Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Nikita was no Charlie's Angel

"I think that the best way to judge movies is 10 years after they're released. I don't think that the Academy Awards necessarily get it right. I think they get it wrong more often than they get it right."
-- Academy Award Winner, Matt Damon

Last week I had the honor of being a presenter for the 20/20 Awards a ceremony held in Seattle that annually revisits the Academy Awards, using the advantage of 20 years of hindsight to re-evaluate the choices made two decades earlier.

Now in its second year, the ceremony has consistently stripped previous Academy Award winners while also donning new awards to some films that weren’t even nominated 20 years earlier. I loved the concept when I first heard about it from my friend and 20/20 founder Kris Kristensen, but then became a complete convert last year when the award for Best Documentary was given by 20/20 to Michael Moore’s “Roger & Me”—a film that wasn’t even nominated by the Academy in 1990 yet completely changed the landscape of documentary filmmaking from that date onward.

So last week, I got the opportunity to present the 20/20 award for Best Foreign Language Film. And again, the 20/20 voting syndicate stripped the original winner of this award (Journey of Hopeever heard of it?) in favor of the French film La Femme Nikita.

La Femme Nikita wasnt even nominated in this category 20 years ago, yet it not only has endured as a stylish piece of cinema but it opened the door for a new genre of the female action hero.

I loved this film when it came out in 1990. In 20/20 hindsight of my own life path, this film not only inspired me to launch a career committed to women being represented in the media both in front of and behind the camera (Yay Reel Grrls!) but also inspired my 20+ year training in the martial arts.

However, the film critics hated Nikita. The LA Times called it An ultra-violent imitation of an American high tech urban thriller. Entertainment Weekly called it The Terminator re-imagined by French Vogue.

While La Femme Nikita is a violent film (it is secret agent thriller after all) I believe that the real criticism was fueled by critics and audiences not being used to seeing women exercise power in the action genre in a very raw and unapologetic way. Nikita was no Charlies Angelshe was scrappy, tough and morally ambiguous. She was punk. Nothing like the saccharin, botoxed male-fantasy female action heroes that have been spawned by Hollywood since then. In the same way that the music industry has tried to co-opt strong women musicians, indie grrl bands like Sleater Kinney blazed a trail that cant be commodified. Punk in sheeps clothing doesnt fly. Hollywood may say it likes Bad Girls but really it likes Good Girls who wear spandex.

In accepting the 20/20 Award for La Femme Nikita last week I assert that Nikita had something 20 years ago that hit a nerve and it hasnt been seen since. Final take-away? Nikita could kick Lara Crofts ass. Kudos to 20/20 for finally giving the icon Nikita the spotlight she deserves.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Getting ready for NCMR!

Here at Reel Grrls, we're getting ready to head to Boston for NCMR, the National Conference for Media Reform, a conference put on by Free Press that brings together activists, media makers, educators, journalists, artists, policymakers and students who care about the future of media, technology and democracy.

The last NCMR was in 2008 in Minneapolis, and Reel Grrls was there. Our students had recently completed Generation of Consolidation, a documentary about media consolidation and how it affects youth as consumers and media makers. Filmmaker Sami Muilenburg came with us and spoke on a panel about youth media makers.

She emphasized the importance of making "media that matters" and showed a clip from the movie. She also got to personally hand a copy of the film to FCC commissioner Michael Copps!

Three years later (aka NOW) Sami and Reel Grrls are on our way to NCMR again. Sami is coming down from New York to join us, where she is currently enrolled in the film program at NYU Tisch and is interning for the fabulous org People's Production House. This time around we will be hosting a hands-on workshop about integrating social justice and media justice issues into youth media work. We're excited to partner with two awesome Boston youth media organizations, Press Pass TV and ICA Teens, to make this happen. And we're especially excited to be presenting a workshop led by youth that is very hands-on. Attendees will get to learn and try out youth media activities, and we won't let them sit or snooze through our workshop!

If you're already attending NCMR, we hope you'll consider joining us for our workshop. It's called "New Faces of Media Justice" and is on Sunday April 10th from 10:00-11:30am. More info here:

If you're in the area and considering attending NCMR, don't worry if you haven't registered! You can totally walk in and register for the event on the spot. The presenter line-up for this year's conference is off the hook! We're excited to see one of our fave analysts of women in the media Jean Kilbourne, FCC commissioner (and net neutrality champion) Mignon Clyburn, playwright and performer Sarah Jones, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Hard Knock Radio host and hiphop activist Davey D, Laura Flanders of Grit TV, friend of RG and Center for Media Justice director Malkia Cyril and many many more (full list of presenters here).

One more shout-out: Reel Grrls is proud to be a part of MAG-NET, the Media Action Grassroots Network, a national network of community organizations working together for media justice. Members and allies of MAG-NET will be out in full force at NCMR this year, and they've put together this awesome list of events and workshops to check out while there.

That's it for now, but be sure to keep up with us via Facebook and Twitter for up-to-the-minute accounts of our time at NCMR. Stay tuned to this blog too for a debrief afterwards. And hope to see ya there!