"In 1991, Geena Davis starred in Thelma & Louise, a road movie about two women who become fugitives, which led critics to describe it as a “feminist manifesto for the 90s”.
Two decades on and the actress is so disillusioned with the film industry’s attitude to women she has drawn up a feminist manifesto of her own with “two easy steps to make Hollywood less sexist”.
In a column for The Hollywood Reporter’s 'Women in Entertainment Power 100' issue, the Oscar-winner bemoaned the gender imbalance in media and entertainment and called on film makers to introduce more female characters into their movies to provide positive role models for the young."
The biopic tracks Arendt's experiences reporting on the trial of Nazi SS-Officer Adolf Eichmann, unapologetically centralising her role as a public intellectual. Relationships with friends and her husband, including notable author Mary McCarthy, are also rather sensitively depicted. But they are subplots to the real deal, Arendt's ideas.
Unlike the majority of films or television shows when they deign to give airtime to women, “Hannah Arendt” refuses to replicate the stereotypical territory of acceptable-woman-characters. It is not about Arendt the lover (see: almost all women in films), Arendt as a writerly version of the oh-so-“normal” woman hung up on weight and boyfriends (see: Bridget Jones), or Arendt the supposed high-flyer beseiged by mental health issues (see: Scandinavian drama).
“Hannah Arendt” is, instead, about Hannah Arendt the thinker. It rightly credits Professor Arendt, responsible for some of the most publicly enduring theories in 20th century philosophy, with an intellectual interiority mostly reserved – at least in the public eye – for white men.
If only 12 Years a Slave (or Roots, or any other wrenching American slave narrative) could move audiences beyond those already eager for a dose of feel-good shame.
...Which leads to the more important question: Could this film possibly preach to the unconverted? Could it reach Americans who at this late date, in the 21st century, still haven’t gotten Stowe’s message? Will it even be seen by any of the millions who swear by Glenn Beck? This question might be asked of all the recent movies that touch upon America’s unfinished racial business: Lee Daniels’ The Butler, the Jackie Robinson biopic 42, and Fruitvale Station, as well as Django and Lincoln.
Liberals are fond of chastising the right (accurately) for living in a media echo chamber of Rush and Drudge by day and Fox News by night, with no other reality penetrating the bubble. The left has never been able to replicate that mass-media ecosystem; an exclusive diet of, say, the Times and NPR would be far more porous to contrary views than 24/7 of Fox and friends. But whenever mainstream media start gushing en masse about a cultural work with an uplifting historical or political message, a smaller liberal echo chamber does spring up that I’ve at times been part of: We tend to assume that a wide audience will be converted by the power of the new masterpiece at hand, especially under the tutelage of critics, editorial pages, magazine cover stories, and awards ceremonies. Much as the right can convince itself that all of America must regard Obamacare as the worst piece of legislative blight in the country’s history, or that easy access to guns is a God-given right tantamount to freedom of speech, so liberals can become prisoners of our own bubble.
France has launched a five-point gender equality charter for its film industry, put together by Le Deuxième Regard, a Paris-based ‘lobby’ (read ‘activist’) group founded by Bérénice Vincent, Delphyne Besse and Julie Billy, who will circulate it for signature, to all segments of the industry.
As you can see in the photo, all the first signatories of the charter were women, powerful women: Veronique Cayla, the head of Arte France the public television channel and Le Deuxième Regard's marraine, or 'godmother'; Najat Vallaud Belkacem, the Women’s Rights Minister; Aurélie Filippetti, the Culture and Communications Minister; Frédérique Bredin, president of the Centre National du Cinéma et de l'Image Animée (CNC) – the state film funding body. It remains to be seen who else will sign the charter. The Cannes Film Festival, perhaps? Its full name is Charte Pour l’Égalité Entre Les Femmes et Les Hommes Dans Le Secteur Du Cinéma and it's there in all its glory at the bottom of the page. Impressive.
Why is this charter necessary, when in France women directors' participation in feature filmmaking is among the strongest in the world? Well, there are problems there that are similar to those everywhere else. According to the Screen Daily article, the CNC reports that in 2012 women directed just 25% of the 77 first features approved, even though French film school annual intake has a gender split of 50:50.
This charter is, I think, unique. Feminists often work behind the scenes for change. But has a feminist group ever initiated and helped to write a charter that key government ministers and industry figures signed in support, in the arts or any other context? And then circulated it for signature, to an entire industry? Anywhere? The charter and its evolving signature process are very different, for instance, from the framework that the Swedish Film Institute uses to advance women directors’ participation in filmmaking, perhaps because the Swedish Film Institute – unlike the CNC – works within an established regulatory context that explicitly promotes gender equity and has monitored gender statistics in film for some time.
In India, China and many other parts of the world today, girls are killed, aborted and abandoned simply because they are girls. The United Nations estimates as many as 200 million girls are missing in the world today because of this so-called "gendercide".