Editorial: My movie resolutions
Happy New Year, even if I am the last to say it. Last time we talked, I was pondering New Year’s resolutions, swinging between having none as usual and pledging something grandiose and ill-defined. I haven’t given up on that, but I have also embarked on a rather more fun and manageable resolution.
I watch a fair few films. In December, I totted up 34 new films I’d seen in 2017, and noticed that just five of them were made by female directors. Fifteen per cent seemed wonky to me, so, in 2018 I’ve decided to see as many films by women as by men.
Obviously this is not some heroic contribution to the campaign for justice and equality. It’s just me watching a load of great stuff, including some films I wouldn’t have tried otherwise, and broadening my horizons a bit in the process.
It might be a bit of a challenge though. According to Martha Lauzen of the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, 7% of the top 250 grossing films of 2016 were made by women, 4% of the top 100. In the first weekend of January, I noted there were 51 different films showing in London, of which 50 were directed by men. The one that wasn’t was the universally panned Pitch Perfect 3. (And I hadn’t seen the first two.)
A light has been shone on the poisonous culture of sexual assault and bullying in Hollywood, and it feels as if, as a result, things might be changing. Oprah Winfrey used her celebrated speech at the Golden Globes in January to declare: ‘I want all the girls watching here now, to know that a new day is on the horizon.’ But then Natalie Portman brought some dissident sobriety to the celebration, introducing the next award, for best director, with the line: ‘And here is the all-male shortlist.’
The audience gasped at her outspokenness but the disparity is staggering. One woman has won the best director award – Barbra Streisand in 1983. Two others have been nominated, one of them twice. That’s four in total against 322 nominations for male directors. In the Oscars, the disparity is even greater: 433 nominations for male directors, three for female.
The nomination committees are not really to blame, considering how few mainstream releases are directed by women. But the studios are, for failing so spectacularly to employ women.
We in the Church, in the afterglow of the centenary of Constance Coltman’s ordination, might be forgiven a moment’s reflection that there are other institutions behind us on the road to equality, which is not always how it feels. The longer lasting reflection is that there are still huge inequalities in our society, and we sometimes need a jolt to see disparities that are staring us in the face.
I said, stating the very obvious, that my film-watching resolution was not a big deal. But becoming more aware, of anything, has to be one step in the right direction.
Stephen Tomkins is Editor of Reform
This article was published in the February 2018 edition of Reform