Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Just So We Know, Rosie Perez Is So Boricua

Find  "Yo Soy Boricua, Pa'que Tu Lo Sepas!" on Video

Just So We Know, Rosie Perez Is So Boricua

(from TimesSquare.com 8/22/06)

Dating back to "Do the Right Thing" and "White Men Can't Jump," Rosie Perez has usually played women who talk fast and furiously and with such wit that the men around them often overlook the intelligence behind their words. Her equally endearing offscreen persona has been similar, with her wisdom being coupled with a strong and visible social consciousness.
And all that is certainly on display in Perez's deeply personal and ambitious documentary, "Yo Soy Boricua, Pa'que Tu Lo Sepas!"
Her enlightening exploration of the Puerto Rican experience and often unhappy history both here and on the island, debuts on IFC Monday, June 12, 9 pm ET/10 pm PT, one day after the 2006 National Puerto Rican Day Parade, on Fifth Avenue from 44th to 86th Street. This free-wheeling interview with Rosie Perez took place a few days before both events.Q: At the Tribeca Film Festival, you spoke about how you originally planned to make a narrative film about the systematic sterilization of women in Puerto Rico several decades ago. How did your project eventually evolve into this documentary?
Rosie Perez:
I wanted to do a motion picture narrative piece on the sterilization of Puerto Rican women but the people that I went to, kept telling me it wasn't true.
I was like, "What do you mean it isn't true?"

"Well, it didn't happen."
I said, "What do you mean it didn't happen?"
"Well, the women went for sterilization voluntarily."
And I was like, Oh my God, I couldn't believe they were saying this, and I said, "Well, then why were there sterilization clinics placed in factories? Well?"
And their response was, "Uh, uh…" And I said, "If major corporations were placing sterilization clinics in factories, and the factories were hiring mostly women, you don't think that there's something funny about that?"
I pointed out that there was a legislative act, 136, that said sterilization should be practiced on the poor and the malfunctioned, people who are not able to raise children and educate them in a proper manner. That government legislative act passed.
"There's nothing funny about that, is there?"
"Uh, uh…"
I showed them footage of Puerto Rican women who had been sterilized, and them saying "I didn't know what was happening to me. I didn't understand the word 'sterilized.' I thought it could be reversed, and I would try to have children later--but they said I was sterile and couldn't change it. Why didn't they tell me that?"
Or these women would say, "I went in to the hospital to give birth to a child, and after birth, I realized I got sterilized, and I never agreed to it. But then they said I did agree to it. And they said, well you have five kids already, so you should stop anyway." And I said to these people, "Those things did happen."
Nobody wanted to make the movie, and I just couldn't believe it. And so I just kept pressing on and doing other projects, but it was always on the back of my mind. I called my agent and said, "I got it. I'm going to prove it. I'm going to spell it out and I'm going to tell our whole history. I'm going to show how political policy can affect people. And show that with all that we went through, we were still here. And I'm going to wrap it around with people's personal stories."

ImageQ: Were you amazed by how little people know about this period of history and Puerto Rico?
In the documentary I say that when I was a little girl, people would ask, "What are you? What's a Puerto Rican? Where's Puerto Rico?" That was constant. So I wasn't amazed that people didn't know. What I was amazed about is why people didn't know. Even a large number of educated Puerto Rican Americans we interviewed did not know the history. It was like. "We went to Hunter College, and it's not taught there." It's not taught in the schools. So how can anybody know? Unless you take Puerto Rican studies in college, you're not going to know. Not even in Puerto Rico. Well, that's even further insulting, you know.

Q: Did you feel an obligation to make a documentary because you did know certain facts about Puerto Rican history?

RP: I felt an obligation even before I started producing. That was always the secret motivation for me to start producing: I wanted to get behind the scenes so that I could get enough experience, clout, and status to make movies that would speak to the Puerto Rican experience. I felt that in the early nineties. It was really weighing heavily on me and I think that is because I was "discovered."
I never really wanted to be an actress. I was going to college in Los Angeles and wanted to be a marine biologist. I thought I was going to be the female Jacques Cousteau and fight for the environment and stuff like that. The person that I was prior to Spike Lee was always a very socially conscience person. I was always that person. I felt like that part of me was slipping away, with the celebrity and all that stuff and I was like: How can I still stay in this industry, because I love it so much, and still be true to who I am?

Q: Perhaps you were distracted trying to establish your acting career. You've said in the past that after breaking through in "Do the Right Thing," you were typecast and only offered Latina roles.
RP: Yeah, so I didn't do those roles. I told my agent at the time to get me all the Jessica Lange  roles, and she laughed. I said, "If you keep laughing I am going to get me somebody else, for real." Then she got me "White Men Can't Jump." That part was supposed to be for an Irish-American woman.
Then my agent got me "Fearless,"  and that was originally was for an American-Asian woman and then Hollywood changed it to an Italian-American woman. I was the 85th person seen for that part. So I sat in that freaking hotel for three hours watching a parade of white girls going in and out of that room with Peter Weir and it was very intimidating and it was affecting my self-esteem in every possible way, because I'd think, "Oh, she is so cute," or "Oh, she is so skinny."
ImageEveryone thinks I just walk into a room like Jack Nicholson in "Batman," saying "Wait till they get a load of me!" But that wasn't it. I walked in the room and Peter says, "Would you like to sit down?" and I ran into the bathroom and stayed there for 20 minutes. 20 minutes!
Talk about breaking down some freaking doors, you know what I mean.
Anything in life that you really want, you just have to go for it. Sometimes I don't get the credit. I was like, "Wait a minute I didn't do that. I didn't play the maid. I didn't play the prostitute. I didn't play the cracked-out whore. Ok, I did that once."
I struggled and I pushed but I didn't want to do it in a whitewashed way. I wanted to have a different face there and to be honest I just didn't want to champion the rights for just Latin people, but for all people of color, including Asians who are even lower on the totem pole than us. I don't want to keep complaining because I'm not bitter, but let's make changes and let's keep it moving.

