Amanda. To start the interview I would like to ask you, how did it come up to your mind to create “Women and Film”?
Was it a long process ?
Natalie. Women and Film started as a personal research project. I wanted to seek out women directed films because I didn’t feel that they were as easily accessible or talked about. In film school I didn’t learn about any women directors really, and that saddened me so I wanted to make it a personal goal to find out about the women that were the trailblazers and pioneers of filmmaking as well as the contemporaries. It kind of organically grew from there where it started to become a community of like-minded women and men that were interested in learning more about women directors and seeking inspiration through cinema. As it grew I decided to turn it into something more tangible and useful, creating a website and events and resources that could service the community and serve as a platform for inspiration. What I want for it in the future is to help aspiring filmmakers and I am in the process of producing a female filmmakers screening series this summer with some other amazing women. I want it to be whatever the women in the community need it to be.
Amanda. An impression, a feeling, or maybe a stereotype. Are women viewers more attached to the story of a movie compared to men?
Natalie. I do feel that a lot of male directed films are less reliant on story but I’m not sure psychologically where this comes from. I think maybe women are more attached to story because we haven’t been able to tell ours? We pay more attention to details and perhaps analyze things more than male viewers? There are certain movies that I watch where I really feel like the writing/story is really weak like for example Drive or Under the Skin. Im not sure its a male thing though or more of a contemporary filmmaking problem that I’m hoping won’t last. I do feel that story is really important but it can be told in more ways than dialog. Imagery and nuance has a lot to do with it. Movies have so many moving parts that make them what they are and sometimes you just don’t know until after the movie is made if the story will come through or not.
Amanda. What is your role in the other project you’re part of, “Banshee Publications”? Tell us a bit about it.
Natalie. Banshee is in a really exciting transitional phase that I can’t really talk about yet but I have started working with them as film editor and we are in the process of developing film-related content for web and print. Rosie, the founder, is someone that when I first talked to her on the phone I just felt a strong connection with, our missions really align. We both want for women to be seen and heard but also for a different platform where importance is put on women’s voices and ideas which I feel some women’s platforms are lacking- some of them seem to be focused on body issues which in itself is really important. I really just want to celebrate a diverse group of women that are working and passionate and of all ages and sizes and minds and Banshee is all about that too. We are creating a sort of digital family in which I’m really happy to be a part of. We are at the beginning stages of our collaboration but I’m curating some film-related articles and video interviews that will be released soon!
Amanda. What makes women perspective unique from a directing point of view in today’s panorama?
Natalie. A woman’s perspective is unique as we have been silenced and oppressed for years. Our stories are just now being told. In American Cinema most of everything we’ve grown up watching is all from a male perspective but it is starting to change. We are still figuring out what the “female gaze” really is so I don’t think I can properly answer that question yet. What I do know is that women’s experiences are inherently different from men but are also unique amongst other women. I’m excited to see more perspectives in film rather than the white male perspective that has dominated thus far. I really believe in film as a learning tool. For people like me who grew up watching so many films and take them to heart, what we see on screen really matters so It’s important for women and people of color and anyone else that feels like an “other” to see images like them on screen that can be a part of their lives and shape how they feel about the world around them and themselves.
Amanda. Talking about Italian cinema, your favorite Italian actresses…
Natalie. I love Ornella Muti, something about her intrigues me so much. She has such a strength but softness in her face. I’m also a big fan of Italian horror films so Barbara Steele, Edwige Fenech, and Asia Argento are some of my favorites. There is something about Italian women that I find so beautiful, they are sexy and strong. Of course Monica Belluci, Sophia Loren, Isabella Rosselini, Claudia Cardinale, Virna Lisi… God there are so many amazing Italian women I could go on.
Amanda. And your favorite Italian movies ?
Natalie. I love Giallo and Argento films. Some of my favorite genre films are Suspiria, A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin, Blood and Black Lace, City of Women, Tenebre, Deep Red, I pretty much love any Giallo and Argento film ever made even the terrible ones. Visually they are the two directors that really inspired me in my 20’s and I’m constantly referencing them in my own work. I also really love I am Love and one of my most recent favorite Italian films A Bigger Splash – an almost perfect film in my opinion. Fellini is also a huge inspiration of mine. Roma and Satyricon are incredible visual feasts. Juliet of the Spirits… There are too many to mention. Italian cinema for me is visually un-parallelled. Call Me By Your Name was my favorite film this year!
