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Mira Nair to Direct BBC Adaptation of “A Suitable Boy”

Nair: The Hollywood Reporter/YouTube

“Queen of Katwe” helmer Mira Nair is eyeing her next project, another coming-of-age story. She’s “on the verge” of a deal that will see her directing the BBC and Lookout Point TV adaptation of the acclaimed 1993 novel “A Suitable Boy,” Deadline reports. Written by Vikram Seth, the bestseller is set in a newly independent, post-Partition India and follows protagonist Lata’s search for love.

Though her mother is “determined to find her a husband,” Lata is “not convinced she wants the same path as her sister,” who is in an arranged marriage, the source summarizes. “Torn between duty to her family and the excitement of romance, Lata embarks on an epic journey of love, desire, and heartache as three very different suitors vie for her hand. Her choice will play out against the tumultuous political backdrop of India at a crossroads, looking towards its
See full article at Women and Hollywood »

What Happened to the Women Directors in Hollywood? Part 4: 1984–1999

Mississippi Masala

by Carrie Rickey

This five-part Truthdig series by Carrie Rickey is published in partnership with Women and Hollywood. The series considers the historic accomplishments of women behind the camera, how they got marginalized, and how they are fighting for equal employment. Specifically, this series asks, why do females make up between 33 and 50 percent of film-school graduates but account for only seven percent of working directors? What happened to the women directors in Hollywood?

While female filmmakers waited for Judge Pamela Rymer to hand down a decision in the 1983 Directors Guild class-action suit against Warner Brothers and Columbia Pictures, alleging discrimination for not hiring women and ethnic minorities represented by the guild, there were positive signs of change in Hollywood.

In 1984, for the first time that almost anyone could remember, one needed two hands to count the number of feature films by women released in the U.S. market. One was Diane Kurys’ “Entre Nous” (1983), nominated for best foreign film at the Academy Awards in April 1984, making Kurys the second female director whose film was so honored.

Between 1950 and 1980, the number of movies directed by women in the Directors Guild of America (DGA) totaled 14. From 1984 to 1985 there were 12.

In 1984 many women were making their second features. Among them were Gillian Armstrong’s period drama “Mrs. Soffel,” Amy Heckerling’s gangster comedy “Johnny Dangerously,” Penelope Spheeris’ teenage-runaway saga “Suburbia,” and Amy Holden Jones’ romantic drama “Love Letters.” Martha Coolidge, beloved for “Valley Girl,” her 1983 debut, was on her third feature, “National Lampoon’s Joy of Sex.” With more women behind the movie camera in the United States than any time since the ’teens, it seemed that Hollywood was reopening the studio gates to women. Their movies featured women in lead roles.

The wave of optimism crested in 1985. Argentine director Maria Luisa Bemberg’s historical romance “Camila” (1984) was in contention for best foreign film. Susan Seidelman, an Nyu film-school grad who made a splash in 1983 with the indie “Smithereens,” released “Desperately Seeking Susan,” starring “It Girl” Rosanna Arquette and Madonna, cast when the latter was a relative unknown. It was a runaway hit. Heckerling and Spheeris each released third features, respectively “National Lampoon’s European Vacation” and “The Boys Next Door.” Coolidge released her fourth: “Real Genius,” a genuinely funny nerd comedy with a fully developed female character — and special effects.

Then came the crash.

In August 1985 Judge Rymer handed down her decision. While the class-action case was important and viable, Rymer ruled, she had to disqualify the DGA from leading the class due to a conflict of interest. White male members also competing for directing jobs dominated the guild, she said. Thus the DGA was in no position to represent the interests of its women and ethnic minority members. Out of exhaustion and lack of money, the Original Six, the group of female filmmakers that had first spurred the DGA to initiate the suit, did not pursue it any further.

As the DGA suit played out during the early 1980s, Hollywood’s business model was in flux. Studios abandoned the one-size-fits-all strategy of advertising a movie in general-interest publications and embraced segmented marketing — that is, making and marketing movies to a specific demographic. Fewer dollars were spent advertising movies in mainstream newspapers and more were spent on ads that ran during TV shows young males were said to watch. More and more, movies starred predominantly men and boys. Because actors had higher-profile roles, they could command higher salaries than actresses.

By dividing the market into sectors, studios divided the audience and the culture. Boys see movies about boys. Older people see movies about older people. Women see movies about women. Those in different demographics no longer watch the same stories.

