There is a lot of controversy brewing in Hollywood around the topic of inclusion of women and people of color in film. In the midst of all this controversy, one woman is doing more than just talk about the problem. Ava Duvernay is doing something about it by using her talent and wherewithal to help women and people of color tell their story on the big screen.
Sara Blecher is a filmmaker under Ava’s distribution collective, ARRAY. Sara is here to share with Reel Focus readers more about her film Ayanda.
Sara, thank you for your contribution to our Reel Focus readers this week. Tell us more about how you became a filmmaker.
Actually I was living in Paris and I seriously had no money. I was working as a waitress and a babysitter. Pretty much doing everything I could to feed myself. Anyway I met this guy and he invited me to a party. It was by far the coolest party with the hippest people I’d been to in all my time in Paris.
So eventually someone came up to me and started talking to me. He introduced himself as a photographer and asked me what I did. It was at this was the moment I decided to be a filmmaker.
I decided right there and then that I would never again be at a party like this and have to say I was a waitress. Or even worse a babysitter. That simply wasn’t the plan for my life.
So I went back to New York and enrolled in film school.
Not a sexy story but a true one.
What types of challenges have you faced being ‘woman in film’ and share with our readers how you overcame these challenges and how they too can overcome such challenges?
For me, like many other female directors, the greatest challenge is to find work. Up until recently I never directed anything that I didn’t create and produce so that I could direct – which is precisely how I overcame that challenge. If no one would hire me to direct then I’d simply create projects so I could be the one to decide who would direct.
Being an artist it’s always tempting to measure success through other people eyes, be they critics or journalists, or audiences. But as I have gotten older I have come to realize what a terribly dangerous thing this can be. Art is incredibly subjective. What is great art to one person isn’t necessarily to another. So now these days I measure the success of my work by the way I feel about a film before anyone else has seen it. I think I can now trust myself to know when the work is good and deep and interesting and when it isn’t.
Meryl Streep recently said “I no longer have patience for certain things, not because I’ve become arrogant, but simply because I reached a point in my life where I do not want to waste more time with what displeases me or hurts me. I have no patience for cynicism, excessive criticism and demands of any nature. I lost the will to please those who do not like me, to love those who do not love me and to smile at those who do not want to smile at me.” If there is any advice I could give readers it would be to try and learn this sooner rather than later.
Why should people watch your latest film Ayanda?
Five years ago I went to see Juno with my then 15-year-old daughter. I watched her transform while she watched that film. For the first time in her life she was given an alternate role model. Someone to emulate who was beyond any of the possibilities she had previously considered for herself. I wanted to make a film that would do the same thing for young African women. And I believe this film does.
But perhaps more importantly people should go and see Ayanda, because it’s a different way of looking at Africa; one that doesn’t gaze at violence, and poverty and disease – but instead turns to look at what it means to be human in this continent.
What more should we expect from you in the near future in terms of your film making career?
I just completed a film called Dis Ek Anna ( It’s me Anna) about a young girl who was abused by her stepfather. It has just released in South Africa and is due to be screened around the world early next year. Also, for those who want to see Ayanda, you can check it out at the Bronze Lens Festival in Atlanta, November 14, 2015 at 6:00 p.m. at Georgia Pacific Auditorium.