I am terrible at blogging

So, I managed to not write any more blogs for half of the year. Well done me. To be fair to me, I did put on my first solo show at the Edinburgh festival, then spent that latter half of the year fannying about America. I was busy, ok? 

I did, however, stick to my Bechdel rules. Though I watched a lot of films on planes and didn’t include them in the test as I wasn’t paying to see them. Is that cheating? Most of them did pass anyway. Back off, yeah? I’m trying. 

I didn’t go to the cinema very much in the 2nd half of the year. I did go to see the 2nd Hunger Games movie. Which brings me to this news:

Movies Passing the Bechdel Test Earned More in 2013
Hooray. That’s good news, isn’t it. It’s probably because of my several pounds spent on them, right? And this world-shattering blog. Or perhaps there is a shift where women (and men, probably) audiences want to see more women characters doing more stuff. 

I know it’s not a film, but I jizzed myself over Orange is the New Black because of the variety & depth in the range of women characters. And it’s made me thirsty for more. MOAR WOMENZ FROM A VARIETY OF BACKGROUNDS & CULTURES, HNNNNGGG. I honestly found myself crying at some points when watching it because I was overwhelmed with delight at the multitude of representation. 

So my year of only paying to see Bechdel test-passing films has concluded but guess what? I’M NOT STOPPING. I got a lot out of this experiment. It has recalibrated my standards for the types of narratives I want to see. I am a million times more interested in seeing stories from voices marginalised by western society now than another film about white men. 

I look for it in all the art & culture I consume now. I want more diversity in the TV I watch, the books I read – I was in the Tate modern and realised it was a room full of work by white european men, I walked out. I’m bored of that now. 

Who wants to go to the cinema with me?

 

 

The Blah Ring

Not been to the cinema very much recently. Feels silly to spend a few hours in a dark room when the days are long and warm, doesn’t it?

I did see The Bling Ring this week though. A tremendously strong passer of the test as the film features a mostly female cast.

What this film also proves is that even a strong passer of the test can be not especially feminist.

It might be my personal politics but I found the entire conceit impossible to give the tiniest of shits about. Rich people steal from richer people in the pursuit of massive materialist consumerism. YAWN.

And despite the fact that this story is based on real events, the women characters seemed strangely two-dimensional and unrealistic. The only character you might feel some sort of sympathy for was the male one, who came across like an actual real person.

I like Sofia Coppola‘s style, and she’s very good at making films that have women in them but I think she’s fixated on rich women (and men – let’s not forget the snoozefest that was Somewhere) in particular. In this case, the film was really quite boring for me. Her movies all seem to be about the loneliness of being really rich. Excuse me if I’m not affluent enough to do one over this. Ennui is a privilege. And a boring one to watch.

The soundtrack is really good though.

Superheroes Are Not Just Men

Now it’s May, looking back at my naive optimism at the idea that I could

1. find the time to go to the cinema once a week and

2. afford to go to the cinema once a week

seems almost cute. Who goes to the cinema once a week who isn’t paid to or works in a cinema? No one. Maybe someone. But they don’t have the amount of reading I have to do.

The last film I went to see was Iron Man 3. I was really chuffed to find out it passes the test because I’m a big fan of the Marvel films generally. Avengers Assemble was such a great action blockbuster but, like many, many superhero films, it doesn’t pass the test. This is a real issue for me. I think the emphasis these films put on the male characters being the heroes and often the woman being rescued reinforces that horrible old stereotype which teaches children that men are active and women are passive.

So, it was a total pleasure to go to a superhero movie knowing it passed the test, and a mega delight to see SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT the woman saving the man. It gave me a genuine buzz & I felt all excited. “Yes!” I thought when SPOILER ALERT Pepper got in the suit. “Yes! Pepper is in the suit! This makes it one billion percent easier for me to imagine myself in the suit & I want nothing more than to be in the suit.” was the feeling running through me.

I think it’s so important for girls to have that chance to identify with the hero and it’s important for boys to see that the woman can be the hero.

Though encouraging to see a big movie franchise creating better parts and narrative for female characters, it’s pretty disheartening to see this news that we’ve had the smallest number of speaking roles for women in five years, and that most of those roles were sexualised in some way. As Bridget Christie says, it seems misogyny, like shiny leggings, is making a comeback – and neither do any good for most women.

Why this setback? It is because of the fallacy of achieved equality now? Whatever the reason, it remains crucial to encourage greater female roles, more women producers, directors, writers, more women in production jobs like sound and cinematography. It’s not difficult to understand that the greater gender equality in all aspects of film-making leads to  more women characters on screen, contributing in more complex ways.

P.S. I am running a 10k race next week and raising money for Refuge. you can sponsor me if you like http://www.justgiving.com/Nadia-Kamil

Compliance & Cloud Atlas

I have been slack recently. I think going to the cinema once a week was too ambitious, let alone going once a week to see a Bechdel-passing film.

That said, I went twice this week. On Wednesday I saw Compliance which was easily the most horrible & uncomfortable film I have ever sat through. It is a really well made film but I never want to see it again. It passes the test on many, many occasions because the two lead characters are female.  It’s based on a true story & the film claims that nothing is exaggerated. I think it’s an incredible film but it left me feeling sick for hours.

The other film I saw this week was Cloud Atlas. It’s based on the book by David Mitchell & I think if you haven’t read the book, the film might be impenetrable. It only just passes due to  conversations between two of the fabricants (Somni & Yoona) working in Papa Song’s. A lot of the cleverness & wit of the book is lost in the mawkishness of the film – a massive difference is that the book’s main theme is “predacity” & the film’s main linking theme is “love” (ergh).

