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‘The Second Mother’ Director Anna Muylaert Speaks Out About Film-Festival Sexism

'The Second Mother' Director Anna Muylaert Speaks Out About Film-Festival Sexism

“Men think it’s lovely if a woman makes a lovely film that nobody sees.”

That’s the scathing highlight of the interview writer-director Anna Muylaert gave to Women and Hollywood when her film “The Second Mother” was released back in August. Since then, the drama, which Muylaert has said was a project two decades in the making, became Brazil’s submission to the Oscars — and just might be a frontrunner in the Best Foreign Language Film category. “The Second Mother” stars Regina Casé, Brazil’s answer to Oprah, as a live-in servant to a wealthy, dysfunctional family whose complacency with her lot in life is challenged by her ambitious, estranged college-bound daughter (Camila Mardila).

Muylaert has used her newfound fame in art-house circles to speak about her experiences of sexism in the industry, specifically as it relates to the success of “The Second Mother.” She readily found examples of it among her fellow Brazilian filmmakers. In “The Business” podcast, host Kim Masters related how a panel that was supposed to be about her film devolved into “her male fellow panelists, well-known directors Claudio Assis and Lirio Ferreira, insult[ing] her by making chauvinistic remarks and calling the film’s star, Regina Casé, fat.”

Muylaert received even more mistreatment at the Sundance and Berlin film festivals — though not from the fest reps themselves. “I’ve been suffering bullying from partners of mine since my film went to Sundance, for example,” she said. “I started to understand what I never understood before: When you get a certain level of success, it’s like entering a party where there’s only men. They simply don’t know how to deal with the fact that you don’t [wear] a tie. They start to try to take me out. They say, ‘If this is happening, it’s because of us. Not you.'”

And in Berlin, distributors ignored her and praised a producer who had nothing to do with writing or directing for making such a great film: “[The atmosphere] was like, guy-to-guy. If the film is good, it’s because of the guy. That was really depressing for me because my co-producer, he did the financial stuff and the contracts, but he wasn’t even [on] the set, he wasn’t even in the editing room. The film came to him totally ready. He was the seller, the sales guy. Suddenly, the distributor was just looking at him and saying, ‘Oh, those characters are so good. The script is so good.’ But he didn’t even look at me. That’s humiliating. We have to talk about this to change it, because this is very common.”

“Even sometimes [when] I am with my boyfriend and I go somewhere, [a] person starts to talk to him, like, ‘Oh, the film was so good.’ It’s like shyness, like ‘I can’t face you in the eye and say you did a good job — a woman could not do that.’” Is complimenting a woman on a job well done really that hard? 

“This is my fourth film,” Muylaert continued. “My other three films were successes too. They won prizes and [found] an audience, but they were not huge successes [like ‘The Second Mother’]. The other three films were okay — I never felt [this]. The thing is, when you’re very successful, you enter The Room of Money. With money, you [as a woman] cannot be there: You will be treated as a child.” 

After months of such overt sexism, Muylaert says she wants more people talking about the routine chauvinism in the industry. “It was even difficult for me to react to [being ignored at the time],” she said. “I think if it was today and the distributor did the same [thing], I would say, ‘Hey! Come on! I wrote the film!'” 

“I won’t accept it anymore,” she declared. “That was a good part of all this.” 

[via The Business]

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