ImageQ: You avoid the subject of your acting career in your movie, but from the beginning, did you know you were going to go back and forth from Puerto Rican history and other people's stories to your own?
No, not my personal story. I always knew I was going to go back and forth between history and other people's personal stories. Because I was so touched by those women that were interviewed. I wasn't supposed to tell my personal story because I've always told the press it's off limits. I wanted everyone else to spill their guts, but I didn't want to be in it.
Liz Garbus  was my co-director and she and Rory Kennedy were my executive producers, and they ended up pregnant at the beginning of production. I couldn't believe it! And so, I'm going about doing directing and everything, and Rory said we had to get the narration down. I didn't feel like writing it and she goes, "Well, let's put you on tape."
So I would talk and talk and talk. And then I would start crying while I'm talking. Then I would talk and talk and talk, and then cry and talk and then, laugh and then talk. And my family was always around, and Rory called me in her office, and said. Listen, I feel that you need to be a character in the movie."
I said, "Oh hell no, oh, no. You're all hormonal because you're pregnant." But she's like, "If you wanna be a viable director and make this movie something special, you have to let go and just be in it." I think I told her off, but I finally gave in.

Rory and Liz. They were really protective. Liz was very, very respectful because I told her, "I am not ready to tell my whole story and I only want to tell the story that is specific to the documentary, and if anyone tries to push me further we're really going to have a problem."
She said, "I am not here doing an expose on you, and quite honestly, Rosie, those are not the kind of films I make." So it was great to have her there because she totally respected my privacy. And when one of the co-producers was pushing too much, she fired him. So that was great company to be in.

Q: How difficult was it to organize your film?
RP: I always knew how I wanted it. When I interviewed someone like Manny Diaz--he recently passed away, God rest his soul--I said, "Tell me about your childhood." He goes, "Are you doing a documentary on Puerto Rico?" And I said, "Yes, And I want to prove to people that Puerto Ricans have been here forever, despite what the movies have told us all."
And he goes "Okay." And then he would start telling a story and showing pictures and everything. I always knew it was going to be like that. The difficulty was explaining to everyone else how I wanted it to go. But once Liz and I got into the editing room together, it started to go so smoothly, it just started really like taking off. I was just surprised at how it came out much better than it was in my head.

Q: Was it hard to find archival footage to support what you knew happened on the island?
RP: It was really, really difficult and the production team at Moxie Firecracker Films was always calling me and asking, "Are you sure this happened?" And I said "Yes! Keep digging, keep digging, keep digging! I'll dig, too."
I was on the phone with the people at Hunter College and the people at the University of Puerto Rico saying you got to find me something. This wonderful woman named Blanca Velasquez was a professor and I'd drive her crazy with my requests, and she would send me piles of information and we just kept digging.
I wanted to include archival footage of the U.S. military teaching the Puerto Rican soldiers English. One of my relatives who served in WW1, told me he learned English when he enlisted in the army. 'Really?" "Yeah, I wanted to know how to say, 'He's shooting at you!' They taught us." That always stuck with me, so I go, "Let's find the footage on that."
And it was really, really difficult to find and to fact-check was even harder. Like for instance, the Agent Orange testing on Vieques Island. I remember Rory Kennedy  was like "Are you sure that happened?" And I said, "That's what I heard." And she said, "We are not putting that in unless we fact-check it."
Then they found that blow torch footage. But that kind of thing would keep me up at night. I worried that a story wasn't going to make it into the film because we couldn't fact-check it in time. Actually some parts didn't make it into the film because we just didn't have enough time and money to research it further to prove what we knew to be true.

Q: We were you worried about leaving anything out that was important politically or culturally?
Yeah, Liz and I had many arguments in the editing room because there was so much more material that was supposed to go into the documentary than what came out. I kept saying, "We have to put this in and we have to put that in." And she'd say, "If we do that you're going to have a freakin' miniseries." And I said, "Oh let's do that!" She said, "We don't have the money, we have 90 minutes, Rosie. So pick and choose." And that was really hard. But it was great advice. The great thing about not trying to include everything is that it is inspiring other people to research those missing stories or go tell those stories themselves.
Q: In the movie, you learn about your own family.
I was discovering people I never met before. And I had thought I was going to tell my family about something that they didn't know. My cousins didn't know, but the other family was like "Oh yeah, we know that story. Your great, great grandfather, yeah, he was all over the island with the women. You probably have more half-brothers and half-sisters and half-cousins than you know about." When I told my family I was doing the documentary and I was coming down to Miami to interview them, they were like, "Oh, cousin so-and-so wants to be in it," and I'm asking, "Who's that?" Even after the documentary, I am still discovering family members. Thank God for the Internet, because I just found out I had a relative who used to fight for women's rights in the 1800's. And a relative who wrote a novel and a relative who was a well respected doctor on the island. I also found out that I have a cousin-in-law who's an actress, Julie Diaz. It's just been an incredible and fantastic journey, and I did not expect it.

Q: In the movie, one of the men you interviewed, your friend, writer/actor/dj Bobbito Garcia, says he was born in New York and learned English first. Do you think people within the Puerto Rican community are discriminated against because they don't speak Spanish?
RP: That definitely still happens. And I think that's just insecurity by Puerto Ricans who are fearful that the culture is slipping away. And what they don't understand is that it's not. I don't think that it's just a Puerto Rican thing. I think it's an American thing. When people immigrate to this country, a lot of parents with misguided intentions want their children to be assimilated so that they can be successful and not have to endure the same pain they endured. And as an adult, when I sat back and looked at it, I was like, "Wow, I guess my mother was really looking out for me. She didn't want me to go through what she did, so she said, 'You're going to speak English.'" When I talk to Puerto Ricans who chastise the non-Spanish speaking Puerto Ricans, I say, "You gotta stop. You're perpetuating a lot of negative shit that we shouldn't be doing. I mean, we have enough against us. They were never taught, so why don't you ask their parents about that, instead of judging them?"

