Kitty Green, the filmmaker destined to subvert sexist stereotypes | Culture


“I thought about my own life and reflected: as a woman, when is the last time I felt afraid? And above all: was it a real fear or was it caused by inherited stereotypes?” says Kitty Green (Melbourne, 39 years old). The conversation takes place after a master class offered by the filmmaker during the last San Sebastian festival, and her phrase points to the place from which an artist who, after punching the table of the documentary world, is creating her work, reflected like no one else, the darkness emanating from a male figure of power like Harvey Weinstein (and in general from any predatory executive with pretensions and office) in The Assistant (2019). Now it has premiered in Spanish theaters Royal Hotel, the subversion of Western and horror clichés with which Zinemaldia competed in the past, and has once again confronted the public with sexist behaviors inherited and disseminated through culture.

Can cinema change the prevailing male narratives? “We need to broaden the conversation, for the industry to be a little more aware that there is not only one type of story, that we should all have the right to reflect our voice.” And that struggle has become the creative engine of the Australian. Green studied at the arts school at the University of Melbourne, her hometown, and after finishing she took advantage of the usual gap year for Australian graduates to tour Europe. She herself laughs at the image that can be revealed of her Slavic blonde physique. “My grandmother was Ukrainian, hence my physique. And that is why, faced with the old cliché that maldefined Ukraine and that was repeated on my trip through the continent, I decided to focus my first work on what, until before the invasion, many Westerners thought about that country,” she recalls.

Julia Garner (left) and Jessica Henwick, in ‘Hotel Royal’.

That’s where the inspiration for his first feature-length documentary was born, Ukraine is not a brothel (2013), which makes Green’s intentions clear from the title, and during the filming of which she was detained by Russian security forces. “It happened because the protagonists of the film are the activists of Femen, the feminist activist organization that was born right in Ukraine, although we forget today because its headquarters are in Paris,” she explains. Green and two members of Femen were harshly questioned by the police. “And I was lucky, because I am a foreigner.”

Kitty Green, director of the documentary 'Ukraine is not a brothel', among the female activists of the group Femen at the 2013 Venice festival.
Kitty Green, director of the documentary ‘Ukraine is not a brothel’, among the female activists of the group Femen at the 2013 Venice festival.efe

The filmmaker suddenly became known on the festival circuit; and in her following documentary she found that uneasy tone that emanates from her cinema. In Casting JonBenet (2017), the filmmaker investigated in the 2006 murder of JonBenét Ramsey, a six-year-old girl, queen of children’s beauty pageants, a case that shocked the United States and that still remains unsolved today. To tell it, Green decided to give the story one more twist and call and record a casting in the surroundings of Boulder (Colorado), home of the calf’s family, for a possible film on the subject. And through conversations with the volunteers, actors and fans, who come to give life to the Ramseys, the police chief and Santa Claus – the girl died the day after Christmas -, understand how the crime affected the community .

The two protagonists of 'Hotel Royal', in the room where they sleep on the upper floor of the bar.
The two protagonists of ‘Hotel Royal’, in the room where they sleep on the upper floor of the bar.

The success of the film opened the doors to the leap into fiction, and Green was one of the first filmmakers to face the Weinstein case with The Assistant, and not through one of the most famous film executives in history, but from Jane, a newly arrived assistant at his company. Behind the new work table is a door. Sometimes closed, sometimes ajar. From there a shadow rules her little empire. The audience never sees her face, but they do see her back, and they will hear her voice: it is Harvey Weinstein. And his behavior as a sexual predator and as a workplace abuser marks the journey of Jane and her colleagues. “Both in The Assistant, especially when you see the humiliations that Jane suffers and the sexual dalliances of her boss, as in Casting JonBenet, I wanted the audience to feel the tension. “Jane doesn’t know, like the viewer, exactly what is happening.” Which slides her film towards terror. “I wasn’t sure about that drift at its premiere, although I was sure that our society innately creates terror in many environments.”

From left, Toby Wallace, Hugo Weaving and Jessica Henwick, in 'Hotel Royal'.
From left, Toby Wallace, Hugo Weaving and Jessica Henwick, in ‘Hotel Royal’.

TO The Assistant The pandemic completely affected its commercial launch; In exchange, Green was able to lock herself away to write and decided to return home with Royal Hotel, to tell a story in deep Australia and to do it through two foreign backpackers who, after running out of money, agree to work in a slum in a mining town where the only escape route is to get drunk in that bar. “There is an inherent sexualization of the female condition that, thanks to the latest movements like MeToo, is beginning to disappear. In my work, I first start by choosing the topic, then I consider what interests me about that topic and finally what I can contribute,” she breaks down. “Here the tension is born from that culture of alcohol, which causes explosions of aggressiveness, and from the vast desert landscapes, which contrast with the claustrophobia of the office. The Assistant. The camera focuses on the reaction of the two protagonists, always alert, but it also tracks the clients, who, threateningly, watch the girls. Yes, it will be a Western because of the scenery and the characters, but it is terror because of what beats inside.”

The Hollywood star who wanted to save women

Both in The Assistant like in Royal Hotel, The director’s alter ego is actress Julia Garner, who has been building her career since childhood, and has won three Emmy awards and a Golden Globe for the series. ozarks (2017-2022). “His eyes allow me to convey many emotions. Here he builds an enigma: is his character crazy? Are they gaslighting him? Is it her or the world around her? ”She explains, because in this way Green constructs and destroys another archetype, that of the hysterical woman. “If you protest, you are problematic. If you only want to work and not talk, you are unfriendly. And if you complain, you will always be the hysterical one.” And part of the blame “lies with the cinema, with its prevailing narrative” in which when two hikers go alone through the world, they will end up murdered. “In Royal Hotel It flies over that topic, because indeed, I handle it in my favor. Instead, it is a film about women finding themselves, about their strength.” As an anecdote, he says that at the beginning of the project a Hollywood star entered the development, “and it would have opened many doors for us,” until he wanted to change the ending. “He said that a man, specifically his character, had to save the girls. That is to say, could they not get ahead on their own? She didn’t understand anything about the story.”

Actress Julia Garner and director Kitty Green, on the set of 'The Assistant' in 2018.
Actress Julia Garner and director Kitty Green, on the set of ‘The Assistant’ in 2018.

So, back to a reformulation of the initial question. Can your cinema change today’s world? “I don’t know if a film can change the dominant culture, although it can open other doors through which new narratives enter. And that the next generation of viewers, when they see a film about two female travelers, do not assume that they will have their throats slit on the way back.”

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