“I have found the strength to realise my worth,” says 23 year old Vicky Knight, star of Dutch director Sacha Polak’s new film Dirty God.
“I was just the girl with the scars. Now I am the girl with the movie – with the scars.”
Vicky is a health care assistant and now an actress – giving one of the great breakout performances of 2019 in Dirty God as Jade, a young single mother who has been deeply scarred in an acid attack. How much of that is physical, and how much worse is the mental torment, unfolds during the film. Bringing her attacker to justice forms about a minute of the plot. It’s all about the stages of shock and grief, mixed up together – denying, anger, bargaining, acceptance.
She’s a flash of bright colour if you feel the political landscape offers nothing but grey suits and old, white men. Should you too be mesmerised by AOC, Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, then Netflix’s Knock Down the House is a must-see, because Emmy-nominated documentarian Rachel Lears had the good fortune to start filming her campaign to get elected to Congress back when AOC was working double shifts in a New York bar to try and save her family home from foreclosure.
Up on the roof of the world, there’s a school. You could literally call it the light of education – which they do. The Snowland Ranag Light of Education school in Kathmandu makes it possible for poor children in the High Himalayas to get some of the best schooling in Nepal – but are only reunited with their families years later, when they graduate.
It’s the teenagers’ pilgrimage home through the Himalayas that intrigued filmmakers Zara Balfour and Marcus Stephenson enough to make ‘Children of the Snowland’, a beautiful and touching film where three young adults document themselves going home to their villages after not seeing their parents for more than a decade.
In September 1989 – two months before the Berlin Wall fell – a group of young women set sail from Southampton to much ridicule. They were on board the ‘Maiden’ and were the first all-female crew to attempt the gruelling Whitbread Round the World race.
Thirty years later isn’t a lifetime ago, but the idea of mainstream media ridicule of ‘girls’ attempting the same challenge as ‘men’ is publicly, at least, not possible. But if you want to see what British sailor Tracy Edwards and the crew of the ‘Maiden’ faced back in the 1980s then you must see ‘Maiden’, directed by Alex Holmes -which along with ‘Free Solo’ is one of the best documentaries of the last few months.
Not all sequels are bigger and better (anyone still shudder at Charlie’s Angels Full Throttle?) – but Bumble’s Female Film Force Part 2 certainly is.
The female social networking app is expanding its female film fund to France and Germany, having already given five female filmmaking teams in the UK and Ireland grants of £20,000 each to create their own short film. More grants of £20,000 (22,000 Euros) are up for grabs for film ideas by women producers, writers and directors.
Electra met some of FFF’s first winners a few months ago – and now here they are again, with their short films completely finished, and a London premiere where the five filmmaking teams got to meet up.
Amidst the annual frustrated disappointment that yet again, women were lacking in the Oscar directing and writing categories, there she was - Nadine Labaki, up for a Best Foreign Language Oscar for Capernaum, which started its journey with a 15 minute standing ovation at last year’s Cannes Film Festival and left many of us in the audience weeping.
The movie reference I carried for free solo climbing for many years was Mission Impossible 2 when a (much younger) Tom Cruise dangled from a precipice from one arm and with no harness. He made it look easy; with Free Solo you’re about to find out just how hard it is.
This documentary, released this week in the UK, follows super-elite pro-climber Alex Honnold as he climbs the 3,000-foot vertical rock face El Capitan in Yosemite without using ropes. He’s attempting to set a new record and fulfil his life’s ambition, and is tracked every painfully considered, chalk-handed step of the way by married directing partners Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin, not to mention another team of elite climbers and cinematographers.
Are women funny? Fans may remember a couple of years ago that opinion pieces on Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, Melissa McCarthy and Amy Schumer started appearing, expressing surprise that finally, there were funny women in Hollywood – almost as if giraffes had been spotted on Sunset Boulevard. Fortunately, our grandparents and great grandparents were less sexist than us in many ways – and an exhibition at the BFI Southbank in London now explores Playing the Fool – and the women of early Hollywood who entertained audiences with their comedic genius.
It’s 7.45am in Los Angeles when Bel Powley comes on the phone, 3.45pm in the UK. She begins by apologising into the ether to whoever she spoke to before me, because she hadn’t managed to down any coffee beforehand, whereas now she’s managed half a cup and is feeling considerably more awake. In those precious few seconds of sounding each other out before the conversation properly begins, there’s bonding over how frustrating it is when movie trailers give too much plot away (“I find it really annoying when you watch trailers and you think ‘well I’ve seen half the film now!’”) and how enjoyable it is to be surprised by what you’re watching (“I love going in to see plays when I know nothing about it”). With that no-spoiler spirit in mind, we come to White Boy Rick, the 1980s-set film based on the true-life drama of Richard Wershe Jr. and his family, where Bel shines as Rick’s troubled older sister, Dawn. It’s a riveting yet nightmare-ish story as the characters battle to survive trading drugs and guns as their main currency.
The subject of infertility has echoed down the ages, in history, in mythology, and in Shakespeare – of course. The modern quest to have a child is summed up by actress Kathryn Hahn succinctly in the vernacular.
“It’s a real fucking pickle,” she says.
Tricia Tuttle, Artistic Director of the BFI London Film Festival, has taken a little while walking the route to leadership in the British film industry. With a love of both film and music, while studying for an undergraduate degree in North Carolina, she says she briefly considered becoming a producer.
