Fashion and film have long intersected when it comes to glitz and glamour. But the Miu Miu Women’s Tales series of shorts, which is an integral component of the Venice Days section at the Venice Film Festival, gives the Prada Group-owned fashion label a different role in the movie world: it discovers and empowers women directors.
Launched in 2012, Women’s Tales has now spawned 14 works written and directed by women exploring the feminine universe, all fully financed and produced by Prada. They are all loosely inspired by Miu Miu clothes and accessories, but with no obligation for these products to be shown on the screen.
It started like this: “One day I got a call from Miu Miu,” says producer Max Brun. “They said: ‘We’d like to do a short by a woman director because we want to explore women’s creativity through young female directors’ lenses…which embodies the brand’s attention to women’s themes.”
Brun came up with four proposals of directors he thought could be interesting: Zoe Cassavetes from the U.S., Lucrecia Martel from Argentina, Giada Colagrande from Italy, and U.S.-based Iranian director Massy Tadjedin.
“When I presented the proposals, they liked all four, so they said, ‘Let’s do all four,’ ” he says.
Venice Days artistic director Giorgio Gosetti caught wind of the initiative from a collaborator who is friends with Colagrande and thought it would be “great to create a space for female creativity and freedom within Venice Days,” he says.
He discussed it with Prada CEO Miuccia Prada, who is its head designer and founder of the Miu Miu label, with Prada and Miu Miu’s PR director Verde Visconti (a descendant of Italian master director Luchino Visconti), and Brun.
“We agreed that this could be a different kind of [festival] window and also a different type of project,” which would also encompass a series of stimulating conversations about women and movies, Gosetti says.
Miuccia Prada, who declined to be interviewed for this report, has long had an artistic approach in her relationship to film. Last year she financed a series of seminars on new frontiers in filmmaking titled Belligerent Eyes, held in the Prada Foundation’s Venetian outpost. The bar of the Prada Foundation in Milan, called Bar Luce, is designed by Wes Anderson. She co-designed the cocktail and evening gowns featured in Baz Luhrmann’s “The Great Gatsby.”
Prior to Women’s Tales, Prada had produced a commercial for a Prada fragrance directed by Ridley Scott titled “Thunder Perfect Mind,” which screened at the Berlin Film Festival. Another Prada commercial directed by Roman Polanski, titled “A Therapy,” screened at Cannes. And over the years she has cultivated relationships with several other directors, including Pedro Almodovar, who appears in Prada’s latest fall/winter menswear campaign, which he did not direct, and Alejandro G. Inarritu, who directed the groundbreaking VR installation “Carne y Arena,” which the Prada Foundation co-produced with Legendary Entertainment. That recently made a big splash at the Cannes film festival.
But while Prada’s forays in film were with big name directors (all male), in the case of Woman’s Tales, “Miuccia’s idea is to discover and promote new talents,” Gosetti says. “These are two different visions: compatible, but different.
“If you look at the lineup, you could say that we’ve revealed three or four talents right at the start of their careers,” Gosetti says, citing Japanese auteur Naomi Kawase and Palestinian actress-director Hiam Abbas as examples. A notable exception is France’s venerated Agnes Varda, long a symbol of female empowerment in film, who made a Women’s Tales short titled “Les 3 Boutons” when she was 86.
This year, the Women’s Tales shorts at Venice Days will be Chloe Sevigny’s “Carmen,” starring Spanish-American comedian Carmen Lynch, and “(The [End) of History Illusion]” by U.S. choreographer-director Celia Rowlson-Hall, an exploration of nuclear armageddon using black humor.
“We are not doing advertising,” says Brun, who calls the Women’s Tales shorts “an innovative web campaign in which, if the narrative involves clothing, Miu Miu will make its clothes available. But there is no requirement to use them.”
After it launched at Venice in 2012 with four shorts, Women’s Tales has now become a two-films-per-year operation. One of the works is released during the first half of the year while the other one premieres at Venice.
The selection process is an exchange between Brun and the Prada camp, with input from Gosetti.
“The budget, according to Mrs. Prada’s wish, is the same for everyone,” says Brun. He calls it “a very small budget, if you consider the production values that you see on screen.”
Italian producer Carlo Cresto-Dina, who was contacted by Brun with a proposal for Alice Rohrwacher to shoot a short after the young Italian director’s “The Wonders” drew notice at Cannes in 2014, says he was impressed with how competent and attentive to detail they are, especially “Mrs. Prada.”
“We sent them the script, and we were told that Mrs. Prada read it that same evening,” he says. “She called to compliment Alice the next day … which gives you an idea of how they operate.”
In Rohrwacher’s 2015 short, titled “De Djess,” the protagonist is a very special dress that falls in love. The short is set in Venice’s Hotel Excelsior, which had to be re-opened off season, in January, for the shoot.
The dress was designed by Rohrwacher and manufactured by Prada. They used it in one of the Miu Miu fashion shows the following year.
“It’s always been my intention for Venice Days to not just be a platform for movies, but a place where [people can] think about filmmaking,” says Venice Days artistic director Giorgio Gosetti.
Accordingly, Women’s Tales features a series of frank conversations exploring the female universe in film and the performing arts that goes beyond the realm of the new tales being unveiled.
This year, Rowlson-Hall and Sevigny will kick things off by talking to Penny Martin, editor-in-chief of The Gentlewoman magazine, about the challenges for women pursuing a career in the film business. They will be followed in subsequent sessions by actresses Kate Bosworth and Zosia Mamet, rising U.S. stars Laura Harrier (“Spider-Man: Homecoming”) and Kiernan Shipka (“Mad Men”), and by 15-year-old Disney Channel star Rowan Blanchard (“Girl Meets World”), Viceland’s “States of Undress” host Hailey Gates and fashion-blogger-turned actress Tavi Gevinson.
Martin, a journalist and academic, has become the defining force of these conversations. In past editions they have included U.S. director Crystal Moselle and Japanese composer and singer Aska Matsumiya on the secret of making genuinely female-friendly films; actresses Dakota Fanning and Juno Temple discussing coming-of-age on screen; venerable French veteran filmmaker Agnes Varda and young Italian auteur Alice Rohrwacher and her sister, actress Alba, on how their personal lives are reflected in their work; Australian singer, songwriter and video director Sia; and U.S. writer, comedian and actor Whitney Cummings discussing their different approaches to fame.