Oscars 2015: Thanks For Trying

Sunday’s Academy Awards show enlisted the most diverse group of performers and presenters in Oscars history, as 15 minority presenters, including Eddie Murphy, Jennifer Lopez, Viola Davis, Idris Elba, Kevin Hart and Oprah Winfrey, took the stage to deliver the evening’s awards. However, the absence of any minority group nominees in the acting categories, for only the second time since 1998, shows that the film industry is not reflective of American society. Click here to read more.

Geena Davis To Launch New Film Festival Championing Women And Diversity

Geena Davis has teamed up with ARC Entertainment to launch a new film festival in Bentonville, AK and will champion women and diversity in film. It will also be the first and only film competition in the world to offer guaranteed theatrical, TV, digital and retail home entertainment distribution for its winners. Click here to read more.

Dear White People…The Movie

It’s like Spike Lee’s School Daze for the “post-racial” era. But as we wait for the much talked about sequel to Lee’s groundbreaking film, we are certainly looking forward to seeing this. See the recently released trailer after the jump.

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Co-Screenwriter of ‘Noah’ Explains Why There Are No Black People Or POC In The Film

O.K. let’s see if this makes sense.

No doubt, one of the most talked about films so far this year is Darren Aronofsky’s Noah. The film has gotten its share of rave reviews, though there are those who have major problems with it. However, one cannot deny that it is truly an ambitious, unique and original film – the kind of risk-taking movie you wish Hollywood would make more of, like they used to.

However, there is that one thing; That one thing that stuck out in my mind when I saw the film: “Hey, where are the black folks or people or color in the film?”

If this film had been made back during the epic “Biblical film” era, in the 1950s, well then, yes, you would expect that.

But even Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments has black people in it. So, here we are well into the 21stcentury, and Noah is populated with nothing but white people, many who speak with British or Australian accents.

Well, in a new interview on the website The High Calling (HERE) the co-screenwriter of the film Ari Handel, who wrote Noah with Aronofsky, was asked about the lack of diversity and addressed by saying:

“From the beginning, we were concerned about casting, the issue of race. What we realized is that this story is functioning at the level of myth, and as a mythical story, the race of the individuals doesn’t matter. They’re supposed to be stand-ins for all people. Either you end up with a Bennetton ad or the crew of the Starship Enterprise.”

He goes on to say:

“You either try to put everything in there, which just calls attention to it, or you just say, “Let’s make that not a factor, because we’re trying to deal with everyman.” Looking at this story through that kind of lens is the same as saying, “Would the ark float and is it big enough to get all the species in there?” That’s irrelevant to the questions because the questions are operating on a different plane than that; they’re operating on the mythical plane.”

Really? That’s the best he could do? Why not just say, we just didn’t want to be bothered? I would have bought that.

So let me see if I understand this. In other words, if we put black people or POC in the film, then people would notice it, and that would have been like really, really distracting, taking people out of the film. So instead, we got a whole bunch of white British, American and Australian actors to represent all mankind, because it‘s just a lot easier?

And, furthermore, putting people of color in the film would have somewhat diminished the biblical Noah, making it look, God forbid, like some kind of Star Trek movie?

Sorry I’m all confused here. I was thinking that, if you want to represent all mankind in a film, then wouldn’t it make sense to have a cast that did actually represent all of mankind, in every color and hue, instead of having an all white cast, and telling audiences to just squint their eyes, and pretend that he’s another race, because it’s all just a myth after all? So black people can’t be mythical too? Nope, I guess we’re too real, too urban.

Am I wrong here, or is Handel? You tell us.

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How American Films Use Black Cops for Comic Relief

If you’re a black cop in an American movie, you’re a lot more likely to end upsquatting on a toilet with a bomb in it than sharing scars with the hottie from Internal Affairs. This isn’t anecdote; it’s research. A recent study from two criminal justice experts shows that for 40 years black police officers have most often been the punchlines of the American cop movie genre.