In 1980, four of the 10 top box office stars were women: Sally Field, Jane Fonda, Sissy Spacek, and Barbra Streisand. In 1990 there was only one: Julia Roberts. According to 1990 statistics from the Screen Actors Guild, not only were actresses underpaid, but they were also “undercast”: 14 percent of the leading roles, and only 29 percent of all roles, went to women.

The “Indiana Jones” trilogy made in the 1980s reflected the progressively diminishing role of females in film during a decade when male action/adventures dominated the multiplex. In “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (1981), the character Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen) plays Indy’s helpmate. In “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” (1984), the Willie Scott character (Kate Capshaw) is helpless. And in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” archeologist Elsa Schneider (Alison Doody) is the enemy.

Despite such trends, the late 1980s and 1990s proved to be boom years for female directors in Hollywood and Indiewood, as independent film is known. In 1987, Kathryn Bigelow, a onetime sculptor and graduate of Columbia University’s film program, made her second feature, the “vampire Western” “Near Dark.” And though Elaine May’s studio film “Ishtar” was almost universally panned upon release, it earned belated respect. Richard Brody of The New Yorker correctly described it as “an unjustly derided masterwork.” In 1987, six percent of films were directed by women, higher than at any time since 1916.

The percentage dropped in 1988, but that was a watershed year for female filmmakers. “Big,” a comedy from Penny Marshall (co-written by Anne Spielberg), was universally acclaimed. It was the first movie directed by a woman that surpassed $100 million at the box office. With the romantic comedy “Crossing Delancey,” Joan Micklin Silver returned to making big-screen fare, and her modest hit was well received. Also in 1988, Silver’s daughter, Marisa, made her second feature, “Permanent Record,” about teen suicide. “Salaam, Bombay!”, the first feature from Mira Nair, the India-born, Harvard-educated documentarian, was a best foreign film Oscar nominee.

The following year, “Look Who’s Talking” from Amy Heckerling likewise surpassed the $100 million mark for box office sales in the U.S. and made nearly $300 million worldwide. For the most part, though, heads of studios regarded Marshall’s and Heckerling’s box-office smashes as flukes. Two heads of production told me in 1991 that “movies by women don’t make money.” Nevertheless, it turned out to be a exceptional year for the quality and range of releases from women. And it shaped up to be a year when movies by female filmmakers did make serious money.

Some of the highlights of 1991: Julie Dash’s “Daughters of the Dust,” an evocative portrait of generations of Gullah women off the South Carolina coast circa 1901; Jodie Foster’s “Little Man Tate,” about a child prodigy emotionally torn between his mother and a psychologist for gifted children; and Mira Nair’s “Mississippi Masala,” a sexy romance about a South Asian woman born in Uganda (played by then-newcomer Sarita Choudhry) in love with an African-American man (Denzel Washington). Both Kathryn Bigelow’s action film “Point Break” and Barbra Streisand’s psychological study “Prince of Tides” examined the emotional costs to men who struggle to prove their masculinity. Bigelow’s movie grossed $83 million and Streisand’s $110 million. (Adjusted for inflation, that’s $148 million and $196 million in today’s dollars.)

Not only can female filmmakers make movies that show a different side of men, but they also make movies that show different aspects of women. Penny Marshall’s “A League of Their Own” (1992), about the All-American Girls Baseball Leagues during World War II, celebrates the athleticism (rather than the sexuality) of the female body. Nora Ephron’s “This is My Life,” her 1992 directorial debut about a single mom whose choice of comedy career affects her daughters, shows that career and motherhood need not be in conflict. Like Ephron’s film, Allison Anders’ “Gas Food Lodging” (also 1992) explores what happens when the children of single moms reconnect with biological fathers. Male directors were, and are not, making movies like these.

During the 1990s, almost every year brought a new evergreen made by a female filmmaker. In 1993 there were two. One was Jane Campion’s “The Piano,” a haunting allegory about a mute woman that struck a chord internationally. It earned $62 million at the box office and multiple Oscar nominations, including one for best director, making Campion the third woman to be cited in this category. The other was Nora Ephron’s “Sleepless in Seattle,” the comedic romance between two people who don’t meet in person until the last scene, which scored a $227 million box office.

“Sleepless” additionally introduced the questionable concept of the “chick flick” to a broader audience. This is a non-genre that has come to be defined as any movie that, according to the term’s proponents, women want to see and that men think they don’t want to watch — or any movie directed by a woman. The division between “chick flick” and its corollary, the “dick flick,” is a perhaps unintended consequence of target marketing, implying that movies represent a gender-linked proposition.