Q: You have a section in your documentary on the Young Lords, who are really a part of New York history, and the socio-political history of the 60's that has often been overlooked. Do you have affection for them?
RP: I always had an affection because I remember my cousin Titi, God rest her soul. I remember the day when I was about five years old, when I was out with my aunt, right next to her, and she came barreling into the house one day. "Mami, mami, oh my God, you should have seen these Puerto Ricans. They're walking in the street, and they had these berets, and everything. And now they're on the TV on the news tonight. I told you! I told you!"
I remember that throughout the '70's, her dressing like a Young Lord. It was so funny. She had the beret, and the double-breasted, three-quarter leather jacket. And she thought she was so cute, and she was--I have to give it to her. And that's why I had great affection. She was always so fascinated by them, and I was fascinated by her. So I always remember that.

ImageQ: How long did it take to edit your movie?
Initially it took only two weeks to do a rough cut. I give the credit to Moxie Firecracker. They have a mini-editing bay in their offices, so while we were shooting we were downloading and cutting and snipping. It helped that I had such a concise outline already. So we knew what we were doing.
The parade is what changed the most in the documentary, because I thought there was too much of it in the initial cut. I said, "The parade is a symbol of all that we endured, but the movie's not about the parade." And then, after we handed in our final cut, I still wasn't happy with the positioning of the story of the parade and I had one day to re-edit. That's when I made the decision to bookend the documentary with the parade. So editing took a total of maybe three weeks.

Q: The parade is still important in your film because it shows the celebration of Puerto Rican pride.
RP: An ex-boyfriend of mine called me the other day. He hates that I'm saying this story. I say, "Would you shut up. I'm not saying your name at least." He called me up and said, "I hear you're doing the Puerto Rican Day Parade . I hear your people all the way over here in Brooklyn, all the way across the river. Y'all are so damn loud. What the hell are y'all so damn loud about? And I said, "Because we're proud."
He goes, "What the hell you guys got to be proud about? Ha, ha, ha."
I hung up on him. He's still my friend. You know, I can't blame him that he's stupid. I mean, he's cute, but he's not the brightest color in the rainbow.

Q: How did you get Jimmy Smits involved as your narrator?
I was friends with Jimmy prior to the film. Actually, I met him years ago at a Puerto Rican Day Parade in New York, when he was the Grand Marshall and we've stayed friends ever since. We became closer when I started doing theater. We're both from Brooklyn.
I guess we speak the same language and stuff and we're both kind of political activists to some degree. Jimmy is really, really smart in regards to Puerto Rican history, so I knew that there would be no need for a lot of explaining. I knew he would totally get it. He said yes right away, so that was pretty amazing.
Q: Now that your film's made, do you feel an obligation to go out and talk to people and make presentations?
I was asked by Harvard and Northwestern to come speak in regards to this movie. I'm happy to speak, but I don't feel like its my obligation. I felt a burning responsibility to make this documentary, but beyond that, whatever happens happens. I feel like I did this, and there's so many other people that can continue the discussion besides myself. There are other people who could do justice to what they're asking me to talk about.

Q: In your film you are critical of how the United States has treated Puerto Rico historically, but it's still obvious in the movie that you're proud to be American.
RP: People are always asking me, "Are you going to retire to Puerto Rico?" I say I would love to retire to upstate New York. I love the United States and wouldn't want to live anywhere else. But my love for the United States doesn't always mean I like what it does.
I don't like the current administration, you know what I mean, but I still love our government system. I don't like a lot of the things that have been done to Puerto Rico, but I still love America. A lot of people are surprised that I am so patriotic. But what did bother me was that it should have been bigger news when the government ran out of money in Puerto Rico.
ImageThey'd say on television, "The government in Puerto Rico shut down. Our next story is…" Are you kidding? I remember when I first heard that, because my brother Tito actually called me a week before it shut down. He says, "You know the government's running out of money."
I said "what?" He goes, "They're laying off workers left and right." I said, "But its not on the news." He said, "You see how they do us." I was like, "Get outta here. This government is not going to run out of money. We're the United States of America." He goes, "We ain't."
And then it happened, and I was really angry that the news coverage wasn't more extensive. It really pissed me off, you know? It wasn't right. The Catholic Church had to step in to save the day. That's pathetic. We're spending so much money to liberate Iraq, and we can't take care of our own territory. What the hell's going on?
It's also insane that Puerto Ricans can't vote for United States president. If you're a state, you have the right to vote for the president. But we are a commonwealth, which is a U.S. territory, voluntarily, and the issue of autonomy is so great right now, especially with the collapse of the government.
In regard to whether I want statehood versus independence versus "as is" versus none of the above, I always feel that it's not my opinion because I don't live there and I don't pay the taxes. It's their problem and their issue.
Wen you go to Puerto Rico, it is a different situation. The poverty level is different, the pay level is different, everything is different down there, and they have to live under those conditions, so they should be the ones responsible for the decision of their status. But the issue of not being allowed to vote for president always has bothered me, because if you pay taxes and you can be drafted, and you are willing as a patriotic American to fight for your country and die for your country, then God-dang-it, at least be allowed to vote for President.