The researchers found that only 21 out of 112 police movies released from 1971 to 2011 had a black cop in a heroic role. And, in over half of those, black officers were there to give the audience laughs, rather than significantly advance the plot. Outside the movies, around one in five officers is black, say the authors.

lethal-weapon

The researchers took every film classified as a “cop movie” since the Clint Eastwood vehicle Dirty Harry (which they say defined the genre as we know it today), and culled all those that were specifically comedies, science-fiction, or anything that featured cops acting outside their jurisdictions. Then they sat down and watched over 240 hours of cinema, looking to see how the black and white main characters were portrayed, and using 40 criteria to classify on-screen actions into types.

Franklin Wilson, of Indiana State University, was one of the paper’s authors. He told Quartz: “Quite honestly, it’s eye-opening. You can watch a film and see one thing here or there, but when you watch 40 years’ worth of films, you can start seeing a pattern develop.”

In addition to the comic-relief stereotype, black cops were often portrayed as being caught between the black community and the police, Wilson said. There is a longstanding lack of trust between police and African Americans, stretching from colonial laws that allowed police to arrest blacks for being out after dark (ebook, pg. 22), to modern stop-and-frisk practices.

There’s lopsided justice inside the police force, as well: There have been black officers in America since 1802, but even up until 1962 many police departments required them to get a white officer’s permission before arresting a white suspect. In his book Policing America (pg. 364), author Ken Peak said this results in a so-called “double marginality”, where black officers feel ostracized both by the African-American community, and their fellow police.

The researchers say their next project is to see if the movie-world portrayal of black cops has any relationship to the way they’re perceived in the real world. If past efforts to connect media portrayals to society are any indication, they are up against a steep wall.

And if you’re wondering whether being a “hottie from Internal Affairs” is the typical fate of a female co-star, you won’t have to wonder for long: Wilson and his co-author’s next paper will give the same treatment to women in American cop movies.

What to Watch: BUSK [documentary]

BUSK is a short, social issues and subcultural music documentary, following five musicians as they busk in the arteries of the NYC subway system––Persevering to display their talent for income, sustenance, and a means to work, the busker’s experiences are portrayed through interviews, and live performances on the subway platforms. By exploring the city’s music programs, laws, and the musicians’ passion to perform, BUSK, takes the audience below into the heart of New York to hear the real sounds of the subway system.

BUSK – film from Ramon Nyitrai on Vimeo.

Street performance or busking is the practice of performing in public places, for gratuities.[1] In many countries the rewards are generally in the form of money but other gratuities such as food, drink or gifts may be given. Street performance is practiced all over the world by men, women and children and dates back to antiquity. In English speaking countries people engaging in this practice are called street performers or buskers.

Japan’s Female Directors Making Their Mark in Patriarchal Industry

Women working in Japan’s socially conservative film sector are making inroads, even if true gender equality remains a long ways off.

TOKYO – The 2013 Global Gender Gap Report ranked Japan 105th in the world in terms of equality for women, having actually slipped four places from 101st the year before. While Japan’s slide down the rankings is due mostly to improvements elsewhere, it remains a damning indictment of sexual discrimination in the world’s third largest economy. As for the film industry worldwide, it has not been what you might call an equal opportunity employer, particularly for those behind the camera. Although women have been directing movies since the 19th century, it was only five years ago that Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman to win the best director Oscar.

In Japan’s case, factor in the rampant sexism still found in most areas of a socially conservative society, and a dearth of female filmmakers in the country hardly comes as a shock. However, over the last decade female directors have been making their mark. Slow though it may be, change is happening.

Tazuko Sakane is credited with being Japan’s first female director, her chance to make New Clothing (Hatsu Sugata) coming after she was taken under the wing of legendary helmer Kenji Mizoguchi. It was to be her only production; she was reportedly given a hard time over its failure, as well as her predilection for short hair and dressing in suits. There were to be no more films made by women in Japan until after World War II. The most prolific Japanese female director post-war is Sachi Hamano, who has made more than 400 films, though all but one in the erotic soft-core ‘pink eiga’ genre.

“The situation has been improving in recent years, though film production is still a macho environment in Japan, where most people in the crew do a lot of physical work,” says female producer Yukie Kito,whose credits include Tokyo Sonata and A Thousand Years of Good Prayers. “It’s tough even for men, and it can be hard for a woman to get respect in that environment.”

According to the Directors Guild of Japan, there are now “about 20 female members” out of 550: a marginal improvement on the 15 out of 500 it registered at the end of the 20th century. Though this means only about 3.5 percent of members are women, the figures are somewhat skewed by the fact that many young directors don’t join the guild.

