A trio of men are among Women in Film’s Crystal + Lucy Awards honorees this year. Sony Classics toppers Tom Bernard and Michael Barker will receive the inaugural Beacon Award, while Dan Rather is to receive the Norma Zarky Humanitarian Award.
“I am reminded about empowered women the whole day, everyday,” Barker says, pointing to his two adult daughters, one of whom is a director.
“We were thrilled,” to hear about the award, Bernard says. “We are big proponents of equal rights, using that gender button. We want to further the cause, it was something that is important to us.”
Barker and Bernard have worked with a bevy of women directors from Susanne Bier to Meera Menon and Agnes Varda.
“We were not aware that we had that many women’s films until someone brought it up to us,” Bernard says. “We were looking at quality of work. It just happened because we recognized the talent.”
The pair picked up Directors’ Fortnight winner “The Rider” at last month’s Cannes Film Festival. “Chloe Zhao, what a director,” enthuses Bernard. They had heard “through the grapevine” about the Chinese-American director who went to South Dakota and made a modern Western, he says. They saw the film at the festival and bought it.
Barker is equally enthusiastic about another director, Saudi Arabian Haifa Al-Mansour, whose film “Wadjda” was the story of a little girl who wanted to ride a bike in a country in which that was forbidden to girls. “Haifa’s movie was a total inspirational film,” he says. “We saw that picture and met Haifa. She made this little movie, the very first movie made in Saudi Arabia. I said, ‘How did she make this movie?’ She gave all the directions from inside a van so people wouldn’t know she was directing.”
|“We were not aware we had that many women’s films until someone brought it up.”|
When it came time for the Oscars, since there wasn’t a theater in that strict Muslim country, Al-Mansour had “Wadjda” shown in community centers, had a committee organized to select and send her film to the Acad for the foreign-language race. To Barker, the icing on the cake was that the film created change. “Not a year later, the law changed in Saudi Arabia. Girls can ride bikes. How is that about the power of a movie?”
Bernard says the road to more female directors starts at the community level and he’s involved in a high school film festival in New Jersey. “We are getting more than a third [from] women [applicants], sending in shorts and they have won the last couple years,” he says. “It’s just to give the opportunity to people to express themselves. They work real hard to get that opportunity.”
The audience, meanwhile, is agnostic, according to Barker. “People don’t go to them because they are female-directed films. What’s important is that these talented filmmakers make films they want.”
It’s not just films or directors, he says. TV series are seeing a lot of women behind the screens.
“We shouldn’t limit ourselves to directors,” Barker says, “talk about incredible woman producers, Kathy Kennedy, Celine Rattray, Christine Vachon, so many great women all over the world, I think they get stronger and stronger.
“There’s no better time than today for women directors in the marketplace. I am looking at all the masters — Sally Potter, Nicole Holofcener — new filmmakers who are so exciting — Mari Heller, Meera Menon, Maren Ade. ‘Toni Erdmann’ is one of the great films of the last several years. Coming up we have Aisling Walsh, Maggie Betts, who directed ‘Novitiate,’ ‘The Meddler’ last year, Chloe Zhao. Eleanor Coppola. There’s no better time for filmmakers than today.”
The BMW Dorothy Arzner Directors Award
Nair’s mantra doesn’t let her wait around for other people to tell her stories. The award-winning director, producer and writer creates opportunities herself.
The best way to penetrate boundaries, she says, is to lead by example. “Mentoring is vital to hopefully shape the people who are the decision-makers of making films to be more diverse than the white boy. These steps are essential steps.”
Nair says she isn’t intimidated working in a male-dominated industry. Her struggle isn’t to get her work done, it’s the struggle to express herself in a piece that works in many dimensions. “You have to have the heart of a poet and the skin of an elephant, that’s what I always say.”
— Rebecca Rubin
Crystal Award For Excellence In Film
Banks is a producer, actress and director who has had several notable roles throughout her career, most recently in the “Pitch Perfect” franchise — she directed the hit sequel as well as acted in it. Banks works closely with organizations like Planned Parenthood, Turnaround Arts, L.A.’s Best and Step Up. In 2016, she launched the website WhoHaHa, which is dedicated to providing a forum for women in comedy as well as spotlighting rising female comics.
“Inclusivity requires action, not just a continued discussion,” she wrote in an email. “Start with the numbers. Roles for men outnumber those for women in nearly all commercial films. This basic math makes no sense in a world where women →
are half the population. Even in films with women as the central character, she is surrounded by men. I am proud of the ‘Pitch Perfect’ films for many reasons but one of them is this: no men on any posters or billboards. Those optics matter.”
— Erin Nyren
|“Start with the numbers. Roles for men outnumber those for women in nearly all commercial films. This basic math makes no sense.”|
Tracee Ellis Ross
Lucy Award for Excellence in Television
Ross thinks the power of comedy is to allow women to be themselves. “What I love and what I’ve gotten from comedy … is the ability to play and dance in spaces that often frighten people,” she says. Doing things “our culture tells us women shouldn’t be doing, which is looking ugly, being silly, being bold, being loud, being big, being yourself, having a point of view, and having an opinion, which is all what comedy requires.” The Golden Globe-winning actress and comedian didn’t know she wanted to be an actor from an early age, but she knew she loved making people laugh. Ross won an Emmy for lead actress last year for her star turn in ABC’s “Black-ish.” She is among frontrunners this year too.
— Erin Nyren
Norma Zarky Humanitarian Award
Rather believes that being a humanitarian starts with “disciplining oneself to getting up in the morning and the first thing you think of is” how you can help other people. Rather has a long career as a reporter, and was the managing editor and anchor of “CBS Evening News” for 24 years.
He says being a reporter gave him the opportunity to see the “underside of life,” something not everyone gets to do, and while we’ve made progress towards equal opportunity for women, there’s still a long way to go.
— Erin Nyren
Max Mara Face of the Future
The 22-year-old daughter of actress Lea Thompson and director Howard Deutch is making a name for herself in Hollywood. Zoey Deutch is filming Netflix’s romantic comedy “Set It Up” alongside Glen Powell. Her recent roles include starring opposite Kevin Spacey in “Rebel in the Rye,” the Sundance drama “Before I Fall,” and “Why Him,” where she worked with James Franco and Bryan Cranston, and Richard Linklater’s “Everbody Wants Some!!,” also with Powell.
“Together with Women in Film, we always look for a woman who has a prominent and distinguished style, acting naturally and who is passionate about her work,” says Nicola Maramotti, Max Mara brand ambassador.
“Zoey Deutch has established herself as a rising star of the big screen…. Furthermore, because of her personal attitude and professional capabilities, she has already proved herself as a talented actress, Zoey was appointed to be the 12th recipient of the annual Women in Film Max Mara Face of the Future Award in recognition of her acting achievement.”
— Rebecca Rubin