It's hard to talk about and even harder to film. In this exclusive Bitch Q&A, feminist poet and writer Katha Pollitt talks with filmmaker Jennifer Baumgardner about her powerful new film, It Was Rape.
KATHA POLLITT: Your new film "It Was Rape" consists almost entirely of 8 women, telling the story of their rape and its aftermath in great detail. I found it simultaneously compelling and unbearable to watch. How did you find women willing to identify themselves as rape survivors?
JENNIFER BAUMGARDNER: Sadly, it was incredibly easy finding people who had been raped. I lecture frequently on college campuses and each time I mentioned that I was working on this film and project, at least two people would approach me after the talk to tell me about their story. I somewhat randomly chose the stories that ended up in the film. Going into the interviews, I didn't know the stories beyond the barest sketch.
Most of the women in the film were not out in public about being raped—often they had discussed it with just a few people in their lives—but they were hungry for a venue in which they could talk about this really huge, life-altering event and be listened to respectfully and openly. I had no problem getting people to talk. That said, many were scared to see their interviews when the film was finished. The prospect of being in the public opened up the possibility of being not believed (again) or blamed (again).
I believe this movie stirred something in me. Perhaps the feelings I had for my '97 sea foam Geo Metro? That was a similarly creaky and stressful thing that I'd have preferred to chop up for parts.
For good or for bad, Mama opens with a far more chilling scene than any of the film's subsequent ghostfoolery: It's the beginning of the Great Recession and a freshly-ruined man in a suit runs horrific errands around town—first, shooting partners in his office and eventually making his way to his estranged wife and children. After a sad, heavy gunshot in an unseen room, the man kidnaps his two young daughters by car (naturally, the license plate: reads "N1 DAD").
Here's your warning: This rest of this review will contain some spoilers.
In the 85-year-long history of the Academy Awards, only four women have been nominated for Best Director. That's absurd.
This year, the 77 percent male, 94 percent white Academy made it clear that they weren't ready to recognize a woman twice for outstanding directorial work when they snubbed Kathryn Bigelow for her work on Zero Dark Thirty. Bigelow became the first woman to win a Best Director Oscar in 2009 for The Hurt Locker. Her new film, based on true events leading up to the killing of Osama Bin Laden, snagged nods for Best Picture, Best Actress, and Best Screenwriter, but Oscar left no love for Bigelow herself.
Let's get this straight: While Hollywood is still male-dominated, lots of women made excellent films this year. In stark contrast to the Oscars, women filmmakers had huge success at last month's Sundance Film Festival. The lopsidedness of this year's Oscar nominees underscores the challenges faced by women working in the world of blockbuster films.
The problem here is not the quality of films made by women. The problem is Oscar economics.
It's not that Silver Linings Playbook fails at what it's trying to do, exactly. It's easy to see why the film racked up Oscar nominations, including a Best Actress nod for Jennifer Lawrence. But a movie that includes mental illness, family function and dysfunction, football, romance, and sparkly dance costumes is biting off a bit more than it can chew.
Attractive couple, adorable child, affluent neighborhood, perfect life - it must be too good to be true. And so begins Afternoon Delight, which centers on the restless interior life of Rachel, a hipster-suburban mother and wife who goes from being a passive link in a chain of interlocking relationships to the one that yanks it violently out of its comfort zone.
The gist: Couple in a rut goes to a strip club for kicks. Wife gets a lapdance. Wife brings stripper home to live with them. Complications ensue.
Part buddy comedy, part campy mumblecore, Fully Loaded straps us into the backseat of a mom-mobile to listen in on a girl's night out set to a rocking soundtrack affectionately known as the "Mommy Mix." Paula (Paula Killen) and Lisa (Lisa Orkin), are best friends on the run from a hookup that's gone south in a parking lot. Retreat to their van, the pair screech out onto L.A.'s neverending streets, telling jokes to break the tension. Before long, we're listening in on their lives, reviewing breakups and divorces, problems with parenting, and other assorted midlife crises (cancer) and questions (can you be a feminist if you also want to be taken care of?).
Poor Judd Apatow. He's a marquee name in Hollywood, has a gorgeous wife and adorably precocious daughters, and recently got to guest-edit Vanity Fair's annual Comedy Issue and interview personal heroes like Albert Brooks. The one thing he can't do, it seems, is get everybody feeling the pain of a wealthy white guy's midlife crisis.
While I ended my last post by snarkily suggesting that pop culture's fascination with fathers might give way to an interest in motherhood, the truth is a lot of messages about moms are already encoded in these male-centric narratives.