The obvious answer to what lies ahead for Thandie Newton, newly minted Emmy award winner for her acting work on Westworld, is anything she wants. The world is her oyster, as it should be for all of us. Except that’s not how things tend to go.
Sierra Burgess Is A Loser is the well-meaning tale of an average girl finding love. Its intentions are good, albeit questionably executed through tropes masquerading as lessons for teens in seeing people for who they really are.
It’s interesting to see how many meaty scripts featuring female protagonists are coming to fruition right now after nearly a decade of labour. The Favourite with Olivia Colman is one; Never Here, by Camille Thoman and starring Mireille Enos and Sam Shepard, another.
Getting a foothold on the ladder is the hardest step for any aspiring director –and lack of opportunity for women is consistently the explanation for the abysmal ratio of working male to female directors.
So – enter the Female Film Force, set up by social and dating app Bumble. After a nationwide competition, Bumble has granted five all- female filmmaking teams 20,000 each to make the short film of their choice. And Electra met a couple of the winning directors to see what the future face of filmmaking could look like.
There Is nothing remotely fluffy about Hayley Atwell – only her association with the softest, most lovable, clutch-your-teddy (and this is as an adult, I can assure you) film of the summer, Christopher Robin.
Producer Claire Jones was born to be an advocate. An advocate, that is, for the film business. She began her training as a City lawyer, when she realised that it wasn’t what she wanted to do with her life.
“I would have been a good lawyer,” the producer of this summer’s British blockbuster, The Festival, says now. “But I wouldn’t have been a great one.”
If you’ve ever seen fairy tale heroines as teenage girls whose coming of age goes completely wrong (locked in a tower, put to sleep, being made a servant in your own house) then Pin Cushion is for you.
Write a masterpiece aged 18, create a new genre and a character for all of time – and then history thinks it’s your husband who wrote it, and pays more attention to the monster you created than to your own name.
We speak, of course, of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and the joy of finally seeing a film on screen which shows why she wrote the novel, published two hundred years ago in 1818.
Just when you think you know as much of Whitney Houston’s story as you ever will, along comes a new documentary with a devastating claim; that Whitney and her half-brother Gary were sexually abused as children by their cousin Dee Dee Warwick (who died a decade ago.) The story first came out in May after the film, Whitney, premiered at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.
As In the Fade had its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival a year ago, a suicide bomber walked into Manchester Arena and murdered 22 people attending an Arianna Grande concert.
Diane Kruger says that she “didn’t sleep” for a couple of nights afterwards, because she had just spent months devoting herself to In the Fade – the story of a German woman who loses her Turkish husband and their young son to neo Nazi bombers.
We can all lament that Ocean’s 8 is a bit sexist in its plot (women only become criminals if there’s dressing up involved or getting back at a tosser ex boyfriend) and not delivering much in what Sandra Bullock calls “banter”, but it’s kind of enjoyable, and why are we holding them to such high standards? Did you see a Tom Cruise film recently? Why are we asking for Chekhov for girls?
Amy Adrion is a filmmaker who was frustrated by not getting hired. She couldn’t put it down to being bad at her job, because it was also happening to all her female filmmaker friends – it was a struggle.
“I remember thinking, am I trying to do something impossible?” Amy says.
Is Debra Granik, the director who made a star out of J-Law, one of the most underrated of all the female filmmakers who have merited more attention?
Debra, a New Englander, made 2010’s Winter’s Bone, where a young Jennifer Lawrence got an Oscar nomination – a rare thing for a tiny independent. Debra also got an Oscar nomination for her screenplay, while the film was nominated for Best Picture.
Crystal Moselle manages to make life-changing walks through her native New York. A few years ago, the director was minding her own business on the Lower East Side when the family of boys who’d become known as The Wolfpack ran past her. That was her first documentary, released in 2015. More recently, a trip on the subway led to her bumping into a group of girl skate boarders, which Moselle explains “I had never seen before.”
Making a film about your own sexual abuse as a teenager –that’s something you don’t imagine getting pitched around many film studio boardrooms. But for experienced documentarian Jennifer Fox, making a narrative around a relationship she had with an adult man when she was 13 years old was a project she wanted to complete for years – despite most people trying to discourage her.
“There are few countries in the world where it is harder to be a young girl, where barriers between girls and their dreams and their rights are so high and so painful to experience and observe.” The words of Angelina Jolie as she unleashed The Breadwinner on the world – the second film she’s made within a year about the experiences of a young girl caught up in war.
Not since John Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi has a heroine (not even Kill Bill’s Bride) slopped about in so much blood. But on the set of Revenge, Coralie Fargeat’s excellent debut film, she confesses that each day that they were worried they were going to run out of the fake stuff
In the rugged and varied landscape of TV medical dramas, you set the tone. Ever since those words were uttered by a world-weary Doctor Benton to the young and impressionable Doctor Carter on ER, the game was changed. Throughout the mid-1990s and beyond, County General in Chicago was the fictional place millions longed to visit each week, with its progressive scripts, innovative direction and complex characters that still evoke extreme emotional reactions (*that* episode involving Lucy and Carter in series 6, who’s with me?).
There’s a scene midway through Tully where Charlize Theron tears off her T-shirt in the kitchen and slumps at the table, wearing just her bra. It is the most realistic and justified reason for a woman to strip off in a film that I’ve seen in a very long time. It’s in the trailer for the movie as well and serves as a perfect calling card for why this film deserves to be seen by a wide audience, not just mothers.