Puerto Ricans have fought in all of the wars, which isn't told in history. So in "Saving Private Ryan," where were the Puerto Ricans? You know, more than half of the men on the island fought in WW2. Puerto Ricans also fought in WW1. You never see that in the movies. "Gone With the Wind" drives me crazy, because Puerto Ricans were all over the South. Where do you think yams came from? Seriously, they did. And it was like, "Where the hell are the Puerto Ricans?"  To me it's infuriating, because my father and my uncle served in WWII and the Korean war and my uncle enlisted in Vietnam, because they love America that much. But they can't vote for president.
I still want to do the female-sterilization story. I also want to do films that have nothing to do with Puerto Rico. Like I said, I love this industry. It's a blessing. I love acting. I love directing. I love producing. I also love being on the stage. I want to take full advantage of all those areas as much as possible.                                                                                                                                                  Q: Are you going to do another play soon?
Oh, I'm hoping, I'm talking, I'm talking. It's Broadway, but I don't want to jinx it. Let's all keep our fingers crossed. I can't wait. And it's weird. Every time summer comes around, and the Tony's come around, I get that feeling "I wanna go back. I wanna go back" It's really a strong feeling in me.                   
Q: Do you have other social issues that you're passionate about, that are in your mind as of late?
Well, I have my AIDS activism. We protested in front of the UN yesterday. Got minimal news coverage, which is sad. Also, I still fight for children's rights and children's education. I have my own charity called
The Working Playground. I'm on the Board. I truly believe opportunity separates an underprivileged child from a privileged child. And so I always champion that, as well.Q: Finally, why are you so proud to be Puerto Rican?
I think the documentary speaks for itself. 'Cause that's why I made it. To answer that question. Hopefully, people who see it will be moved and inspired.

Rosie Perez

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Is The World Before Her?

Playing in Film Festivals

Is The World Before Her?