Amanda. Which was the first contact you had with cinema as far as you can remember ?
Natalie. I think the first time I understood that movies were a form of art was when I watched The Adventures of Baron Munchausen as a kid. I realized that movies didn’t need to make sense logically and they were a visual language of their own. I had family members that were artists so I understood the idea of art but never thought that film was a medium until I was in college really.
Amanda. Was there a crucial moment when you decided it was going to be your life path?
Natalie. I guess this happened for me in the last 4 years or so. I studied art but never fully felt like a fine artist. When I discovered video art and experimental film I fell in love but it wasn’t until a couple years ago that I decided to dedicate my work to focusing on film. I never felt more passion than I did when I was on set. When I worked on someone else set all I could think about was making my own movies and I set out to do that. There are so many times where I second guess myself and wonder if this is the right thing… It is a really exhausting and difficult thing to do. I’ve been told by many veteran filmmakers if you don’t “have” to be working in film do something else because if you don’t “have” to do it it’s too hard/not worth it. I have always been someone who does a lot of things at once – which I suppose is true about me now since I do directing, production design, and run women and film, amongst other things. Filmmaking for me was the perfect medium to put all the things I’m good at and love into one form of expression.
Amanda. Talking about “our” much beloved Luca Guadagnino… How would you describe his way of doing movies ?
Natalie. I feel like his way of directing is almost an homage to classic filmmaking but done in a way that makes sense now. His films to me feel so perfectly orchestrated, they are fluid. Conceptually they are strong but not fantastical, he takes ordinary but makes it extraordinary by giving us characters that have depth. I feel like his films are a prime example of why story matters. While they are visually striking, the strength of them lies in the story and character development. They feel very “Italian” to me, with passion and love and soul. I don’t think the films would be the same if made by an American director, there is something about the importance of family, love, and sexuality that feels of a european perspective that I just adore in his films. They are a breath of fresh air.
Amanda. There’s another less known Italian director shooting wonderful movies in the US, always with non professional actors… His name is Roberto Minervini. Movies like “Louisiana”, “The Other Side” and “Low Tide” shaped my vision of contemporary cinema today. Do you know him?
Natalie. No, I don’t but I do now and I’m hoping to watch some of his films thanks to you!
Amanda. Is there today a particular emerging country (or scene) related to Women doing films ?
Natalie. I think there is a world-wide movement for more women behind the camera. In hollywood its been a slow but steady process into bringing more female-driven stories to the screen. I think the main battle is getting women directed projects funded and I’m hoping this will be something all countries are pushing for. Of course, there are other countries where women’s voices are not at the forefront and as i am american, I can’t speak to the climate there when it comes to film -related progress but I think from what I’ve seen its a global push. I’m constantly learning about more women directors of other countries and I will continue to share their work on the women and film platform.
Amanda. Is cinema to you still strictly attached to “the dark room’” or is it also valuable through modern means like streaming etc?
Natalie. While I love going to the theater, I do believe that streaming is an amazing thing. It is making more films available to more people and that is a great thing. I try and make sure to post where you can watch the films I share on Women and Film so that it’s not just an image or inspiration but a tool for seeking out more films to broaden our perspectives and add to our film libraries. For film geeks like me streaming just means you can watch and find more films, whats not to like about that!
Amanda. To conclude, two very difficult questions. Your favorite female character and your favorite female director of all times.
Natalie. Obviously, this is a really hard question because this changes depending on my mood or current obsession. Right now I would have to say my favorite female character would be Gena Rowlands as Mabel Longhetti in A Woman Under the Influence. Although I love strong badass women characters, something about the way she played Mabel just made me melt. She brought such a human, flawed, and honest portrayal to Mabel that I feel is needed in filmmaking. Women characters don’t have to be perfect and this is a prime example. Gena Rowlands is just incredible.
My favorite female director would have to be Claire Denis. I love the psychological realism in her films and how she portrays a diverse and dynamic cast of characters in her films. She’s one of the great voices of cinema and a huge inspiration to me.
Meet Natalie here!
Interview by Amanda Luna Ballerini.