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What Angelina Jolie and Meryl Streep Have in Common

What Angelina Jolie and Meryl Streep Have in Common

I know I am lucky.  I get to watch and think about movies and write about them and talk about them.  But being a blogger, I don’t very often get to see the people in the movies or those who make the movies – especially when they are big stars.

Yesterday was different — I saw two major icons, two of the most genuine and powerful women in the film business Angelina Jolie and Meryl Streep.  Both are talking about their upcoming movies.  Streep is in The Iron Lady opening on December 30th and Angelina Jolie wrote and directed In the Land of Blood and Honey which is opening on December 23rd.

I have to say they were both beyond impressive.  I’m not writing about the movie (which I really liked) this is about the woman.  This is about a woman who could really rest on her laurels, hang out with her kids and partner, make action films and bank enough money to retire by the time she is 40.  But she doesn’t want to do that.  She wants to use whatever power she has for good and to educate people about important topics.

So she chose the Bosnian War.  Who the hell does that?  A war that people even the people who lived it don’t talk about.  Oh and she showed up at the press conference with multiple cast members and had the whole thing moderated by NPR correspondent Tom Gjeltten who covered the war and was clearly moved by the authenticity she brought to the piece.  A big star like Jolie could have shown up at the press conference by herself or with the two leaad actors, but she didn’t.  She brought many cast members, and they all spoke and shared incredibly moving stories of their experiences during the war.  One of the actors Ermin Sijamija was even in the army during the war.  This man was moved to tears when he talked about his experiences.

Here’s what she said when talking about why she made the film:

“I had been haunted by years of traveling in the field by a lack of intervention to the trauma people face in post conflict situations and my frustration in seeing their pain and wondering if we could have prevented this, if we could have done something before…So I sat down privately to write something and this led me clearly to Bosnia because it was a war of my generation to my generation and it was one I felt a responsibility to learn about because I didn’t know and the more I learned the more I was overwhelmed by the guilt of how little I knew and was shocked by how long this went on.”

This is the world’s highest paid female movie star.  This is what she cares about.  This gives me hope.

And Meryl – I’ve never seen Meryl Streep speak in person and she did a q and a with the director Phyllida Lloyd and my take away is that woman is completely genuine and it an incredibly fierce advocate for women, and especially for older women.  This is what interests her.  This is what she wants to talk about.  This is what she is passionate about.  And I for one am so glad because she’s real. 

She wants to push the envelope.  And she says it much better than I do.

“I do have an interest in things we don’t want to handle in movies or look at because I think anything forbidden is exciting.  Nudity is nothing, it’s not really a provocation.  Try and talk about leaving and dying and all those things… And this particular take that Abi Morgan took with this screenplay was really great – 3 days in the life of of a little old lady who just happens to be the person who was the longest serving prime minister in the 20th century and the only female in the western world, who ruled a nuclear country.  Pretty interesting stuff to look at a life ebbing in its diminishment.  That really interested me.”

She also is very interested in looking at women and power and leadership and here’s what she said about that.

“This appealed to every feminist bone in my body and I know it is a dirty word nowadays, it did, the achievement, how she got there.  How hard it had to have been.  How she had to have been 10 times more prepared than everybody.”

That almost made me weep.  To hear Meryl Streep talking about feminism and the movies.  And how interesting it is to have it enmeshed with Margaret Thatcher who no one would call a feminist ever. 

I was able to get in a question about gender and her relationships to women – because there is a line in the film where she talks about how she prefers the company of men (and by the way she really is the only woman in the room throughout her political career).

Here’s how she answered my question

“We live in a world still where sons are favored.  She was one of 2 daughters at a time when perhaps that was true in England, I don’t presume to say, but we do know that that feeling exists a round the world and it’s a vestigial one.  This father favored — we feel — this golden girl who seemed to be so bright and have so much promise but her road was very unusual.  We can’t emphasize that enough.  First of all to get a place in chemistry at Oxford and then decide to read law and then decide to go into politics was unusual to say the least.”

And lastly she was asked about what she wants people to take away from the movie and she talked about the invisibility of older women.

“I would like to think that when everybody got on the subway and saw some old lady sitting across that they would imagine that there was a whole huge life lay behind those wrinkles and that seemingly nondescript forgettable…  There is almost nothing less interesting in our consumerist society than an old lady. Dismissed.  We don’t make movies for her, we don’t give a damn, can’t sell her anything because she doesn’t buy anything…everything is in there and just to imagine that.  That’s what I would hope.”

Yesterday was this feminist girl’s dream come true.  To see two such icons, to realize and to sense for myself their authenticity has me walking on air and knowing that it is great to have women of their stature in our camp.

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