In this week’s Wednesday 5 we focus on women on the big and small screens: The Hollywood Reporter brings together six incredible actresses from films in 2013 in a dynamic roundtable discussion; five Oscar-worthy documentaries directed by black women filmmakers; the culture of trauma and victimization increasingly evident in Downton Abbey; an inspiring commerical by Bing on even more inspiring women; and director Jane Campion leads the Cannes 2014 jury.
Our Alexandra MacAaron gave us Five Good Reasons to Catch the Golden Globe Awards, which aired this past Sunday. This week, The Hollywood Reporter is giving us 6 Great Women to Watch this award season in its recent feature “The Actresses.” It was a feat in itself gathering these powerhouse actresses from phenomenal films of 2013 for a one-hour roundtable, but oh, was it worth it! The conversation includes: Lupita Nyong’o, (12 Years A Slave) 30; Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks), 54; Amy Adams (American Hustle, Her), 39; Oprah Winfrey (Lee Daniels’ The Butler), 59; Julia Roberts (August: Osage County), 46; and Octavia Spencer (Fruitvale Station), 43. Watch their fascinating and moving conversation below.
Five Oscar-Qualifying Documentaries Directed by Black Women
Clockwise from top left: Dawn Porter, Shola Lynch, Yoruba Richen, Michele Stephenson, Marta Cunningham
Jai Tiggett, who writes for Shadow and Act, curated a list of five feature documentaries directed by black women that are Oscar-worthy. Lauding Gideon’s Army, by Dawn Porter; Free Angela and All Political Prisoners, by Shola Lynch; Valentine Road, by Marta Cunningham; The New Black, by Yoruba Richen; and American Promise, by Michele Stephenson, Tiggett writes:
Black documentary filmmakers—and black women in particular—are doing groundbreaking work that continues to be overlooked even within the doc and independent film space. The films listed above have been awarded and recognized widely on the film festival circuit, but many are still struggling to get mentioned on the shortlists that will push them towards serious Oscar consideration.
Click here to read the full article and view previews of documentaries.
Downton Abbey and Women’s Trauma
When we last wrote about Downton Abbey, we were hopeful that 2014 would be the year for Edith. Looks las if we should have been concerned for how the other women at Dowton will fare. After the last episode, (Season 4, Episode 2), in which the character Anna, the lady’s maid, was raped, we are wondering if a culture of victimization and loss is what we have to look forward to in the show. In her article for Slate, “Why Is Downton Abbey So Horrible to Its Female Characters?”, June Thomas writes:
Downton Abbey has a long record of punishing women who dare to challenge convention. This week, Anna the lady’s maid was raped after she ignored her husband’s warning and was—gasp!—polite to a visiting valet. In previous seasons, Lady Sybil died in childbirth after marrying below her station; Lady Edith was dumped at the altar after choosing a husband her father didn’t approve of; and Cora, countess of Grantham, lost a male heir after she tried to undo a complicated legal arrangement that effectively disinherited her daughters.
When the season aired in Britain last year, this particular episode and Anna’s rape scene were met with a lot of criticism from viewers. The show’s creator, Julian Fellowes, responded that Downton subjects “a couple of characters to a very difficult situation [in order to generate] the emotions that come out of these traumas. . . . [and] “explore[s] the mental damage and the emotional damage” that follow.
June Thomas disagrees:
That’s always been the show’s modus operandi: A woman loses a baby, sister, daughter, or husband, or is humiliated in front of her family and friends, and we get to watch her recover. Raping a beloved character is just latest of the show’s experiments in sadism.
Of Women and Heroes
If you watched the Golden Globes on Sunday evening, then you saw this inspiring commercial from Bing paying tribute to some of the most inspiring female figures in recent history—among them, Malala Yousafzai, Gabrielle Giffords, and Diana Nyad. Although these women don’t play characters on the screen, this commercial is going to stay on repeat for us for a while.
Jane Campion will lead the Cannes 2014 Jury
Although she’s not the first woman to do so, New Zealand director Jane Campion has been one of the more outspoken filmmakers to preside over the Cannes 2014 jury, publicly and frequently critiquing “Hollywood’s institutional discrimination against female filmmakers,” writes Inkoo Kang for IndieWire. Campion is the only woman director to have ever won the Palme d’Or, Cannes’ top prize—for 1993’s The Piano. But it’s not all good news, says Kang:
“Little might change for women directors if none are selected to compete for a jury prize. That the festival has also selected an old favorite in Campion, forgoing a search for any other female talent, suggests a kind of tokenism effect in play. I don’t mean that Campion’s work has been honored in the past because she’s a woman, but that the festival appears eager to sweep its sexist history under the rug by continuing to place Campion in positions of prestige. Cannes’ continued reliance on Campion as a standard-bearer of gender equality, though, might mean that the festival organizers feel free from the obligation to acknowledge or challenge their own ingrained sexism.”