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"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

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Thumbnails 7/2/19

Thumbnails is a roundup of brief excerpts to introduce you to articles from other websites that we found interesting and exciting. We provide links to the original sources for you to read in their entirety.—Chaz Ebert

1. 

"AFI Directing Workshop for Women Alumna Valerie Weiss Talks Being Ready to Helm a Studio Franchise and Her Unconventional Path to Hollywood": An illuminating conversation with the gifted filmmaker published by the American Film Institute.

“[AFI:] ‘You have a reference to fracking in ‘True Maze.’ How did you strike a balance between social commentary and action in your film?’ [Weiss:] ‘That’s what drives me. The biggest reason I left science is I felt like my ideas could affect society more through film, and I could reach more people. I think every movie I make and every movie I continue to make will have a message and depth and be important as to what’s going on in the world now. We all need to take a page out of the book of these kids, led by Greta Thunberg, who are striking for climate change and step up.’ [AFI:] ‘There are still preconceived notions about women embarking on careers directing science-fiction and action films. Do you see a tipping point in the future?’ [Weiss:] ‘It’s certainly changing in television. It needs to change in movies, which is why it’s so great that I won the Fox Bridge program because everyone’s been talking about the 4% challenge, an initiative asking people to commit to work with a female director on a feature film in the next 18 months. And if they’re looking for women to helm these studio franchises, I’m a road-tested candidate who would love to be making these movies.’”

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2. 

"Emily Lape and Alison Hixon on 'Mercy's Girl'": At Indie Outlook, I published an in-depth interview with two astonishing artists about their great film (now available on Amazon) and how it serves as an antithesis to what they've previous experienced on sets.

“[Lape:] ‘Having more women in power, in general, is what will begin turning the tide. It was just so out of balance in the industry. All the men had power and the women didn’t. Even my male friends—gay and straight—have been targeted by gay, older male producers. Honestly, I can tell you that on about fifty percent of the projects I’ve done, I’ve dealt with harassment. I’ve been in rooms with really well-known directors when auditioning for roles, one in particular that would’ve changed my life. The director walked me to my car after the audition, came onto me and I pushed him off. I didn’t end up getting the role, and the woman who did became a huge star. I can only imagine what she went through. I ran into her in the bathroom at a festival, and we talked a bit because we remembered each other from the audition. It’s not like I could go up to her and ask, ‘Hey, how did that work out?’ [Indie Outlook:] ‘You are both phenomenal actresses, and it makes me so angry to see someone in power try to rob you of your self-worth.’  [Lape:] ‘And it did rob us. I don’t want to audition anymore. I have no taste for it.’ [Hixon:] ‘Why put myself through something like that over and over again? That’s why it was so much fun to do ‘Mercy’s Girl.’ Meeting Emily, this kick-ass woman, who is making her own film, writing it—like seriously doing it, no matter what—is still, to this day, inspiring and that’s why we are friends.’”

3.

"The number of women directing films is abysmal. Alma Har'el has a plan to change that.": According to Stacy Perman at the Los Angeles Times.

Har’el is the driving force behind the groundbreaking Free the Bid, a nonprofit venture started in 2016 that successfully pushed the world’s biggest ad agencies to hire more female directors. It did so by having them commit to include at least one woman in every three directors invited to pitch a campaign — known in the business as the triple bid process. In exchange for taking the pledge, the agencies and brands gained access to a searchable database of female directors. At launch, Free the Bid had 70 filmmakers in the database, today it has over 1,200. Initially, 21 agencies and four brands signed on, among them Coke and HP. Currently, 160 global agencies and some 180 brands have taken the pledge. Two large ad agencies, BBDO and CP+B, have since registered a 400% increase in jobs to women. Once HP became a signatory, 59% of the 53 commercials it has produced were directed by a woman; a more than impressive statistic if you consider that’s a jump up from zero. (There are no independent surveys measuring the number of working female directors in advertising.) Having cracked open advertising’s calcified male dominance, Har’el now has her sights on the larger entertainment industry. This week at the Cannes Lions, advertising’s Oscars, Har’el is unveiling Free the Work, which she calls ‘a global network for women and underrepresented creators and the people who hire them.’ The new venture already has buy-in with TV studios, streaming platforms and brands; Free the Work is announcing partnerships with Amazon Studios, P&G, Facebook and AT&T.”

