Three mothers-and-film things to celebrate! What a pleasure!
1. The Mothers Day screenings of Hepi Mita’s beautiful, powerful film about his mother: Merata: How Mum Decolonised the Screen. This film, I believe, is central to debates about women’s filmmaking, about women artists of all kinds who are also mothers (and their families); and about activist art-making. These screenings mark the beginning of Merata’s New Zealand theatrical release.
At some venues the Mothers Day screenings will be accompanied by morning tea and Q & As with special guests associated with the film — Merata’s children and others: in Auckland (with Hepi Mita and Chelsea Winstanley); Christchurch (with Tearepa Kahi); Gisborne (with a haka powhiri and Merata’s daughter Awatea Mita); Tauranga (with Merata’s son Rafer Rautjoki); Rotorua (with Merata’s son Richard Rautjoki and Cliff Curtis). And Wellington has an afternoon tea with Hepi, who will have had to leap on a plane very fast after Auckland’s morning screening, and then, after this screening, will fly on to the Mothers-Day-in-Los-Angeles 5pm screening and Q&A with (distributor) Array’s Ava DuVernay, Chelsea, Cliff, and Taika Waititi!).
Here’s the trailer. I’m off to see Merata again, partly because the first viewing so deeply affected me that I kept missing bits when I tried to sob quietly and then to stop it, quickly.
If you’re in the States or Canada, where Merata is distributed by Array, here’s the latest list of screenings there.
If you’d like to read more, try Kōrero Ki Taku Tuakana/Conversation With My Big Sister, a conversation between Merata and Cushla Parekowhai, where Hepi makes an appearance as a baby.
2. And almost at the same time, Jocelyn Moorhouse (writer/director of Proof and The Dressmaker, director of How to Make an American Quilt; and producer of Muriel’s Wedding etc) has published her memoir, Unconditional Love. This too is something to celebrate.
Jocelyn says —
‘I want to write about being a mother, and about raising four extraordinary kids. Being their parent is like having an intense love affair with four people at the same time. And I want to write about making movies and writing screenplays. I come from a long line of storytellers.’
Unconditional Love is absolutely engrossing; and endorsed by Cate Blanchett, Nicole Kidman, Jane Campion and Rachel Griffith (& me!). And here’s Jocelyn talking about it, from about 42 minutes in.
3. And the third motherly thing to celebrate is some change at Cannes, for all parents.
Sometimes, activism works. And it’s a beautiful feeling.
Almost two years ago, distinguished Palestinian filmmaker Annemarie Jacir (Salt of This Sea; When I Saw You; Wajib, who endeared herself to me forever when she said ‘ laughing is a way to resist’) tweeted about her Cannes experience with her small child —
Annemarie wasn’t the only one who was Blocked Out. Annemarie met a producer from Britain who was also told she couldn’t enter with her child and journalist Anna Tatarska told Women & Hollywood that she she wasn’t allowed to bring her five-month-old baby when she picked up her accreditation; and received no satisfaction when she sought a solution.
So a group of us got together in a jumble of time zones and composed an open letter of complaint to the festival; lots of people signed it and it was published in several places including the Hollywood Reporter.
But this year, babies, children and their nannies will be given special accreditation by the festival free of charge at the festival, the first in a series of accommodations of working parents — including breastfeeding stations, thanks to Le Ballon Rouge, set up by the Festival de Cannes and the Marché Du Film, in association with the Parenting at Film Festivals Collective, led by Aurelie Godet, Sarah Calderon and Michelle Carey.
Parents entering the Palais with children will be given priority access and parents will have access to a kids’ pavilion and changing and feeding area in the Palais de Festival. Kids will even get their own VIP bag that includes a map of other services in Cannes, a list of certified nannies and more. This is a huge change that started with Anna Tatarska’s story and Annemarie’s courageous tweets and was probably helped by the hard groundwork already done by Raising Films in the United Kingdom and Moms-in-Film in the States.
Here’s a list of the five key services offered in Le Ballon Rouge; they offer a great model-
1. Family-Friendly Accreditation Process: Film professionals traveling with babies and young children will have a special accreditation in order to access the dedicated services the Marché is providing, including the Pantiero’s Kids Pavilion and the Palais’ Change & Feeding Corner, as well as two additional badges for nanny + baby (free of charge). Cinando will host on its site the newly-created group Parenting at Film Festivals to better identify the community and its needs.
2. Le Ballon Rouge Kids Pavilion: located at the Village International Pantiero, this 25m2 tent with terrace will welcome families from 10 am-6 pm daily from the 14th until the 21st of May. There, parents can choose to either spend time with their children, have family-friendly meetings in dedicated areas, or leave their children for up to 6 hours in the care of professional nannies provided by a specialized company. This special service will be offered by a cluster of partners. A small compensation will be asked to parents wishing to benefit from this service.
3. Le Ballon Rouge Express-Changing & Feeding Corner: a dedicated room for parents and carers for breastfeeding, feeding or nappy-changing, will be open from 9 am-6:30 pm daily from the 14th until the 25th of May in the Palais des Festivals.
4. Easy Access: priority access to the Marché will be given to parents entering with children at the Palais’ main entrance, Riviera entrance and Pantiero entrance. As the stroller approaches with its dedicated Ballon Rouge flag, staff will help them through security.
5. Le Ballon Rouge Baby VIP Kit: in collaboration with Parenting at Film Festivals and Cinando, a dedicated bag for children will be offered, with family-friendly map and services in Cannes, Marché access flag, list of certified nannies for after-hours care, and other helpful items.
I asked Annemarie for a comment. And this is what she kindly sent —
‘I am very happy to hear that Cannes was open to doing something about the situation at the festival in regards to working parents in the industry.
As a jury member last year in Un Certain Regard, I did feel the festival administration was accommodating to the fact that I am a director with a young child.
So my child did come ‘visit’ for a few days which was great for me — as the festival is two weeks long — it was important to have a break to spend my evenings with her for at least a few days.
And I also was pleased that our action on the steps sent a strong message to all. I was surprised how few people understood the huge disparity that exists and that moment on the steps helped make it clear to so many.’
Le Ballon Rouge is something to celebrate and the ‘action on the steps’ and Cannes’ own action when Thierry Fremaux signed the 50:50X2020 (since signed by many more festivals) are all good.
Only 20% of the works in the main competition this year are directed by women (the same percentage as in 2011): Mati Diop’s Atlantiques (following her extraordinary Atlantiques short); Jessica Hausner’s Little Joe; Celine Sciamma’s Portrait of a Lady on Fire; and Justine Triet’s Sybil.
But ‘Festival de Cannes has respected all the commitments relating to the pledge so far,’ says French sales agent Delphyne Besse, a member of 5050X2020, in a useful overview in the Hollywood Reporter. ‘We are waiting for them to share the data of the submitted films during the time of the festival and we will analyze the figures with them.’ (5050X2020 and its sister organisations — Time’s Up’s U.S. and U.K. branches, Italy’s Dissenso Comune, Spain’s CIMA and the Greek Women’s Wave — have pushed for the data to address one of Frémaux’s key rebuttals when pressed on the festival’s lack of female representation, that he faces a pipeline issue when it comes to women filmmakers.)
If we keep celebrating these incremental improvements and those who make them, and keep watching and learning from films like Merata and her movies and Annemarie’s movies, things can only get better, I reckon.