For Amnesty International USA, Monday night's benefit premiere of "The Handmaid's Tale" in Century City was the ideal combination of the right-themed movie arriving at the right time.
Wednesday the group celebrated International Women's Day with its focus on ending sexual inequality, and here was a film about women forced to be breeders in a not-too-far-in-the-future America controlled by militaristic fundamentalists.
"We're working for freedom, and the expression of freedom is the artist's job," said Amnesty Executive Director John Healey. "They're already in our pond; we don't have to pull them in."
Among the artists Amnesty pulled into the premiere, which raised $20,000, were co-star Victoria Tennant with husband Steve Martin; director Volker Schlondorff; Theresa Russell with her husband, director Nicholas Roeg; actresses Susan Anspach and Jamie Gertz, and KCRW's John McNally, who had just learned that the plug had been pulled on his highly regarded "Castaway's Choice" program.
The post-screening reception was held nearby at the Jade West Chinese restaurant, and the buzz on the film was divided. Photographer Helmut Newton called it "the right kind of propaganda for a good cause." An opponent said its representation of Orwellian sexual repression was "like an ad for having sex while wearing a vest."
It was a generally quiet party, with the only commotion coming when playwright-actor Sam Shepherd attempted to rush by the paparazzi . When it comes to having his picture taken, Shepherd is sort of the thinking man's Sean Penn. In brief: He ran, they ran, they collided.