Almost overnight, the perception was created that movies predominantly featuring women, or “women’s interests,” or directed by women would shrivel the manhood of the male moviegoer. In 1994 the head of a major studio told me, without irony or shame, that “Women on the screen means no men in the audience.” When I asked him for data to back up his claim, he said he had it, but it was proprietary.

Despite such signs of cultural and corporate sexism, the 1990s were a good time to be a female filmmaker. In 1994, Gillian Armstrong’s “Little Women” was immediately embraced as a classic. Newcomer Darnell Martin’s “I Like it Like That,” an urban comedy about a working mother juggling job, marriage, and parenthood, earned positive reviews. And Rose Troche’s “Go Fish,” the first indie comedy about girl-on-girl courtship, marked a milestone for the burgeoning genre.

The following year, 16 films by women were in U.S. release, setting another record for that era. Many of them were comedies. There was Amy Heckerling’s “Clueless,” a droll version of Jane Austen’s “Emma” set at a Beverly Hills high school. There is Betty Thomas’ “The Brady Bunch Movie,” in which the former actress sets the characters of the 1970s TV hit in the 1990s to great comic effect. Distinctly not a comedy was Kathryn Bigelow’s “Strange Days,” a science-fiction thriller about sex crimes, which lost money but became a cult favorite. At the 1996 Oscar ceremony, with “Antonia’s Line,” Dutch filmmaker Marleen Gorris became the first female filmmaker to direct the award-winning foreign film.

But apart from Bigelow and Mimi Leder, a director of episodic television who in 1997 directed “The Peacemaker” and in 1998 “Deep Impact,” female filmmakers were not making action films. For the most part women made comedies and human stories, movies with no explosions in the opening scene. Veteran filmmaker Martha Coolidge spoke for many women when she noted that the scripts the studios sent her were for comedies or family dramas. “About 90 percent of what comes my way are ten different kinds of breast cancer stories, ten kinds of divorce stories, and ten kinds of women-taking-care-of-their-fathers stories,” she said. “I do those. I care about those deeply. But one does want to do more.”

Female filmmakers were typecast in the way many actors and actresses have been, for the most part pigeonholed in family drama and comedy genres. For example, in 1997 actress Kasi Lemmons made her directorial debut with “Eve’s Bayou,” a haunting family drama, and Betty Thomas returned with the Howard Stern biopic “Private Parts.” In 1998, Ephron returned with the romantic comedy “You’ve Got Mail.” Nancy Meyers, a long-time screenwriter, made her directorial debut with the family-friendly comedy “The Parent Trap,” and Brenda Chapman, a Disney animator, was one of three directors on “Prince of Egypt,” the animated story of Moses.

In 1999, three female filmmakers made rookie features unlike anything in American movies. Two were romantic dramas about teenage sexuality, the other an imaginative Shakespeare adaptation. Sofia Coppola’s “The Virgin Suicides,” based on the novel by Jeffrey Eugenides, looked at how boys look at girls, subversively turning the female gaze on the male gaze. Kimberly Peirce’s “Boys Don’t Cry” dramatized the life story of Teena Brandon, who changed her name and gender to become Brandon Teena and fell victim to a hate crime.

Julie Taymor, the theater director who created “The Lion King” on stage, made her movie debut with “Titus,” an anachronistic version of the Shakespeare history play “Titus Andronicus,” underscoring its parallels to Italy under Mussolini.

At the end of the decade — and century — of the 11,000 filmmakers working both in television and film included in the Directors Guild of America, about 2,300 were women. While women made up 21 percent of the membership, they comprised only 9 percent of the filmmakers working in movies.

Most, including Martha Lauzen, a professor at San Diego State University and the head of the Center for the Study of Women in Film and Television, naturally assumed that in the new century the needle would move toward 50/50.

In addition to writing film reviews and essays for Truthdig, Carrie Rickey has been a film critic at The Philadelphia Inquirer and Village Voice, and an art critic at Artforum and Art in America. Rickey has taught at various institutions, including School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the University of Pennsylvania, and has appeared frequently on NPR’s “Talk of the Nation,” MSNBC, and CNN.

