KILLINGS, daily columns and blog —

2014 columns, Film

Groundhog Day again for women in film

by Rochelle Siemienowicz , March 6, 2014Leave a comment

My Brilliant Career

It pisses me off no end! I literally have refused to talk about it because I feel like, you don’t ask Peter Weir or Phillip Noyce about being a male director. But now it’s time to speak out again…because I can’t believe the numbers! Gillian Armstrong, in 2010, on being asked about being a female film director.

 

When a 29-year-old Gillian Armstrong made My Brilliant Career in 1979, she was the first woman to direct a feature-length film in Australia in over 40 years. Starring a baby-faced Judy Davis and Sam Neill, the film (which holds up well today as a feminist classic) was nominated for the Palme d’Or at Cannes and was a critical and box office success.

Armstrong, who was one of the first 12 graduates of the newly formed Australian Film and Television school in 1973, has gone on to direct local and international films, including High Tide, Little Women, Charlotte Gray and a number of superb documentaries. The fact that the 60-something director still has to agitate about the ‘issue’ of women in film makes her feel weary and frustrated - and she’s not alone.

As a film journalist covering the local industry, I’ve talked to countless female producers, directors, editors and sound designers over the years, and almost without exception, they hate going on the record about the very real sexism and gender inequities in the field. Understandably, they want to be judged on their ideas and their skills, and they don’t want to be celebrated or singled out as special cases. And yet, on the whole, they are still special cases. If the statistics tell us anything, it’s that women in key creative roles in the film industry are fighting to maintain, let alone increase, the representation at the same levels they were back in the 1970s.

Some quick factoids paint a crude but instructive picture: the last ABS figures presented by Screen Australia tell us that as of 2011, women represented 24 per cent of directors in film, TV, radio and stage. That’s one per cent less than it was 15 years earlier in 2006. Things are even more dire in Hollywood, the world’s most powerful screen industry. According to the excellent Women in Hollywood website, in 2013 women were just 16 per cent of the directors, executive producers, producers, writers, cinematographers, and editors working on the top 250 US domestic grossing films. Women directed just 6 per cent of these films and wrote 10 per cent of them. These numbers are almost identical to 2007 figures, so there’s no progress there, and it’s no surprise that blockbuster films are dominated by male perspectives, male actors and male fantasies.

This week’s Oscar celebrations saw Cate Blanchett thanking Woody Allen for continuing to tell strong female-centric stories. She used her acceptance speech to remind the industry that stories about women actually make money at the box office. Go Cate, and good on you for speaking out. But it’s tragic that the simple point still has to be made, over and over, year after year: women constitute half the population. It’s hardly radical, yet still newsworthy.

Of course all is not lost. In the interests of concluding on a high note – and celebrating International Women’s Day on Saturday 8 March – here are a few wonderful female-centred films to look out for:

Tracks: A delicate but steely Mia Wasikowska plays an obstinate loner crossing the Australian desert with her camels and her loyal dog. A spectacularly beautiful film, Tracks is based on Robyn Davidson’s account of her solo trek from Alice Springs to the Indian Ocean in 1977.

Gloria: Watch Paulina Garcia’s award-winning performance as a 58-year-old divorcee pursuing love in this courageous, funny and shrewd Chilean film.

In A World: Tackling sexism in the film industry head on, Lake Bell’s indie hit is set in the deep-throated male-dominated world of Hollywood voiceover artists. Bell (who wrote and directed the film) stars as a young woman trying to find her voice in this funny, frank and fresh romantic comedy.

(Tracks and Gloria are in current release. In A World opens 3 April.)

Rochelle Siemienowicz is a Melbourne-based film journalist, reviewer and editor. 

ACO logo




Frances Abbott

David Donaldson

Why #whitehousegate matters

A few days after the release of the budget, in which the Coalition government announced it was spreading the burden by increasing university fees, cutting school funding, and cutting welfare for young people comes a story that confirms what many already suspect to be the nature of opportunity: it’s much easier to come by if you’re born into privilege. Read more »

money

David Donaldson

When does lobbying become corruption?

Whether it’s Clive Palmer buying his way into parliament, the recent, varied ICAC revelations of dodgy fundraising in the NSW Liberal party, or the refusal or inability of successive governments to effectively tackle powerful corporate interests in industries like gambling, mining, media, and junk food, there is a feeling among many Australians that democracy is up for sale. Read more »

cluster munition

David Donaldson

How to make treaties and influence people

In an era when Russia can annex Ukrainian territory, when the Refugee Convention is regularly flouted, and when nobody seems to be able to do anything to stop the carnage in Syria, it can be tempting to ask: what can international law actually achieve? Read more »

The Fictional Woman

Carody Culver

Learning from semi-charmed lives

When famous public figures take a step further and use their personal experience as a literary vehicle for exploring wider social issues, I can happily check my celebrity memoir prejudice at the bookshop door. Read more »

My Salinger Year

Carody Culver

Searching for Mr Salinger

Joanna Rakoff’s book is ‘the truth, told as best [she] could’, of her year as an assistant at one of New York’s oldest literary agencies, a job for which many an Arts graduate would sell a kidney. Read more »

editing

Carody Culver

Giving voice to a silent profession

The role editors play in the process of ushering new writing into the world is both vitally important and strangely overlooked. Read more »

Mariah Carey

Is she Mariah, the ‘elusive’ chanteuse?