4. 

"Don't Sleep on Tarantino's Re-Imagined Four-Part Cut of 'The Hateful Eight'": The Talkhouse's Jim Hemphill reviews the extended cut of Tarantino's 2015 western now available on Netflix.

“Interestingly, this sense of epic grandeur is not lost at home in the Netflix version, which is divided into four episodes of roughly 50 minutes a piece. In altering the original six-chapter structure, Tarantino and Raskin do more than simply add deleted material to the film; they force us to absorb all of the material in a different way, to look at it from a completely new standpoint, with different climaxes and additional moments of repose and contemplation. This is in keeping with what was always one of ‘The Hateful Eight’’s greatest strengths, namely its sophisticated manipulation of point of view. When the movie was originally released, some commentators found Tarantino’s decision to shoot in 70 mm perverse given the confined location, revealing their fundamental misunderstanding of the aesthetic possibilities of the format. In fact, Tarantino utilizes the properties of 70 mm to remarkable effect, using the increased width of the frame and the sharpened depth of field to cram every shot with multiple viewpoints and multiple layers of information. While I would never argue against losing one’s self in the majesty of ‘The Hateful Eight’ on the big screen, it does gain something on television in that it’s easier to take in the entire image all at once and appreciate the elegance of Tarantino’s visual design. His camera is constantly probing and reframing to shift our identification from one character to another, creating a tapestry of perspectives that serves as an ironic counterpoint to the self-serving, isolated nature of the individuals who populate the story.”

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5. 

"How the depressive, unsettling, surprisingly buoyant humor of Lisa Hanawalt and Raphael Bob-Waksberg—creators of ‘BoJack Horseman’ and now ‘Tuca & Bertie’—is changing the adult animation series": As detailed by Robert Ito of California Sunday Magazine

“The two tossed around the idea of doing a variety show, but there were stories and themes that Lisa wanted to explore that only a series format could capture. ‘Female friendships, specifically,’ she says. It was a topic she wasn’t seeing in adult animation, ‘because people aren’t buying shows about that.’ But who would be the friends? Tuca and Bertie immediately came to mind. The two, in many ways, were dual sides of Lisa’s personality: Tuca, her extroverted half, which she reveals through her comics, and Bertie, her introverted self, outwardly shy but with a rich inner life. In the series, Tuca is sporadically employed, an inveterate moocher, and a hoarders-level slob. She also has charm to burn and is unfailingly devoted to Bertie and Bertie to her. Bertie is as neat as Tuca is slovenly but is starting to question the staid orderliness of her life, from her sex-by-the-numbers relationship with her boyfriend to her crummy job, where a bro-ish co-worker steals her ideas. Initially, Lisa and Raphael wondered how such seeming opposites could be friends, but it’s Tuca and Bertie’s differencesand the inevitable fights and breakups and makeups that come from themthat make their relationship such a compelling and heartbreaking one. United against catcallers and creeps and by a shared history that includes trips to the ER and beatdowns of two-timing guys, they’re also discovering how much they’re growing up and apart.

Image of the Day

Rebecca Martin of Cinema Femme Magazine chats with filmmaker Jennifer Townsend about her documentary, "Catching Sight of Thelma & Louise," and the impact that Ridley Scott's 1991 film had on her life (click here to read the full conversation).  

Video of the Day

Check out the Seed&Spark campaign for this enormously intriguing series about young modern Christians entitled, "Kayla of Galilee," written and directed by (as well as starring) women and people of color. 

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