What Happened to the Women Directors in Hollywood? Part 4: 1984–1999 was originally published in Women and Hollywood on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
See full article at Women and Hollywood »

Wamg Giveaway – Win Disney’s Queen Of Katwe on Blu-ray

Home audiences will cheer for Disney’s Queen of Katwe, which has earned widespread critical acclaim. Based on the vibrant true story of a young girl (Madina Nalwanga) from the streets of Uganda whose world changes when she is introduced to the game of chess, and, as a result of the support she receives from her family and community, is instilled with the confidence and determination she needs to pursue her dream of becoming an international chess champion. It is a remarkable story of perseverance against all odds that will leave viewers feeling humbled and inspired. According to director Mira Nair, “The triumph of the human spirit is not to weep for what we don’t have but to focus on what we do have and allow that to take us to a place we never imagined possible.” Disney’s heartwarming and triumphant tale arrives home on Digital HD on Jan.
See full article at WeAreMovieGeeks.com »

Director Roundtable: Mel Gibson, Denzel Washington and 4 More on Paralyzing Fears, Cast and Crew Complaints

Director Roundtable: Mel Gibson, Denzel Washington and 4 More on Paralyzing Fears, Cast and Crew Complaints
Mississippi Masala, a romantic drama with an international twist starring a young Denzel Washington, hot off his first acting Oscar win for Glory. Twenty-five years later, the Indian-born Nair (Queen of Katwe), 59, sat next to Washington (Fences), 61, who since has become an accomplished filmmaker himself, at The Hollywood Reporter's annual Director Roundtable.

The duo was joined for the hourlong conversation at a Hollywood production studio by a pair of outspoken and often controversial industry figures — Mel Gibson (Hacksaw Ridge), 60, and Oliver Stone (Snowden), 70 — as well as two...
See full article at The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News »

Weekend Box Office Preview: Western ‘The Magnificent Seven’ Duels Animated ‘Storks’

  • Indiewire
Weekend Box Office Preview: Western ‘The Magnificent Seven’ Duels Animated ‘Storks’
Western remake “The Magnificent Seven” (Sony) faces off against animated “Storks” (Warner Bros.) for #1 this weekend. But ranking is less important than how much the two movies pull in audiences. This fight pits the latest iteration of the venerable Hollywood western against a new example of the dominant genre ruling the 2016 box office.

Last weekend’s three duds and a big drop in Top Ten box office can be explained by retread projects that lacked appeal. However after a quick start to the season where six out of seven initial wide releases disappointed (Clint Eastwood’s “Sully” will end up grossing more than the other six combined), this week sees only two new wide releases.

That’s actually a sign of strength, since both look appealing enough to boost numbers. It’s an interesting combo, with both films having potential but neither guaranteed to open as well as “Sully” ($35 million), although both cost more.
See full article at Indiewire »

‘Queen of Katwe’: How Mira Nair Merged a Gritty African Slum Story with a Disney Movie

‘Queen of Katwe’: How Mira Nair Merged a Gritty African Slum Story with a Disney Movie
We all know what a heartwarming Disney sports drama feels like. Glossy, sentimental, going for rousing win moments. When Ugandan-Belizean Disney executive VP production Tendo Nagenda read Tim Crothers’ 2013 Espn magazine feature about Phiona Mutesi, a chess master who rose up from selling corn in the Kampala, Uganda slum of Katwe, he knew he’d found the right story. But he knew that if it was going to resonate, this couldn’t be soft-focus or glib. He had to find a director with the sensibility to keep it real.

For that, he approached veteran New York filmmaker Mira Nair, who has also lived in the Ugandan capital of Kampala for 27 years. He invited himself to tea, and she jumped on board.

They developed “Queen of Katwe” (September 23) with writer William Wheeler. Nair finally met Mutesi when she was in New York to play against Kasperov, she told me in our interview.
See full article at Thompson on Hollywood »

‘Queen of Katwe’: How Mira Nair Merged a Gritty African Slum Story with a Disney Movie

  • Indiewire
‘Queen of Katwe’: How Mira Nair Merged a Gritty African Slum Story with a Disney Movie
We all know what a heartwarming Disney sports drama feels like. Glossy, sentimental, going for rousing win moments. When Ugandan-Belizean Disney executive VP production Tendo Nagenda read Tim Crothers’ 2013 Espn magazine feature about Phiona Mutesi, a chess master who rose up from selling corn in the Kampala, Uganda slum of Katwe, he knew he’d found the right story. But he knew that if it was going to resonate, this couldn’t be soft-focus or glib. He had to find a director with the sensibility to keep it real.

For that, he approached veteran New York filmmaker Mira Nair, who has also lived in the Ugandan capital of Kampala for 27 years. He invited himself to tea, and she jumped on board.

