I saw more great women-made cinema in 2019 than in any previous year. How disheartening, then, to note the extent to which the work of male directors continues to dominate film culture. In order to meaningfully and significantly shift the terrain of women’s cinema in the direction of equity, it is crucial to talk about the politics of evaluation. Why are certain films valued highly—appearing on lists, nominated during awards season, talked about on social media, written about at length—and other films less so?
It was the Year of Julia: in 2019 documentarian Julia Reichert received lifetime-achievement awards at the Full Frame and HotDocs festivals, was given the inaugural “Empowering Truth” award from Kartemquin Films, and saw a retrospective of her work presented at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. (The International Documentary Association had already given her its 2018 award.) Meanwhile, her newest work, American Factory (2019)—made, as have been all her films in the last two decades, with Steven Bognar—is being championed for an Academy Award nomination, which would be Reichert’s fourth, and has been picked up by the Obamas’ new Higher Ground company.
To accompany the two week revival playing at New York’s Quad Cinema (Wild Things: The Ferocious Films of Nelly Kaplan, April 12-25, 2019), Film Quarterly contributing editor Joan Dupont filmed a short interview with the Argentine emigré director Nelly Kaplan. Video recorded and edited by Manuel David.
In this wide-ranging yet intimate interview, the iconic French filmmaker Agnès Varda reflects on her career over tea with Film Quarterly contributing editor Joan Dupont. Varda discusses the themes of feminism and freedom that unite her films, from Le bonheur (1965) to Vagabond (1985) along with her enduring interest in sharing the stories of others, as she did most recently in collaboration with the visual artist JR in Faces Places (2017). Over the course of several conversations, Varda shares insights into her methods and obsessions, her enduring vision and constant reinventions.