At the Japan Institute of the Moving Image, a leading film school, female students now account for about a third of those taking the directing and screenwriting course.

“I think female directors are now quite visible in Japan. There are many interesting documentaries and features being made by women, from Ayumi Sakamoto to Iguchi Nami, and of course, Naomi Kawase,” suggests Yoshi Yatabe, programming director at the Tokyo International Film Festival. “I don’t think the doors are closed in Japan, they have equal opportunities.”

While it looks to be a while yet before real gender equality is achieved in Japan, it’s not likely to be so long before a female director emulates Bigelow and become the first woman to win Japan’s Academy Prize.

FIVE FEMALE JAPANESE DIRECTORS TO KNOW

Naomi Kawase

By far the most well-known Japanese female director outside of her home country, Naomi Kawase is a two-time winner at Cannes, where she also served on the jury last year. However, while media coverage of her international triumphs means most people in Japan know her name, few have seen her films, some of which haven’t even had domestic theatrical releases.

“She has a very high reputation on the international festival circuit, but her films don’t really work in cinemas in Japan,” says Yatabe. “In that way, she represents the contradiction of the film industry.”

Miwa Nishikawa

Hiroshima-born Miwa Nishikawa got her big break when she worked as assistant director for Hirokazu Kore’eda (Like Father, Like Son), who went on to produce her first feature, Wild Berries (Hebi Ichigo) in 2002. Her 2006 mystery Sway (Yureru) established her reputation as one of Japan’s most promising directors, irrespective of gender, while 2009’s Dear Doctor garnered a Japan Academy Award nomination.

“She’s an interesting case because she doesn’t look like a director, she looks like a smartly-dressed office lady, but her sensibility is ‘oyaji’ [old Japanese guy],” says producer Yukie Kito. “With films like Sway and Dear Doctor, the sensibility is very male.”

Yang Yong-hi

Korean-Japanese director Yang Yong-hi has mined the experience of her and her family being in thezainichi minority with her Dear Pyongyang documentary and debut feature Our Homeland (Kazoku no Kuni), which was selected as Japan’s entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 2012 Oscars.

Yang’s work has examined the prejudice faced by the zainichi in Japan, as well as the contradictions in the pro-Pyongyang stances taken by some its members. The release of Dear Pyongyang, which included reunions with members of her family who had returned to the motherland, resulted in her being banned from making any more trips to North Korea.

Nami Iguchi

Nami Iguchi’s 2004 Inuneko was a 35mm remake of the 8mm film she’d written, shot and edited three years previously, and went on to win awards internationally as well as make her the first woman to win best newcomer from the Directors Guild of Japan.

Her latest film, released in February in Japan, Nishino Yukihiko no Koi to Boken (Yukihiko Nishino’s love and adventure), stars heartthrob Yutaka Takenouchi as a ladies man who is somehow always unlucky in love.

“Her style and the topics she tackles make her one of the most exciting directors, not just as a female, of her generation,” says Yatabe.

Yuki Tanada

Following in the footsteps of Nami Iguchi, Yuki Tanada won the Directors Guild of Japan’s best new director in 2008 with One Million Yen Girl. Her films, which are often frank depictions of sex and relationships, have been featured at festivals across Asia and North America.

“There are female directors that make interesting films because they are women,” says producer Yukie Kito. “Yuki Tanada makes the kind of films that women can do better.”

Released in November last year, Mourning Recipe, based on the novel Shijuukunichi no Reshipi by Yuki Ibuki, is a family drama and probably her most accessible, mainstream film to date.

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Diplo, Haim and Spike Lee Reveal Nike’s U.S. Soccer Kit For 2014 FIFA World Cup

Earlier today Nike unveiled its national soccer team uniform for the coming 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, and assisting in the reveal of the red, white and blue uniform is Diplo, Spike Lee, and sister trioHAIM. Creating a bridge between fans and soccer players, the musical figures were pictured alongside the likes of players Andrew Luck and Ndamukong Suh, as well as other notable soccer fans such as skateboarder Erik Koston and track and field gold medalist Allyson Felix. Check out the kit above and head here for information on how to purchase.

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