They developed “Queen of Katwe” (September 23) with writer William Wheeler. Nair finally met Mutesi when she was in New York to play against Kasperov, she told me in our interview.
See full article at Indiewire »

How Tiff 2016 Rocked The Oscar Race: Why ‘Moonlight’ Glows, ‘Birth’ Struggles, and More Revelations

How Tiff 2016 Rocked The Oscar Race: Why ‘Moonlight’ Glows, ‘Birth’ Struggles, and More Revelations
This year’s Oscar race is in crazy flux, moving and changing every day. Every year the Toronto International Film Festival pushes a new slate of high-profile Oscar hopefuls, adding more players—and media—to the season’s ongoing awards trajectory. And many movies that don’t make the grade fall by the wayside.

Jackie,” which tells the JFK assassination aftermath from the perspective of widow Jacqueline Kennedy (Natalie Portman), was not a Tiff debut; that honor went to Venice, where it was a hit and Noah Oppenheim won for best screenplay. However, it was Tiff’s Sunday night screening where the bidding began in earnest — and with it, the possibility that Chilean filmmaker Pablo Larrain’s film would be an Oscar contender.

Fox Searchlight, which has first and last dibs on the movie, may want to rush it into the awards season, as they’ve done in the past
See full article at Thompson on Hollywood »

How TIFF 2016 Rocked The Oscar Race: Why ‘Moonlight’ Glows, ‘Birth’ Struggles, and More Revelations

  • Indiewire
How TIFF 2016 Rocked The Oscar Race: Why ‘Moonlight’ Glows, ‘Birth’ Struggles, and More Revelations
This year’s Oscar race is in crazy flux, moving and changing every day. Every year the Toronto International Film Festival pushes a new slate of high-profile Oscar hopefuls, adding more players—and media—to the season’s ongoing awards trajectory. And many movies that don’t make the grade fall by the wayside.

Jackie,” which tells the JFK assassination aftermath from the perspective of widow Jacqueline Kennedy (Natalie Portman), was not a TIFF debut; that honor went to Venice, where it was a hit and Noah Oppenheim won for best screenplay. However, it was Tiff’s Sunday night screening where the bidding began in earnest — and with it, the possibility that Chilean filmmaker Pablo Larrain’s film would be an Oscar contender.

Fox Searchlight, which has first and last dibs on the movie, may want to rush it into the awards season, as they’ve done in the past
See full article at Indiewire »

‘Queen of Katwe’ Review: David Oyelowo and Lupita Nyong’o Shine in Mira Nair’s Straightforward Drama — Toronto

‘Queen of Katwe’ Review: David Oyelowo and Lupita Nyong’o Shine in Mira Nair’s Straightforward Drama — Toronto
There’s nothing surprising or adventurous about Mira Nair’s “Queen of Katwe,” a sincere and sensitive dramatization of a 10-year-old Ugandan girl who became a world-renowned chess champion. Despite some of the harsher elements of the impoverished backdrop where Phiona Mutesi (Madina Nalwanga) grows up, Nair has made exactly the kind of feel-good tale of triumphant spirit entailed by the material. As Mutesi, Nalwanga delivers a serious, credible performance in which her intelligence outweighs the limited resources of her immediate surroundings; she’s complimented by a jubilant David Oyelowo as passionate coach Robert Katende and a ferocious Lupia Nyong’o as Phiona’s conflicted mother Nakku Harriet. Their perseverance unites the underprivileged community and sets the stage for a celebratory finale.

So why does “Queen of Katwe,” written by William Wheeler from journalist Tim Crothers’ book, feel so unsatisfying? The Disney-produced story simply lacks any genuine sense of urgency.
See full article at Indiewire »

‘Queen of Katwe’ Toronto Review: David Oyelowo Mentors a Chess Champ in Uplifting Tale

  • The Wrap
‘Queen of Katwe’ Toronto Review: David Oyelowo Mentors a Chess Champ in Uplifting Tale
Films that inspire and warm our hearts are often dismissed as manipulative, treacly or sentimental. Even the word “inspirational” has gotten a bad rap. But some stories are simply that: inspiring and heartwarming. “Queen of Katwe,” which chronicles the true story of a young female Ugandan chess champion, is just such a tale. And Mira Nair, who deftly captured the visual aesthetic and rhythms of foreign cultures in films like “Monsoon Wedding,” “Salaam Bombay!” and “Mississippi Masala,” is probably the ideal match of filmmaker to material. The director, known for her vibrantly beautiful films, has had a home in Uganda.
See full article at The Wrap »

Our 25 Most-Anticipated Fall 2016 Films

In continuing our fall preview, after highlighting the 25 best films we’ve already seen, today brings a look at the unknown. We’ve narrowed down 25 works with (mostly) confirmed release dates that are coming over the next four months and have us intrigued. While some won’t show up until late December, a good amount will first premiere over the next few weeks at various film festivals, so check back for our reviews.

