More diverse women needed in film, Winnipeg filmmaker says
Q&A: Four Winnipeg filmmakers to talk about lack of women in film on Tuesday
Winnipeg filmmakers are coming together Tuesday to talk about women in film as the upcoming Oscars gain criticism for lack of diversity.
- Oscars' lack of diversity contributes to wider racial bias, experts say
- Oscars 2016: Film academy reforms spark new round of protests
Sonya Ballantyne, an emerging filmmaker is one of four panelists at Beyond Bechdel: Where are the Women in Film, at The Park Theatre.
She spoke to CBC's Marcy Markusa on Information Radio about her struggle growing up looking for heroes she identified with.
Marcy Markusa: What's the Bechdel Test?
Sonya Ballantyne: It's a test that to see if a movie has two women who are named and who speak about something other than a man. Very few movies pass it.
Why are issues of representation in movies important to you today?
My biggest hero when I was a kid was Batman and he does not look like me — he's a white guy, a rich man. I grew up on a reserve and I'm native. It was kind of hard to find people who looked like me. That was one of the big reasons I got inspired to create my own films.
Do we underestimate how powerful it can be to have those people in movies?
Totally. I looked for heroes wherever I could find them. One of my favourite shows as a kid was Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, which is about a black family brought out of poverty into a mansion. I really loved it because they were dealing with the same issues that I was dealing with — racism and in their case, what is a real black person. What is a real native person was always something I dealt with.
It's very important. A lot of movies have been improved by the presence of women. Mad Max: Fury Road had a lot of feminine influences. It was edited partly by a woman. It was one of the first movies I saw with a nude woman who appears on screen that isn't sexualized. I remember I saw that scene and I was blown away that they didn't zoom in on anything naughty.
- Oscar organizers blasted again for lack of diversity in nominees
- Why #OscarsSoWhite may have it wrong about racism and the academy
There's #OscarsSoWhite but other people push back and say that the roles haven't been there so how can you blame the movies and the Oscars. What do you make of that argument?
There's very few roles for native women. I imagine it's the same condition for women of colour. I tried to hire as many people of colour as I could, if the situation called for it, which it often did. In my first film, Crash Site, every girl that appears on screen is indigenous and every person that appears on screen is a person of colour. This is the world I see and it's full of people of colour. I try to keep that in mind whenever I'm casting.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.