politics of representation (II)


Great panel discussion happening next week, Creating Progress: How Women Of Color Call The Shots, presented by New York Women in Film & Television. The panel seeks to answer: What are the unique challenges faced by black female directors as they pursue their careers? Are the stories they craft unique?

I was having this exact discussion on Sunday at a writers' brunch with some Hedgebrook and Pan African Literary Forum sisters (I didn't attend the latter, but heard from them it was amazing). I offered, in our discussion, that there are certain female patterns of communication--consensus-building, for one--that have to be suppressed in order to be a respected director. And, of course, you have to be ego-driven to a fault. But when you're talking about holistic creative thinking, the art direction/sound/lighting taken altogether, women might have an edge up.

Among other things, as a director, I need to work on my ego. I was raised to be humble and obedient and respectful; all the qualities that would make me a good African woman make for a terrible director. As for my race, I've never considered it a drawback in filmmaking. I think if any one is given access to the tools and principles of filmmaking, and studies the craft, they can make world class films with the best of them. And the old boys network, in my book, only exists to be vanquished, and I've got my sword ready.

At any rate, Tanya Hamilton--who's being billed as the only black female director at Sundance, though Kenyan Wanuri Kahiu's sci-fi short Pumzi took folks by storm--will be in attendance at the panel, talking about her feature film Night Catches Us.

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