(from brinkzine.com 5/23/12)
worldbeforehernishaderek.jpgNisha Pahuja and Derek Rogers
Ever since I saw Nisha Pahuja's endlessly enlightening The World Before Her a few days before it was selected Best Documentary at the recent Tribeca Film Festival, I have thought about it. I wonder what has happened to her two young, fascinating subjects since the acclaimed Canadian director turned off her cameras. I still care about Ruhi Singh, the epitome of the "modern" Indian woman who competes in the 2010 Miss India contest, and Prachi Trivedi (with finger raised), the angry, brilliant quasifeminist, whose potential for being a proponent for women's rights is being squashed, paradoxically, by the Hindu fundamentalism to which she devotes her life. From a place of ignorance, I also try to fathom the changing India and all its complexities. After the movie, which was produced by Pahuja and Cornelia Principe and executive produced by Ed Barreveld, was voted Best Canadian Feature at Hot Docs, Pahuja herself was mystified about why her film about these two young women in a far-way world "was striking a chord with people here." Here's a possible reason. On the surface it is only about two young non-celebrity women across the world who we'd never know of if not for the movie. It seems to be only about them and, as an extension, women in modern and not-so modern India. But my guess is that it is really about zillions of women all around the world and their similar issues, primarily their desire for freedom. Going further, it is about how India, their country and Pahuja's second country, relates to all of us, particularly as the most populated democracy in the world becomes more Westernized.
In the film's production notes, Pahuja (who won Gemini Awards for Bollywood Bound and the series Diamond Road) states: "I have been going to India now for nearly 15 years and the more time I spend there, the more I realize what India does best is teach. It teaches one to see that assumptions are never safe and nothing is simple. Sabira Merchant, one of the pageant voices in the film, says, 'There are two Indias.' I would say there are many Indias and they are doing battle with each other now, just as they always have been. The battle I chose to focus on is the battle between tradition and 'modernity,' fundamentalism and capitalism, and how it plays out on the bodies of women. In some ways what hangs in the balance is not just the future of women in this country but the very future of the country itself--for how can democracy flourish in a place so obsessed with sons it aborts 750,000 girls every year? Distressing. But I remind myself that profound change can only happen slowly and it is futile to hate or judge. Time is not the same the world over....India is at a very interesting crossroads and more and more, women are demanding to be heard. Sadly, just as they are staking their claim in this new country, so the violence and oppression against them continues to mount. As history has shown repeatedly, however, freedom has to be fought for and so, women are fighting." Near the end of the TFF, I did the following interview with the extremely personable and engaging Nisha Pahuja over breakfast. That night, I was delighted that her film won the festival's top documentary prize.
Danny Peary: I read that you live in Toronto. Are you known in the documentary community there?
Nisha Pahuja: Yes, Im part of the community. I live in Toronto but am there only about half the time. I go back the forth between Toronto and Bombay.
DP: Have you liked being at the Tribeca Film Festival?
NP: It's fantastic. I love being here, particularly since the Tribeca Film Institute helped the film financially. Gucci was partnered with it to support three films with women-centered issues, and ours was one. They actually approached us. In November 2009, we were invited to pitch the film at IDFA, the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam. Ryan Harrington, who is with the Institute, saw the pitch and invited us to submit the film.
DP: The pitch must have been much different from the final film.
NP: Yes, actually. The pitch was that we were going to follow girls through the Miss India pageant. The Durga Vahini fundamentalist camp that is in the film wasnt part of it.
DP: Is Durga Vahini known all over India?
NP: Durga is an Indian warrior goddess and Durga Vahini means essentially an Army of Durga. Its camps take place all over India and there are about three hundred girls who attend camp every year. Everyone knows about the male right-wing Hindu fundamentalist groups but very few know about the Durga Vahini. I found out from Prachi.
DP: So originally you had no thought of having a parallel story about a girl in the Hindu fundamentalist camp? NP: No, but the pitch did include the fundamentalists. We always had that angle as part of the film.
DP: Was "the angle" that Hindu fundamentalists are against the pageant?
NP: Yes. The fundamentalists were preparing to protest the pageant and we were going to follow that. They don't protest annually, just every few years, and it turned out that they didn't protest in 2010. So I looked elsewhere. I knew I had access to the beauty pageant in which Ruhi would be a contestant, but since I hadn't gained access yet to the camp, it wasn't part of my pitch. However, I had met Prachi.
worldbeforeherprachi.jpgPrachi Trivedi
DP: How did you meet her?
NP: Basically through the editor of a right-wing newspaper, whom I met through one of the bigwigs in the fundamentalist movement. I told him I wanted to talk to people on the ground, real foot soldiers who engaged in acts of violence and were willing to die for the cause. He introduced me to a number of young people. Prachi stood out.
DP: Where do Prachi and Ruhi live?
NP: Prachi lives in Aurangabad, which is where her camp also took place, though camps happen across India. Ruhi is from Jaipur, though I believe now she is living in Bombay.
DP: Among the minor characters in the beauty pageant scenes is Pooja Chopra, whose brave mother took her and left her husband, who wanted to kill their female baby. Your film basically sets up a parallel between Prachi and Ruhi, so was Pooja also part of your original concept? And where does her story come in thematically?
NP: I met Pooja in 2009 during a research trip. It was then that she told me about nearly being killed as a newborn. After she won the 2009 Miss India pageant I knew I had to follow her for a bit and have her as a minor character. The idea at that point was that I would focus on the 2010 pageant and we would meet Pooja organically through that storyline--often the winners of earlier pageants come in and meet the present batch of girls. So we would introduce her that way and then her trajectory would be: former winner who is on her way to becoming well known gives up her crown in 2010. We shot all that but we weren't able to raise the money to shoot the 2010 training camp and pageant so we weren't sure if we were going to be able to make Pooja work in the film. It was only after Prachi told me about being grateful that her father hadn't killed her at birth that I knew we had to get Pooja into the film, too, because thematically that is a moment when both worlds come together and in such a powerful way.
DP: For me the editing process, going back and forth between the two stories, would have been the most difficult part of making this film.
NP: It was. I work with a brilliant editor named Dave Kazala. It took months for us to look through and process all the footage. Then the film took shape in the editing room. We knew we wanted to parallel the two worlds but we structured the film so that there would be an intersection of the worlds. We knew a direct collision wasn't going to happen because there wasn't going to be a protest by fundamentalists of the pageant. So we couldn't build toward that physical collision. Instead we built toward an ideological collision of the two belief systems. That's how we structured the film. We decided that each time we went to one of the worlds, we would learn something else; and that the film would progressively grow darker and darker.
DP: You had a woman from each of those worlds in your film, which creates a pretty easy parallel, but did you in reality think they had parallel lives and dealt with some of the same issues?
NP: Without a doubt. They live in the same country, they share the space. The reality of India is the reality of India and they just happen to be living in these two parallel universes. The intersections are very clear. They're struggling with the same things as women. There's one scene I deeply regret I couldn't include. I am chatting with one of the girls in the fundamentalist camp and I ask her what she wants to be when she grows up. She answers, "An aeronautical engineer." I was blown away and ask her if she'll be able to do it, and she says, "Probably not because my parents want me to get married. I don't want to get married, I want to be an aeronautical engineer." I asked her why she didn't want to get married and she said beautifully in Hindi, "Because I want to carve my own identity in this world, I want to live my dreams. And I don't want to marry a man and be known because of him--I want him to be known because of me." I wish I could have kept it in because it makes you realize that all the women in this country just want the same thing, which is freedom. But all these things are being imposed on them.
DP: Prachi is Hindu, but what is Ruhi?
NP: Ruhi is Hindu, too. In fact about 80% of the people in India are Hindu, and certainly the girls in the pageant were. It's safe to assume that the majority of the girls in the pageant are religious--most people in India have a belief in God or a higher power and are religious---however, most are not fundamentalists.
DP: At the beginning of the film, the pageant is presented almost like a feminist, political alternative, an opportunity for women to achieve economic equality with men, but as we watch it unfold, we see that something is off.
NP: It was deliberate that we portrayed the pageant as being so beneficial to women at the beginning, but then we kind of destructed it. In both camps actually, we start off lightly and simply introduce the world. Each world appears to be one thing and then it becomes darker.
DP: There is a parallel drawn immediately when you introduce a beauty camp and a fundamentalist camp. I'd say there is an indoctrination process in both, but at least the contestants can leave after the pageant is over and not be under anyone's influence.
NP: Yeah, but even the pageant girls are indoctrinated in some sense. They're taught diction, they're taught how to speak in a certain way, they're taught how to walk in a certain way. Once the three winners are selected, they will actually do training with knives and forks. They'll learn etiquette and how to eat properly. They'll be polished for when they go on to international pageants. They do change through an indoctrination process, physically and in their thinking. There is also a change in the way they look at themselves and in their world view--they become more Westernized. A lot of these girls come from small towns and their families may be more liberal than Prachi's family, but they still come from relatively conservative environments.
DP: The contestants in the pageant initially seem to be independent thinkers, but then we see them follow all orders from pageant officials and almost totally conform. The one thing people reacted to at my screening was when during the middle of the pageant some of the contestants get Botox treatments because that's what the pageant doctor suggested. Were you surprised to hear people gasp?
NP: Yes! I wasnt sure if people were reacting because it was young women undergoing this treatment or because there was a bit of coercion. The women could have turned it down.
DP: It seems like there is a step-by-step process for the contestants and that one step is Botox. It's like in The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy gets the Hollywood treatment before she's allowed to meet the Wizard.
NP: Exactly. There was actually a girl who refused the Botox treatment, but most of them go through with it. They do it because the doctor comes on the second or third day of training and does a facial assessment and body assessment of each girl. He tells them what's perfect and imperfect,what they need, and where they're going to inject the Botox. It's incredible.
DP: For me there were a few scenes where they all look alike. It's not that they're Indian. I'll watch a beauty pageant of contestants from the Midwest and they all the look the same, too. I can see there are several contestants in the Miss India contest, like Ruhi and Ankita, who dont look at all alike really but when they're all together and made up and dressed similarly, they do all look alike.