See our list below, and return soon for our final preview: the festival premieres we’re most looking forward to.

25. Assassin’s Creed (Justin Kurzel; Dec. 21)

Along with a good chance of earning the highly-patented title of Best Video Game Movie, Justin Kurzel’s (Snowtown, Macbeth) upcoming, massive-video-game-franchise-to-big-screen-adaptation Assassin’s Creed also has the potential for so much more. Michael Fassbender stars as a man in the modern era who is kidnapped by a shady corporation (led
See full article at The Film Stage »

First Trailer for Mira Nair’s ‘Queen of Katwe’ Starring Lupita Nyong’o and David Oyelowo

After breaking out in 12 Years a Slave, we actually haven’t seen Lupita Nyong’o on screen since. Yes, she did motion-capture work for Star Wars: The Force Awakens and The Jungle Book, but for those hoping for a more substantial role from the actress, it will arrive this year. Mississippi Masala and Monsoon Wedding director Mira Nair recently adapted Tim Crothers‘ book, based on his own article for Espn, with Queen of Katwe and the first trailer has landed today.

The Disney drama follows the true story of Phiona Mutesi, who comes from the slums of Kampala, Uganda and became a chess prodigy as a teenager. The first trailer shows off an authentic, feel-good drama and we imagine it’ll be a strong fit for fall festivals before it hits theaters. Also starring newcomer Madina Nalwanga and David Oyelowo, check out the trailer and poster below.

Queen of Katwe
See full article at The Film Stage »

Sarita Choudhury Talks Working with Tom Hanks in A Hologram for the King: It Made My Parents 'Proud'

  • PEOPLE.com
Sarita Choudhury Talks Working with Tom Hanks in A Hologram for the King: It Made My Parents 'Proud'
Sarita Choudhury is making her parents proud. The actress, who plays Tom Hanks' love interest in A Hologram for the King, said working alongside the veteran actor was an especially meaningful experience because of what it meant to her parents. "To do a movie with someone like Tom Hanks that when you tell your dad, your dad knows who Tom Hanks is - it feels like you're finally giving back to your parents," Choudhury, 49, tells People. "It's like you've actually done something that they can recognize and there's something in me that makes them super proud." And it turns out,
See full article at PEOPLE.com »

Sarita Choudhury Talks Working with Tom Hanks in A Hologram for the King: It Made My Parents 'Proud'

  • PEOPLE.com
Sarita Choudhury Talks Working with Tom Hanks in A Hologram for the King: It Made My Parents 'Proud'
Sarita Choudhury is making her parents proud. The actress, who plays Tom Hanks' love interest in A Hologram for the King, said working alongside the veteran actor was an especially meaningful experience because of what it meant to her parents. "To do a movie with someone like Tom Hanks that when you tell your dad, your dad knows who Tom Hanks is - it feels like you're finally giving back to your parents," Choudhury, 49, tells People. "It's like you've actually done something that they can recognize and there's something in me that makes them super proud." And it turns out,
See full article at PEOPLE.com »

Mira Nair Tapped for San Francisco Film Festival Award

Mira Nair Tapped for San Francisco Film Festival Award
The San Francisco Film Society has named filmmaker Mira Nair the recipient of the Irving M. Levin Directing Award.

She will be presented the award at the April 25 awards ceremonies at the 59th San Francisco International Film Festival at the Fort Mason Center’s Herbst Pavilion. The award is given each year in memory of the festival’s founder Irving M. Levin.

Nair will also be honored at “An Afternoon With Mira Nair” at the Castro Theatre on April 24 with an onstage conversation followed by a screening of “Monsoon Wedding,” which won the Venice Film Festival’s Golden Lion in 2001. The presentation will also include an exclusive first look at special footage from Nair’s next project “Queen of Katwe,” about a rural Ugandan girl with an aptitude for chess, starring Lupita Nyong’o and David Oyelowo.

