some alumni students.

This year's events included a Master Class with uber-producer Denise Di Novi; a sneak preview screening of Kimberly Peirce’s upcoming film Stop-Loss; a day devoted to the winners of our student documentary pitch, screenplay, and short film competitions; panels on Women in Television and How to Get an Agent; and the Adrienne Shelly Retrospective.

In my opinion, Fusion has grown so strongly in the last five years mainly because of its incredible importance and relevance to students - especially the women - at Tisch. Though women have certainly made and will continue to make gains in the film industry especially as producers and executives, there are still far fewer women working as directors, cinematographers, screenwriters, and other on-set positions. It is vital that we spotlight women who are filling these roles as a way to set examples for the many female students who might be anxious about their chances in the industry.

As an aspiring screenwriter, I have found the atmosphere at Tisch to be very supportive, but it can be disheartening at times to see that men write the overwhelming majority of major movies. But as Grettel says, one of the greatest things about Fusion is the fact that so many successful, inspiring women from all fields come to speak and encourage female students at Tisch to keep working towards their dreams.

We are incredibly proud of what we believe was Fusion’s most successful year yet – we can’t wait to see what next year’s co-directors come up with for Fusion’s sixth year!
Rebecca Bellotto and Grettel Batoon, Fusion Film Festival Co-Directors and undergraduate students at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts

More info Fusion Film Festival

(Photo credit: Martin Bentsen)

TV Tonight

In honor of St. Patrick's Day director Dawn Scibilia's (she also co-produced, shot and edited) documentary HOME premieres tonight on PBS at 9pm.

Young Dubliner Alan Cooke reflects on his recent immigration to New York City, contemplating the concept of home and the ever changing cosmopolis in this award winning first feature directed by Dawn Scibilia.

With Liam Neeson, Susan Sarandon, Mike Myers, Alfred Molina, Colin Quinn, Rosie Perez, Pete Hamill, Frank McCourt, Malachy McCourt, Fran Lebowitz, Elaine Kaufman, Drew Nieporent, David Amram and many more.

Home The Movie

The New Adventures of Old Christine
I have been remiss in not pushing this show more. It is one of my favorites and has been on this winter when there has been so little other new shows due to the writers strike. Julia Louis- Dreyfus is so great and funny. Last month they did a show on whether or not Christine was going to get plastic surgery and it was handled so well. I couldn't stop laughing. (They also actually used the word feminist which I don't think I've heard on TV in forever.) Show is created and run by Kari Lizer and also stars Wanda Sykes. Need any more reasons to watch? I don't think so. Tune in.

In fact, here's a question: when was the last time you heard the word feminist on TV (in a scripted show) and in what context?

Don't miss this show- Mondays, 9:30pm CBS

March 16, 2008

Emma Thompson, Hollywood Feminist

Emma Thompson has a first person essay in Newsweek on standing up against human sex trafficking. She is the chair of the Helen Bamber Foundation which among the other great work it does, created an exhibit called Journey featuring the testimony of the people (mostly young women) who have been trafficked and the impact on their lives.

Read the Newsweek piece: Emma Thompson on Human Trafficking
Learn more about the Helen Bamber Foundation

(photo: John Shearer,