The interesting thing the film explores is identity – mostly through the same actors playing different roles. They play different genders & ethnicities (this has sparked a bit of controversy). I enjoyed it but I did find myself wanting a few more women actors (of 13 main cast, 4 were women) to see them being allowed to explore changing identity as much as the male actors. The exploration of identity certainly fits with something the directors might want to examine. Director Lana Wachowski made her first public appearance as a fully transitioned woman in a trailer for the movie.

For all the explorations, 7 of the 13 main cast members are caucasian men, so the film still has a very White Man basis from which it explores.

These are just some thought farts of mine. Both of these films have got me thinking which is probably a good thing.

Ah! Lore!

I remedied my missed weeks by going to see Lore today.

I wouldn’t have considered it previously as I’d not heard of it at all. I haven’t seen any trailers or posters for it. I was hoping to see Zero Dark Thirty but my local Picturehouse wasn’t showing it & I was beginning to feel like I wasn’t putting in enough effort with this challenge.

So, I saw Lore was on, read the blurb, watched the trailer & it looked like a good contender for a Bechdel-passing film. It wasn’t listed on bechdeltest.com though so I tried googling to see if anyone had blogged about whether it passes and accidentally learned that the film is directed & co-written by a woman. Surely, thought I, this film must pass the test. I asked Twitter and a helpful follower told me it did. Of course I couldn’t be totally confident after the Bullhead palava but seeing as there were lots of women in the trailer, a woman writer, a woman protagonist (which the film is named after) and a woman director – I felt pretty certain this film wouldn’t let me down.

It didn’t. It passes the test over & over again. Along with Beasts of the Southern Wild, this is my favourite film of 2013 so far. It really satisfied my (now increasing with this project) demand for stories about women, told by women. Having a woman protagonist (technically, a teenager here) is a real pleasure for me to watch. I especially like seeing relationships between mothers & daughters explored & the idea of women being in charge of difficult situations. 

I found the film to be beautiful, detailed & fraught. I don’t know if my enjoyment of it was boosted because of it being exactly what I want from this experiment or whether I enjoyed it so much because I started this experiment to find movies exactly like this.

I probably would not have seen this film at the cinema were I not doing this project so I’m really pleased as I feel like I’m beginning to get what I was hoping for from it. It’s now March, by January 2014 I hope I have a sizeable list of films like this.

Where are the Women?

I haven’t been to the cinema since I saw Rundskop. This is due to a number of things: I’ve been a lot busier in the last two weeks, the films I wanted to see weren’t showing at convenient times/places, there weren’t many Bechdel-passing films showing.

Since my last blog we had the BAFTAs and the Oscars. We all know what a turgid misogyny-fest the Oscars was at the hands of exemplary privileged white male, Seth Macfarlane. Excellent human Lindy West wrote about this & captured the way I felt about it pretty well.

Prior to the awards I read this piece by Soraya Chemaly, discussing the absence of women in the nominee lists. And before this, as I was watching the BAFTAs, I became very aware of the terrible ratio of women to men collecting awards (in the non-gender specific categories). I actually made a spreadsheet. I counted up all the people collecting awards and I counted 34 men collecting awards to 8 women.

I don’t think this is BAFTA’s fault. Clearly fewer women work in film in the top jobs behind the camera. Why is this? And how can it be changed?

As with almost every industry in the world, it’s harder to be a woman in film making. I’ve talked a bit about this before, but I think women need to be exceptional to do well in male-dominated environments whereas many men can succeed by simply being adequate. Another issue is visibility – women are not as inspired to get into directing/writing/editing/cinematography/sound/FX when they can’t see other women doing it and doing well. I think one of the reasons there are so many aspiring female actors is because society values actresses. Acting is one of very few jobs where women are given plaudits as much as men, and are very visible doing it. Girls see this and can relate, and aspire to the same.

It’s kind of a catch-22 as more visibly successful women are needed to inspire more women to go into these areas of work who will in turn inspire other women. This is why I generally don’t have a problem with women-specific awards/festivals etc.

I’m hoping to see some films soon but there are not many Bechdel-passers coming up & there are practically none which feature primarily a story about a woman which is what I really want to see right now.

update: just read this on this year’s Oscars sausagefest & the movies nommed. Thought it was good & relevant to this post.

Bull

This week I was duped! Oh, the drama.

I asked on Twitter if anyone who had seen Bullhead knew if it passed the Bechdel test. From the trailer it didn’t look likely but someone, who it turns out was the script consultant for the film, told me it did.

Well, it doesn’t. I paid my £4 to see it at the Prince Charles Cinema and I sat through the whole film waiting for it to pass and feeling a mixture of disappointment & annoyance.

I was annoyed because I’d been misinformed but also because this whole experience was playing on my mind and I became annoyed at the very fact that I’m doing this experiment because of the lack of representation of women in films and that I couldn’t just sit back and enjoy a film because, once again, I was watching a bunch of men telling me men’s stories.

Even looking back at all the films I’ve watched this year at the cinema, NONE of them have focussed exclusively on women’s stories. Bullhead focusses on men’s stories only. The women are incidental devices. But in none of the Bechdel-passing-films I’ve seen so far have there been any where men have only been used as devices to tell women’s stories. So even with this experiment, I am not seeing fewer men’s stories.

I’m only 6 films in, so maybe this will even up over time but I’m not hugely optimistic.

The guy who tweeted me did offer to refund me, so at least my annoyance was acknowledged. I turned down the offer though, because isn’t accepting money off a stranger on Twitter really weird?