NP: It's funny when Ruhi's parents are going, "Which one is she?" They can't tell them apart.
DP: Ankita was one of the three winners. I won't say how Ruhi did, but I thought she was the prettiest contestant.
NP: I'll tell her you said that. She'll be so happy. Shes lovely, isn't she? She has a very unconventional beauty.
worldbeforeherRuhibikini.jpg Ruhi Singh
DP: Are the losers totally disappointed or is it a positive experience?
NP: It's fantastic. Even if you don't win, you are given incredible visibility. That pageant is watched nearly a billion people around the world. There are a lot of people in the beauty and fashion industry and the film industry who watch the pageant to look at the women. Once you've had that kind of training from people who are the top of their fields, photographers and fashion designers all want to work with you. Bollywood is the peak, the goal of all the contestants.
DP: Ruhi has the beauty to do it.
NP: It's interesting you'd think that because in India she wouldnt be considered beautiful at all. She has a very unconventional thing going on and has an amazing personality so she's reality show material. She'd be seen as someone who would be great on TV. We shot the selection process when they had 120 girls and narrowed that down to 20. Some of the girls who were turned down knocked your socks off. I couldn't believe it. But they were too dark or weren't tall enough. Ruhi was told that her nose was too big. So she doesn't have a feminine enough nose to make it in Bollywood.
DP: You say that all the losers have a lot of options but isn't their confidence about their looks kind of destroyed? Especially since the doctor pointed out their flaws.
NP: Oh, yeah, it does affect them. It's devastating when they lose. Even when they're competing it's difficult for them because although there is a real camaraderie among the girls, they are always competing against and comparing themselves to each other. There was one girl named Shweta who was very smart and was constantly questioning what was going on. She refused the Botox, thinking, It's ridiculous, I'm twenty, I'm here because people think I'm beautiful, I don't need this. Her choices didnt affect her chances of winning. She was beautiful and smart. The judges have their own criteria. When you go into that environment you can pretty much tell who is going to win. I've predicted the winner every year from the first year to the year I shot this film.
DP: I won't give away who won the pageant but I thought she won because she told the judges in the question and answer part of the competition that young girls can set an example for mothers who didn't have opportunities. Was that the perfect answer?
NP: It was a great answer because it was delivered with real spontaneity. It seemed to come from her heart. She was very articulate.
DP: You show Prachi watching the pageant with her mother when the winner says that.
NP: I believe that both she and her mother would think about what was said. Prachi is a very interesting woman. In some ways she is a real feminist. Her mum clearly is a little afraid of her husband, Prachi's father, so I wonder if that statement moved her.
worldbeforehergun.jpg Graduation ceremony at Durga Vahini camp
 DP: Everybody responds to her so it's a huge shame that she has the wrong outlet for her thinking. She's being misdirected.
NP: Absolutely. I told her, "You're fighting for something that's oppressing you."
DP: Part of her seems to know that. She even says it in the movie.
NP: Yes, it was a heavy conversation. I thought it was a deeply sad moment for her. It was tough.
DP: She's fighting something or trying to break out of something, but she can't do it because her restrictive, fundamentalist father is ready to marry her off. If she went off to college, would that change her life?
NP: She is in college, though we didnt get into it. She's twenty-six and lives at home but she attends a local government-run law school near her house. She is around these other young people and it definitely has affected her level of confidence.
DP: I hope she's also affected by her classmates divergent views.
NP: I'd like to think that but every time I speak to her and ask her about her beliefs, it's clear that she hasn't changed and she's still working for the movement. So college doesn't seem to have impacted her belief system. I'm surprised. She's an incredible woman and I feel that if she'd been born in a different time and place or had a less complicated relationship with her dad she could channel her energy--which is so huge --into something positive and amazing.
DP: How did you feel about her father, who, too, is stuck in a culture?
NP: To be honest, I grew to really like him. I liked him because he has integrity and is a man of his word. I know that what he believes in is totally misguided and destructive and that he does have an ego, but he really is motivated by something bigger than himself. He has a particular vision and a love for India and he works tirelessly for what he feels is the betterment of his country. Some of the things he laments I can understand--like the Westernization of India. It's important to note that the fundamentalists aren't opposed to modernization--they want infrastructure, paved roads, better education, technology--but they reject the materialism and influence of Western culture that many in the middle class there are equating with modernity. I also empathize with Prachi's dad because as you say, he too is a product of this culture and his country's history.
DP: I was surprised that he admitted he beats Prachi.
NP: I already knew that from Prachi so I wasn't surprised, but that he admitted to me on camera that he beats her was extraordinary. I felt it spoke to the fact that he really trusted me. I spent so much time with him and her that things in their relationship didn't really surprise me, except for his heating up the iron bar to burn her foot. That was shocking, as was what she said, that he had a right to do it because he had let her live when she was born. It's so sad. Those moments were very difficult for me. With Prachi, at least I could be honest and react, which I did. As a filmmaker you have to let people say their peace, and then you respond.
DP: Prachi's father is conservative in that he states she won't be a woman until she is married and has a baby, but he doesn't distinguish between a male baby and a female baby and that is more progressive than are many fathers in India.
NP: I asked him if he wanted a son. Of course, he wanted a son, which is why he raised Prachi as a boy, but he told me that he and his wife decided that they were going to have only one child and that they were going to accept whatever gender that child was. They didn't keep trying until they had a son.
DP: Talk about your choice of title. I'm sure it has more than one meaning, perhaps that there is a modern India but there is a misconception that everything is modern and nothing is anti-modern. There's a bit of irony when you see the title and realize Prachi's future is limited. I think your title might have a question mark after it, but nobody wants a question mark.
NP: The title is many things. Her in the title refers to the women of course, but also to India. It's also the World Before India. Before has the common meaning--"here it is laid out for you"--and it also refers to the past, the world that existed before.
DP: In regard to your first meaning of Before, are you talking about opportunities the women have--which is what I think your film is about?
NP: Sure. The "world as it's laid out" for you is opportunities in the future. It's also that these opportunities are yours for the taking. The title came to me when I was writing the proposal and thought of an image. This whole beauty pageant industry came into prominence in 1994 when two Indian women won the Miss World and Miss Universe pageants. This launched pageantdom in India. Sushmita Sen, who was Miss India and then Miss Universe that year, was the one who really started it all. There is an image of her back then that I found on the internet. She was nineteen and stunning and just full of optimism. It's an amazing photograph of hope and life before this ingenue. The world was at her feet and that's where my title came from. And then the title took on other meanings, too.
DP: Do you think of your film as optimistic or cautionary or just a glimpse at what's going on with women in India today?
NP: I think it's a glimpse of what's going on. Ninety minutes can never be the whole picture, right? There are always so many other complexities and viewpoints. But I decided to focus very deliberately on these two choices, between modernity--so-called "modernity" actually--and tradition. Because they are fundamental choices. It really looks at how women are used to put forth two different ideas of India.
DP: What do you mean by "used?"
NP: Women have always been used to promote national identify.
DP: In the film's production notes, you questioned whether the girls in the pageant, who think they have all kinds of freedoms, may be "simply trading one set of shackles for another." You ask, "When so much goes into making us who and what we are, do we not have to question the very notion of freedom itself?" Are you saying that to have freedom without having a a social conscience or an understanding of the politics in the world is useless and dangerous?
NP: That makes sense. I looked at those women in my film and felt they were trapped. Both sets of women. I looked at Prachi's father and felt the same thing, because patriarchy is also a construct and all constructs define us and give us parameters. Rules are outlined for men and women. Men are victimized by being defined, although not to the same degree as women and they are the ones in power. Not all of them want to be in that position. That is another reason I didn't dislike Prachi's father. I felt he was a product of something--culture, history, the forces of the present day--that is so much bigger than him. I started to think how all of us are defined, no matter where we are, by things bigger than ourselves, that we can't control and sometimes can't see and recognize. So how do we define freedom? Are the women in the pageant freer than the fundamentalists or is it a different kind of imprisonment?
DP: I'm surprised that Prachi was allowed to go to college by her father. I wondered if she even had a cell phone.
NP: Oh, yeah. She's connected to the world; she's on Facebook, the whole bit.
DP: What would it be like if she and Ruhi were roommates?
NP (laughing): I think Ruhi would give her a makeover. That's how they'd start! Prachi would teach Ruhi how to defend herself. When I spent time with Prachi while doing research, I was amazed by the way she intimidated men. They'd run away, literally. There was once a group of men on the street and they all ran away. She's an imposing figure. She's about 5'7" and is stocky and powerful, with a booming voice. She scares people. She's gotten into so many fights, including knife fights at Hindu festivals. She carries a knife with her.
DP: Would Prachi try to indoctrinate a roommate?
NP: Oh, yeah. She tried to indoctrinate me! Constantly. One of her conditions for my shooing in the camp was that I had to sit through the lectures. But they were in Marathi and I don't speak it. So I wasn't brainwashed.
DP: Did you two hug?
NP: Oh, yeah, of course! Constantly! I love her. I think what she saw me as kind of an older sister or maternal figure. She didn't ask me about the world but I was a confidant. There were lots of things she told me both on and off camera that I didn't use because I didn't want to expose her.
DP: Her world is so different than yours so I wonder if you said something untrue to her if she'd see through you or be naive enough to accept it. Because there is such falseness going on in her world.
NP: You're right. But she's very smart and gets it. She has real integrity. What I found with the fundamentalists is that, as far out there as they are, the ones that I dealt with had an ethos, and that ethos gave them integrity.
DP: In the film's production notes, you wrote about how filming the fundamentalists turned out to be easier than filming the pageant world because every time you wanted to film a contestant she'd be whisked away for some reason. You wrote: "So I lost hair and ate."
NP: It was constant, and I was going, "I'm not going to have a film." The film I sold was that I was going to follow girls through the process and that meant I'd have access to them. I wasn't getting access so we'd just shoot whenever we could. It was really flying by the seat of our pants. We were lucky in that the girls were just so smart. And Ruhi was a trooper. She had no issues about being filmed. She loved being on camera and always wanted to do it. She was so open and wore her heart on her sleeve.
worldbeforehercontestants.jpg 2010 Miss India pageant

