Feminist film history, lost opportunities with Jane Campion, calls for solidarity and revolution — the winners of Women in Film’s 2015 Crystal + Lucy Awards used their time at the podium to talk about what was really on their minds.
As previously announced, WIF honored Nicole Kidman for helping to expand the role of women in film, Jill Soloway for doing the same in television, Ava DuVernay in recognition of her directorial achievements, Kate Mara for her promise, marketing chief Sue Kroll for her mentorship and talent agent Toni Howard for guiding careers. The event was hosted by Mario Bello.
Here are some of the evening’s highlights:
–Nicole Kidman calls for change. “It’s not an even playing field,” declared Kidman on the award ceremony’s red carpet. “Obviously we need to create more opportunities [for women],” she said. “We’re all working and banding together and trying to change that, and that’s what’s needed. We also need to put cameras in little girls’ hands and get them to tell stories and increase their confidence so that they can feel powerful.”
–Kidman regrets the time she prioritized prettiness over artistic risk. As an emerging actress, Kidman was offered a part in one of Jane Campion’s early films. But because the role would’ve required wearing a shower cap and kissing a girl, Kidman turned it down — a decision she still regrets. As her recent filmography shows, the actress is no longer afraid of taking risks, and advised other women to do the same: “Take risks, raise our voices and honor the fire within.” She then removed a shower cap from her purse and stated that she was finally “ready… to kiss any woman in the room.” Her longtime friend Naomi Watts volunteered for the job.
–Jill Soloway shares the advice she got from Ava DuVernay. “You have to bring all the women filmmakers together,” is what Soloway remembers hearing from DuVernay after the “Transparent” creator wrapped up “Afternoon Delight” and wasn’t sure how to proceed forward. Soloway took heart in DuVernay’s message of pioneering progress: “We’re making our movies, but we still have to do things like build the bridge out in front of us, like those cartoon bridges where you lay the slats as you go because the road really isn’t there. We’re starting from scratch.”
–Soloway asserts the importance of female protagonists. “Protagonism is privileged,” she said,” and women deserve the privilege of protagonism. That means writing, directing, acting, telling our own stories, getting behind the camera and expressing how it feels to be ourselves.” She concluded her speech with insurgent fervor: “Women speaking the truth is a revolutionary act, and it’ll change the world.”
–WIF President Cathy Shulman announces a partnership with Turner Classic Movies to highlight gender inequality in the industry and women’s contributions behind the camera. WIF will team up with TCM for a three-year programming initiative to address sexism in Hollywood, with a focus on helping women working behind the scenes advance in their fields. “The issue of gender inequality in the film industry is both timely and immensely important to shine a light on,” said TCM General Manager Jennifer Dorian. “Through this programming effort, TCM is proactively taking a deeper look at the role of women in our industry as well as providing insight and resources to inspire more women filmmakers.”
–Ava DuVernay laments the erasure of women from film history. DuVernay received the Dorothy Arzner Directors Award, named after the first female member of the DGA. She admits she had to research who Arzner was and deplores how quickly she’s been forgotten: “[Arzner] made films that starred Lucille Ball, and Katherine Hepburn and Rosalind Russell…. She became a film professor and she taught the likes of Francis Ford Coppola and, yet, I had no idea who she was. That is a ‘forgetting us’ that is just unacceptable. Even as we ask the industry to remember us and include us, we have to remember ourselves.”
DuVernay uttered similar sentiments at the Sundance Institute earlier this month, when she brought filmmaker Euzhan Palcy (“A Dry White Season”) as her guest. “So few people knew who she was,” said DuVernay. “She was the first black woman to have a film produced by a studio. In 1989. You thought I was going to say 1943. No, 1989. She was the first black woman to direct an actor to an Oscar nomination… yet no one had a clue who she was. So this forgetting, this community that we’re neglecting… a whole cadre of women filmmakers… that’s on us to remember.” She affirmed, “We have to overcome this erasure, this invisibility and forgetting us.”