Wednesday, May 28, 2014

“Women Are Undervalued In Film”

Exclusive Interview with the Cannes International Jury head Jane Campion

Tue May 20, 2014

clip_image002CANNES:On  the opening day of the festival the  international jury was introduced to the media. Heading it is Jane Campion, one of  the world’s most respected auteur directors, whose work is known for its humanity as well as a head-on honesty and truthfulness on the subtleties that constitute injustice. Her films have led to heated debate, while she herself remains seemingly detached despite her strong convictions. Campion is the  only woman to have won the Palme d’Or in Cannes. She  won it twice: for her short film  An Exercise in Discipline – Peel (1982)  and then for her celebrated feature film, The Piano (1993) tied with Farewell My Concubine, directed by Kaige Chen.

Jane Campion took time off from her busy schedule for an interview,  talking in quiet, almost meditative tones, but with a ready assurance that underlines her firmness of mind and intent.

You have a  special affinity with India that has been with you for some 20 years. How did that happen?
My first visit to India was when I was really young. I went to Jaipur and the culture shock on many levels was far too overpowering. I was looking for some respite, something calming. I saw an old woman one day conducting yoga lessons.  She said I should join her class and I did. My relationship with this yoga teacher continued and developed into a strong tie and later, a bond. She monitored my yoga lessons from the distance between our two continents.  Of course, in the beginning I was not that regular. I invited her to Australia and she said I should encourage yoga in my city, Sydney. She took lessons in my house – it was the most convenient place.  I met her almost every year for 19 years. She recently passed away. I do 15 minutes of yoga every day and have been doing so for some years now.

Only one of your films has an Indian connection – and that was Holy Smoke  (1999) which has a strong Indian philosophical slant specially  at its start. The first 8 to 10 minutes was shot  in India (in Pushkar and Delhi) with Dhritiman  Chatterjee playing a Sadhu. Have you felt like returning to India in the films you  plan  to make?
Not in any specific way. It is the story that  leads you to a country and place … not one’s own personal liking or inclination.

Have you been influenced by any Indian filmmaker?
Of course and Satyajit Ray comes to mind. His films open your heart to the world and to feelings. His is the kind of filmmaking that you can trust and a world you can visualise and like to belong to.

Have you a film in  mind now?
I don’t like talking about something that is under preparation. In any case I am at an age now where career is not that important. I take my time …

Your most recent work,  the television series Top of the Lake has done well, I hear?
Yes, it has. And it is very different from my usual work. It is a crime story – a vigorous mystery that has touches of  humour. It is a mini-series which had seven episodes in the US and six in the UK.

In your films  you champion a woman’s place and role in  life.  In Cannes you noted publicly that women are not given their due in any aspect  of work within their profession related to cinema?
Women are under-valued  as professionals working in film. Only seven percent of entries this year in Cannes have been directed by women. There has to be more equality here between the genders. It is not that I have anything against men or vice-versa.  I think men genuinely like and appreciate women. But in the workplace there is something else – a code or a mindset that must change. There is nothing women cannot  do. And that must be recognised.

You indicated that standing in judgement on a film as a jury member has its challenges?
Well, it is difficult … there are so many genres, styles, languages and cultures in the films that one has to evaluate, and to equate them together and chose one over the other is often frustrating and a dilemma. But, competition does centre  world attention on cinema and that is how films are promoted. So, it is worth it in the end.

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