Mira Nair has brilliantly bridged American and South Asian film traditions for more than 30 years,
See full article at Variety - Film News »

Golden Globes 2016: We Did It All for the Cookie

Golden Globes 2016: We Did It All for the Cookie
If you were an all-star pile-up of celebrity preposterousness, and you happened the night David Bowie died, you picked a pretty terrible night to happen. So sorry, Golden Globes — you were just a tin can floating far above the moon, right before the real rocket went past. But that's somehow appropriate, since the best running joke all night was how meaningless the Golden Globes are. "Remember, if you do win tonight, nobody cares about the award as much as you do," host Ricky Gervais announced as the show began. "Don't get emotional.
See full article at Rolling Stone »

'Learning to Drive' – A Conversation with Director Isabel Coixet, and Actors Patricia Clarkson & Sarita Choudhury

I recently sat down with director Isabel Coixet, and actors Patricia Clarkson and Sarita Choudhury at the Crosby Hotel in New York City, to discuss their new film "Learning to Drive." The film, written by Sarah Kernochan, is based on the autobiographical New Yorker short story by Katha Pollit, a long-time political columnist for the Nation.

Wendy is a fiery Manhattan author whose husband has just left her for a younger woman; Darwan is a soft-spoken taxi driver from India on the verge of an arranged marriage. As Wendy sets out to reclaim her independence, she runs into a barrier common to many lifelong New Yorkers: she’s never learned to drive. When Wendy hires Darwan to teach her, her unraveling life and his calm restraint seem like an awkward fit. But as he shows her how to take control of the wheel, and she coaches him on how to impress a woman, their unlikely friendship awakens them to the joy, humor, and love in starting life anew.

My conversation began with Isabel Coixet and Sarita Choudhury

Isabel Coixet’s award-winning film credits include "Demaisiado viejo para morir joven," "Things I Never Told You,""My Life Without Me," "The Secret Life of Words," "Paris, je t’aime," "Elegy," "Map of the Sounds of Tokyo," "Yesterday Never Ends," "Another Me," "Nobody Wants the Night," as well as documentaries, including "Invisibles."

Currently, Sarita Choudhury can be seen on Showtime’s "Homeland." Her film credits include "Admission," "Gayby," "Midnight’s Children," "Generation Um…," "Entre Nos," "The Accidental Husband," "Lady in the Water," "The War Within," "Mississippi Masala," "Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love," "She Hate Me," "Just a Kiss," "Wild West," "High Art," "The House of the Spirits," "Gloria," and "A Perfect Murder."

Susan Kouguell: Tell me about the process of how "Learning to Drive" came about.

Isabel Coixet: We started talking about making this film with Patricia and Ben Kingsley when we were making "Elegy" (directed by Coixet, starring Clarkson and Kingsley) and we got along very well and we wanted to make another film together. Patricia discovered the short story by Katha Pollit, and she gave it to me and I thought it was wonderful. And then we got the screenwriter Sarah Kernocha involved. The film is a comedy but not a classical comedy. It was a very difficult film to pitch because you know financiers and producers want something they can put in one box and you can’t with this film. It was a long process. It took nine years.

Some Words Unspoken and the Intimacy of the Camera

Isabel Coixet: There is always this romantic feeling underneath [subtext], I think there is that possibility. You have to be true to your words. If they are true, you will have to stick to your words.

Sarita Choudhury: That’s what happens with people you meet. No you were my inspiration don’t make me your inspiration.

Isabel Coixet: I love Henry James. There is a possibility of romance in the air. My romantic side is always excited when I see something like this.

Sarita Choudhury: I had so few words in the film. In a way, I kept the words because I had to know not to say them. For us the script -- the situational was also in the script; the languidness. It was because Isabel holds the camera. There was a pace created to it. When you’re acting you can feel where the camera is, but when the camera is at the end of Isabel’s hand and she’s moving it, it almost creates an intimacy between you and the camera, and you and the actor. There’s a pace you normally don’t get in film. You didn’t know when she was on your face; you had to keep acting like acting in the theatre.

On The Lack of Women Directors

Isabel Coixet: There are so many articles about it. I’m always afraid to play the victim, to complain too much. I know there is an inequity with men and women directors. This is an issue in the world. I always say, (Coixet smiles) we have to ask for more salary to make up for all these years and maybe if we ask for more they’ll give us the same as a man.

I want to put my words where my mouth is by producing female directors; they are amazing talented people. I’m producing three short films and a feature documentary. That’s what I do.

