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Documentary 'Half the Picture' humanizes struggles of female directors

Documentary 'Half the Picture' humanizes struggles of female directors
Ava DuVernay in the documentary "Half the Picture." (Soraya Sélène)

We’ve read the news stories, and seen the studies about the lack of gender equality behind the camera in the film and television industry. The documentary “Half the Picture,” directed by Amy Adrion, takes those statistics and makes them human.

Adrion interviews experts and researchers, like Stacy Smith from the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, and Martha Lauzen from San Diego State University, but she also gleans stories from some of the highest-profile female directors working today about their experiences in Hollywood — their struggles, triumphs and the uphill battle the industry faces when it comes to creating a work force that’s representative of our population.

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Through stories of harassment and disrespect, from candid discussions about parenting to explorations of internalized bias, what comes to the fore in “Half the Picture” is the heartbreaking realization that so many talented female directors thought that they weren’t good enough, when all along they were being discriminated against for their gender. And this isn’t just anecdotal evidence — the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed charges against Hollywood studios for discrimination against female directors in February 2017.

Adrion’s film is a synthesis of a multitude of research and personal histories, and she presents the information starkly. But she also makes the choice to pull back, to show the apparatus of the filmed interviews, the female crew, and her role as director, in order to show us what we rarely see — women in charge of a film set. Those representations are necessary for new generations to see and model, and Adrion takes care to include these images throughout her film. With careful craftsmanship, “Half the Picture” is an important piece of testimony in the fight for the civil rights of female directors in Hollywood.

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‘Half the Picture’

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 34 minutes

Playing: Starts June 22, Laemmle Monica Film Center, Santa Monica

Filmmakers Amy Adrion and David Harris discuss their film "Half the Picture" and the changing Hollywood landscape for women.

FULL COVERAGE: Sundance Film Festival 2018 »

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