DP: It was easy to relate to her parents. They appear to be lower middle-class and they figured she knew more about what she was doing, so didn't put restrictions on her.
NP: They totally let her go. Her parents are actually well off but it doesn't come across because they live in such a ramshackle home. That's a whole other story. But they aren't poor. Ruhi's mum comes from a military background. Her father and granddad were in the military. When you're in the military in a place like India, you automatically have a much more open world view and you're more liberal. So she was raised in a liberal household and she is married to a lovely man and they support and love their daughter and let her do what she needs to do. They're really proud of her and want her to succeed. And Ruhi wants to make them proud. DP: What if you put the two fathers together?
NP (laughing): I actually think they'd get along really well. They'd have tea and complain about their daughters and how much money they cost them.
DP: Would Prachi's father ask him if he knew any eligible young guys?
NP: Probably not! I think Ruhi's dad is too liberal for him to ask that of him.
DP: Prachi's 26, so is it hard to marry her off?
NP: In some circles it would be. Her family is getting nervous but I don't think they'll freak until she hits twenty-eight or thirty.
Prachi teaching at camp
DP: She says she doesn't want to have kids. Do you think that's true?
NP: Yes. She doesn't want to get married or have children. She wants the freedom of a man.
DP: Has Prachi seen the film yet?
NP: No. I will be showing the film to her and others when I soon return to India. Hopefully they will still want to talk to me!
DP: Showing the film to Prachi should be an experience. She'll either love being a movie star or become a film critic and question what you chose to leave out of her! Good luck!
NP: I imagine Prachi is going to smoke a big fat cigar and tell me exactly what I did wrong.
DP: I'm sure you hope the best for both girls, but what do you see ahead for them?
NP: I'm a lot more optimistic about Ruhi. I think her road will be much more straightforward. She has very supportive parents who will back her and love her. I think we'll see her on television. Prachi will have a tough time, a very challenging life. But I think she'll get through it. I really do.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Hysterical "Hysteria"

