Politics was never far from the podium at Women in Film’s Crystal + Lucy Awards on Tuesday night, referred to by speakers exhorting Hollywood to be more inclusive in its storytelling and video messages from Sen. Kamala Harris, Hillary Clinton, and Michelle Obama.
“Now I haven’t seen ‘Wonder Woman’ yet, but I’m going to, in part because it’s directed by the fabulous Patty Jenkins,” Clinton said in a video message that both praised the director, whose “Wonder Woman” scored the best domestic debut ever for a female helmer, and indirectly took aim at the Trump administration. “But something tells me that a movie about a strong, powerful woman fighting to save the world from a massive international disaster is right up my alley.”
Clinton honored Crystal + Lucy Award recipient Elizabeth Banks, one of her most vocal celebrity supporters during the election.
Norma Zarky Humanitarian Award honoree Dan Rather, accepting from Robert Redford, said, “I appreciate you carrying the basic American value of decency.” When there is “boorish” behavior from our political leaders, WIF leaders stand tall. “You do our country, not just our film industry, a great service. Your beloved country and the world needs you now more than ever.”
WIF Los Angeles exec director Kirsten Schaffer said early in the proceedings, “The country is divided politically and culturally. The more inclusive we are in storytelling, the more it will be reflected in life.”
Schaffer announced that as a part of an initiative to increase the number of female composers in Hollywood, Women in Film was working with APM Music, a leading creative music house and production music library, to launch a library for women composers.
Cathy Schulman, WIF L.A. president, said, “‘Wonder Woman’ shows commercial entertainment at its best can be helmed by people of any gender.”
Sony Pictures Classics’ co-presidents Michael Barker and Tom Bernard accepted the inaugural beacon award for advancing women’s work from Jacki Weaver. They have worked with either 58 or 64 films directed by females, depending on who’s counting. Bernard pointed to the overwhelming support Clinton’s presidency drew from showbiz.
“If you support a woman to run the country, you should support women to run your film,” he said. “Whether it’s riding a bike [a reference to the plot in ‘Wadjda’] or running your studio, give women a chance.”
Barker started out with, “I don’t know if we deserve this award.” The exec mentioned his daughter — who is a director — when he said, “She can walk into any room and know she has a place there. If I have in any way contributed to that, that’s the basis on which I am taking this award.”
Barker then pointed to the long list of women they have worked with, which started a running joke in the room when honorees Mira Nair and Banks both called the co-presidents out for not having worked with them yet.
Nair, who accepted the BMW Dorothy Arzner trophy for directing from Lupita Nyong’o, told the room not to confuse the passing of years with progress. Referring to the stage version of her film “Monsoon Wedding,” now playing at Berkeley Repertory Theatre, she said she’s going through the same obstacles as at the start of her career, only now she’s knocking on Broadway’s doors. “We can’t be distracted by shining a light on the very few.”
Lucy honoree Tracee Ellis Ross was introduced by Obama via video and received her award from Aisha Tyler. She continued Nair’s message that while there was cause for celebration, much work needed to be done to progress women in Hollywood.
“There are great things happening on TV, but at the same time there is work to be done about black women and women of color on TV,” she said. “We are objectified … and sassified. Women are valuable, powerful, and entertaining, just because we are.”
Banks accepted the Crystal Award from Universal topper Donna Langley. “We can’t do it ourselves, we need dudes,” she said about progressing women’s cause. “Go see the movies and bring the guys.”
The mother of two sons said they were too young to see “Wonder Woman,” but, “Their favorite movie for two years now is ‘Frozen.’”
“We are creating culture in this room, we are sending messages and that message is important. Looping in men and boys in that process is the only way that is going to happen,” she said.
Banks also ribbed Max Mara face of the future honoree Zoey Deutch, saying she got that same award eight years ago. Accepting from Max Mara brand ambassador Nicola Maramotti, Deutch said, “For somebody who’s spent her entire life getting on stage and the spotlight, it’s kind of terrifying.”