Two weeks ago, Mariah Carey launched her fourteenth studio album, Me. I am Mariah…The Elusive Chanteuse. Yes, that’s the real name, and it’s hilarious not only because the title is so long and happily shameless but because Mariah has long styled herself as one of the least elusive pop stars in the pop music galaxy. Read more »

Douglass books

Julia Tulloh

High fantasy writers who aren’t George RR Martin, and who are also women

‘Tolkien is the greatest burden the modern fantasy author must labour under and eventually escape from if they are to succeed.’ So wrote Australian high fantasy writer, Sara Douglass, a decade and a half ago. Replace Tolkien with George RR Martin, and one might say the same principle applies today. Read more »

Conchita Wurst

Julia Tulloh

Why Eurovision 2014 was a bit disappointing

No one watches Eurovision to discover surprise new talent, or even to hear good singing. I watch it for the kitschy, pop-tastic visual onslaught which rarely fails to assault viewers. Read more »

Happy Christmas

Rochelle Siemienowicz

Joe Swanberg’s Real Women

In Happy Christmas, the female characters are a pleasure to watch, largely because they’re so familiar in life and so rarely depicted on screen. Read more »

Gabrielle

Rochelle Siemienowicz

Beyond tics, limps and prosthetics

Think of a disability – mental or physical – and there’s sure to be a film that features it. What about giving big roles to actors who actually live with the disability they’re depicting? Now that would be authentic. Read more »

Under the Skin

Rochelle Siemienowicz

Size Matters

Bigger isn’t always better, but some films will open themselves up to you and pour themselves out in new ways when you see them on a cinema screen. Read more »

5881861191_90de8b5bc9

Connor Tomas O'Brien

Making trolls eat their words

If we’re not conscious of a troll’s desired response, we risk inadvertently encouraging further trolling by allowing ourselves to be played. Read more »

filter

Reality vs. Instagram

It’s been over three years since Instagram launched, and we’re still not sure whether processing a photograph might be considered akin to doctoring a memory. Read more »

2014 Budget

Connor Tomas O'Brien

Could we crowdfund the dole?

Following the announcement of the 2014 budget, the director of a leading arts organisation posed a question on Facebook: ‘What recourse do the people have to stop these changes? What are next steps? Would be curious to know of any other effective measures to get the message across… apart from complaining on Twitter.’ Read more »

tumblr_inline_n6wz16ohb91r8e10g

Danielle Binks

YA is the New Black

Apparently those of us who do read and enjoy youth literature should be ‘embarrassed’. At least that’s what Ruth Graham said in her recent clickbait article for Slate, ‘Against YA’. Read more »

A Little Pretty Pocket Book

Danielle Binks

Who run the book world? GIRLS!

‘It’s no wonder boys aren’t reading – the children’s book market is run by women.’ So claimed the headline of an April article in The Times.

*Cue Liz Lemon eye-roll* Read more »

The Fault in Our Stars

Danielle Binks

The Fault in the Cult of John Green

I like John Green as much as the next YA-aficionado. I’ve snot-cried through his books, and chuckled over his YouTube videos. But now it’s time to talk about the media-led oversaturation of John Green, and the insulting way he’s been heralded as the saviour of young adult fiction. Read more »

splash

Chad Parkhill

Queering the Power: The Soft Pink Truth’s Why Do the Heathen Rage?

The Soft Pink Truth’s new album ‘Why Do the Heathen Rage’ demonstrates that despite their superficial differences, dance music and black metal have a lot in common. Read more »

The Knife

Chad Parkhill

Never Settled: The Knife’s Shaken-Up Versions

Making live electronic music engaging is a difficult task, and The Knife’s Silent Shout tour shows a band committed to breaking the visual cliché of performers standing still behind banks of electronic equipment. Read more »

Tori Amos

Chad Parkhill

Loving (and hating) Tori Amos

Tori Amos is hardly to blame for the existence of her fans’ expectations, nor for their disappointment when her work does not live up to them – but that doesn’t prevent that disappointment from feeling intensely personal. Read more »

Alg-90210-jpg

Stephanie Van Schilt

Sick-Person TV

The only upside to getting sick was the many afternoons I spent curled up on the couch at home, watching daytime TV. I inhaled the drama of pre-recorded episodes of Beverley Hills 90210 while playing with my Brandon and Dylan sticker collection (interspersed with sporadic vomiting). Read more »

The_Million_Dollar_Drop_logo

Nicholas J Johnson

Highbrow vs Lowbrow: Nicholas J Johnson defends Lowbrow TV

I can’t stop looking at Eddie McGuire’s smug, stupid face. It’s not my fault. It’s just I’ve never been this close to the man before, and it’s not until now that I’ve realised how oddly smooth and tanned his skin is. As if someone has stretched the orange bladder from a football over a slab of marble. Read more »

deadwood-03-1024

Zora Sanders

Highbrow vs Lowbrow: Zora Sanders defends Highbrow TV

I’m going to be honest with you. I feel a little guilty being gifted highbrow TV as a subject to defend. Highbrow TV doesn’t need a defender! It’s a battle that has been won! Highbrow TV is downright fucking awesome and every single person reading this already knows it. Read more »