26 November 2010

On Kathryn Bigelow's Academy Award Nomination and Win

On Kathryn Bigelow's Academy Award Nomination and Win for Best Director 2010
© Rhianon Elan Gutierrez 
Originally published on the blog Women and Hollywood

On Kathryn's Nomination:
Published February 4, 2010

I think that Kathryn's nomination and strong contention for the actual award is a huge step for women, but what bothers me is that I'm reading articles that are talking about the battle of the exes...James Cameron versus Kathryn. Can't they just be who they are without the media playing out some epic battle of the sexes showdown? Though I am not fond of how they'll likely be drawing attention to Kathryn and the Oscars this way, I see the publicity as a major boost to female filmmakers everywhere to contribute their perspectives on Kathryn's nomination and likely win. Women are intelligent creators who are capable of making a film that is raw, emotional, gripping, and transformative.

I am happy to see women succeeding as directors in an industry that has historically positioned them as objects of sexual fascination rather than intellectual and creative power. Short-term, a win for Kathryn will mean that women have pushed themselves up in the ranks as worthy and capable directors, but what I am really looking forward to long-term is the win of a minority female director--because directors come in all abilities, colors, and genders. I am a triple minority director (female, biracial, and hard of hearing), and I know that what young people really want is to see themselves represented--and not all those people are white males! In seeking the comments of other women regarding Bigelow's nomination, it's important to realize that there are many barriers that still need to be shattered--the strongest being the underrepresentation of people with disabilities in the Hollywood film industry. To be included in technical roles on a production or to act in the same stereotypical, melodramatic supporting roles is, to be blunt, demeaning towards the abilities of people with disabilities. It is not enough. I want to see the most marginalized person in society: the disabled, nonwhite female be a winner for a film that appeals to large audiences.

How can this happen?

Double and triple minority female directors must be visible. The industry must welcome diversity, but not for diversity's sake--but because those who work within it truly do recognize and value the talents of people of color with many abilities.

Thumbs up if Kathryn wins, but us women still have a ways to go to support the growth of ALL minority groups.

In the words of anarchist Emma Goldman: "No real social change has been brought about without a revolution...revolution is but thought carried into action."

Photograph by Paul Buck, EPA.
On Kathryn's Win:
Published March 9, 2010

I went to order lunch in Hollywood this afternoon and, while waiting, asked the two male servers if they watched the Oscars last night. They both replied that they had. I immediately commented that I, as a female director, was pleased that Kathryn Bigelow won for Best Director. They both agreed and offered positive comments. I told them that the best part of her win wasn’t her acceptance speech, but what she said in the press room afterwards. She mentioned how she saw herself as a filmmaker before anything else. I can especially relate to that statement. Female, male, black, Hispanic, white, disabled, non-disabled, gay, straight, deaf, or hearing—we are filmmakers before we are anything else. Certainly any of these labels can inform our choice of subject matter and create communities of people who cheer for us. These labels are powerful indicators of the desire for representation. Kathryn’s win represented a victory for women in film—and she won by creating a film that she believed in. Women everywhere are cheering because they won, too.

When I was presenting on a panel to parents of deaf and hard of hearing children last month, I was asked what I thought about being referred to as a deaf filmmaker. Like Kathryn, I responded that I want to be seen as a filmmaker first. My hearing loss is a part of me, but it does not define my identity as a filmmaker. I won’t deny that it has helped me to not only be sensitive to people of many abilities, but it has also made me an advocate for accessibility and for dynamic, anti-pity representations of deaf and hard of hearing people and people with disabilities on and off screen. When we add a label (or two) to the title of “filmmaker”, we create something much bigger than the individual. We create a movement. I think that Kathryn’s win offers the potential for all sorts of minorities to be active in the change towards Hollywood’s recognition of their filmmaking.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome commentary -- the steps needed to make the social changes we need and want are being taken. Thanks for writing about it and highlighting work and recognition which recognizes and values the intrinsic worth of all persons.