Sarita Choudhury: I just did a young woman’s short film; there is something about her that’s brilliant. I’ve done two short films. I can’t change the caste system and I can’t do the voluntary work I need to be doing. Film is no different from the world, like Isabel said. That’s our work, to get every woman involved. And if a man is brilliant, let him in too.

I then asked Patricia Clarkson about her involvement with "Learning to Drive."

Academy Award® nominee and Emmy Award-winning actress, Patricia Clarkson, has worked extensively in independent films. The National Board of Review and the National Society of Film Critics named her Best Supporting Actress of the Year for "Pieces of April" and "The Station Agent." Her many film credits include "The Maze Runner," "Last Weekend," "Friends With Benefits," "One Day," "Easy A," "Shutter Island," "Vicky Christina Barcelona," "Elegy," "No Reservations," "All the Kings’ Men," "Lars and the Real Girl, and "Good Night, and Good Luck."

Susan Kouguell: What attracted you to the project?

Patricia Clarkson: I loved the Katha Pollit story in The New Yorker; it serendipitously came to me. I love Wendy, I love this character. I was nine years younger at the time, but I still felt I knew her. I was relentless trying to get this film made with producer Dana Friedman. I found it an equal dose of funny and tragic. I liked the almost commedia dell'arte aspect; this absurd situation and finding the tragic comedy. A woman who is brilliant who lives a great life -- she has everything, but “forgets to look up,” and then meets a man who has experienced tragic loss. They have disparate worlds. I found it a quintessential New York story, but it’s also universal. It’s an independent film, but it’s not independently-minded.

Some Final Words

The disparate worlds about which Clarkson refers to in regard to her character, Wendy’s relationship with Darwan [Ben Kingsley] -- the life of a financially successful New Yorker compared to the immigrant’s struggle, was a thematic element that I further discussed with Coixet and Choudhury. As Choudhury said to me, Coixet’s visual choices of her character, such as the moment when she watches feet walk by her basement apartment window, feeling trapped, underscore the poignancy of this fish-out-of-water situation. Coixet captures these elements with a delicate balance of both drama and comedy.

It was an inspiring morning to speak with these three powerful and talented women, who are committed to sharing their knowledge with the next generation of female filmmakers.

Award-winning screenwriter and filmmaker, Susan Kouguell teaches screenwriting at Purchase College Suny, and presents international seminars on screenwriting and film. Author of Savvy Characters Sell Screenplays! and The Savvy Screenwriter, she is chairperson of Su-City Pictures East, LLC, a consulting company founded in 1990 where she works with writers, filmmakers, and executives worldwide. www.su-city-pictures.com, http://su-city-pictures.com/wpblog
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Stop in the Name of Love: Top Ten Forbidden Romances in the Movies

Human beings and their affectionate vibes are something special. After all, we as individuals are going to love who we feel are worth loving. However, society demands that the protocol of loving should be straight-forward and “natural”. The rule of thumb: stick to your own kind! Whether it is being loyal to your own kind racially or culturally or either with your own age range the expectation of romance is defined…do not make waves and keep things safe and mainstream!

Well, human beings can be also unpredictable and live for going against the grain especially certain characters and personalities in the movies. Love and romance make for great film fodder but when the notion of such on-screen amorous activities takes its theme to a whole new challenging level then the gloves are off!

In Stop in the Name of Love: Top Ten Forbidden Romances in the Movies we will
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Actress Patsy Garrett Dies at 93

Actress Patsy Garrett Dies at 93
Virginia “Patsy” Garrett, a well-known character actress best known as the “chow-chow-chow” lady on the Purina Cat Chow commercials, her recurring roles on TV’s “Nanny and the Professor” and “Room 222” and in the “Benji” movie series, died Jan. 8 after a brief illness in Indio, Calif. She was 93.

Garrett played nosy neighbor Florence Fowler on “Nanny and the Professor” (1970-71), school secretary Miss Hogarth on “Room 222” (1972-73) and Mary Gruber in the “Benji” series of family films beginning in 1974. Her numerous TV appearances from the 1960s through the ’80s included “Family,” “Kojak,” “Medical Center,” “The Waltons,” “Medical Center” and her final TV role as a bigoted mother on Redd Foxx’s “Sanford” in 1981.

U.S. TV audiences of the 1960s and 1970s will remember Garrett for her role in a series of commercial messages as the Purina Cat Chow Lady. A post-production trick involving the controlled forward motion
See full article at Variety - TV News »
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