Playing in Theaters

The Hysterical "Hysteria"

(from brinkzine.com 5/17/12)

hysteriamovieposter.jpg Maggie Gyllenhaal, Hugh Dancy on poster
No, Hysteria is not a fifties horror movie by gimmick-crazy William Castle, but a new romantic comedy about the invention of a device that is far from being a gimmick--the vibrator--in Victorian England in the 1880s. Directed by Tanya Wexler (Ball in the House and Finding North), it is a sure-fire crowd-pleaser that was a hit at the recent Tribeca Film Festival and now opens this Friday in New York. Wexler's inspiration was a combination of Katharine Hepburn comedies and historical fact. Apparently in the 19th Century in uptight London nearly a quarter of the city's female population was diagnosed with "hysteria," which was a term applied to, as the film's production notes state, "a vast array of women's disorders, including such apparent feminine mysteries as unhappiness, restlessness, disobedience, impertinence, either too little or too much interest in sex, and even the desire for voting rights." After repeatedly being fired by clinics because they didn't believe in his progressive views in medicine, physician Mortimer Granville (Hugh Dancy) takes a job with the staid Dr. Dalrymple (Jonathan Price, at the dinner table in the group photo), and together they try to relieve middle and upper class women "hysteria" with a medicinal massages of the female organs "to the point of paroxysm." Mortimer courts Dalrymple's dutiful and proper daughter Emily (Felicity Jones, at the dinner table with Price and Dancy) but becomes increasingly attracted to his older daughter Charlotte (Maggie Gyllenhaal), a firebrand social reformer who angers her father by running a settlement house for poor and sick women and children. He visits his rich, eccentric, technology-obsessed friend Edmund (Rupert Everett), and it is his invention of an electric feather duster that inspires Mortimer to conceive an electric vibrating massager. And his world and the world itself changed.
What follows are roundtable interviews I did with Wexler (with the cameraman), Gyllenhaal, and Dancy prior to the Tribeca Film Festival, for which I note my questions. In addition, following the Wexler roundtable is a one-and-one I did with the personable and very amusing director during the festival.
ROUNDTABLE WITH TANYA WEXLERQ: When you first screened the film in September in Toronto, what reactions were the ones you hoped for and what reactions surprised you?
Tanya Wexler: All the scenes with the "treatment" got the reaction I hoped for. When you do comedy you actually cut in a space for the laugh, so you have to get the timing right. With all films but particularly comedy, the piece isn't complete until you have an audience. It's constructed with the rhythm in mind. So in the scenes when the doctors are doing the treatment or testing the vibrator I knew how I wanted, if you'll excuse the pun, the rhythm to be, how each scene was supposed to build. It was mind-blowingly awesome to have a reaction with 2,600 people cheering. That's a once-in-a-lifetime experience. What I didn't expect was the reaction to the end credits. We did this history time-line of the vibrator which I thought it would be jokey and get people to stay through the credits. And over and over again people applaud when the Rabbit comes up, as if to say, "Yes, we're in the modern era, finally!" It was a transition out of the 1880s and bring us up to date. I didn't expect people to be so happy to see a familiar face.
Q: Can you share some of the behind-the-scenes moments when you were shooting the scenes with women in stirrups being treated? How did those actors react?
TW: It was great. We knew through the audition process that actors were going to react to that. Great actors are very game and want to do something fun and funny. It was really important for me to have the women who were the patients represent a diversity of ages. I couldn't have tons of diversity because they were all supposed to come from the British middle class in the 1880s. But we had women who were twenty, thirty, forty, and fifty to give that spectrum. In the first round of auditions, I thought I'd just let the women chat and then we'd see. I didn't want to see a bunch of bad versions of those scenes so I thought I'd do them in call-backs. But inevitably there were actresses who wanted to do the treatment scenes because they seemed like fun. They almost always nailed it. The ones who got nervous or took it too seriously didn't do as well. The movie is supposed to be fun and to give the message "It doesn't take a doctor. You're in charge of your own happiness." We only had a few days for rehearsal. We had a really fun read-through where I placed a little bullet vibrator with everyone's scripts. We had a couple of other days, when it was mostly logistics. I had no time, even though I had a lot more time than I did with my other films, because it is a period piece and there changes of locations. But we had orgasm rehearsal. It was really all props. All of a sudden you have this table that was articulated; and I invented the idea of there being a privacy screen so the men couldn't watch what they were doing; and we had a mock-up of the vibrator that was made in the prop-shop. For Jonathan and Hugh we wondered what they were going to put their hands on under the skirts because we needed their muscle to make it look they were working; they couldn't just fake it. So there was a lot of uncomfortable brainstorming and then Hugh said, "Can't we just use a sandbag?" So we put a little privacy sandbag down there that we'd used to hold down the lights. After two days of shooting Jonathan came to me and said, "I've rubbed the skin off the knuckle of my finger." I said, "I'm glad you're getting into it but maybe you should take it a little easier." Mostly we just had a lot of fun. I just told the extras to go for it. The sound was what concerned me, not the shots. I knew how to shoot it but I didn't want it to sound totally absurd. So we experimented a lot and people seemed to be enjoying themselves and laughing.
Q: Charlotte is very strong-headed and independent. Did you develop her with the average woman of today in mind so she could relate to her in some sense?
TW: I don't know about that. I wanted to see who I would have liked to have been back then. I think Charlotte's way braver than I would have been in that circumstance. If she were transplanted to today her politics aren't particularly advanced. But back then she was really brave in what she wanted such as the vote. We didn't really develop her as an Everywoman. I wanted a young Katharine Hepburn and got her in Maggie Gyllenhaal. She's stunning. I'm crazy in love with my cast. I'm amazed I got to work with these people. But I made a wish list and people would say yes. It took a long time to get to them, but there is nothing more exciting than a director and actor meeting each other and connecting. I developed this script over several years and then I got to sit and have drinks with Jonathan Pryce and think how in high school I was writing a paper on Brazil. I cannot tell you what a dream-come-true that was. I had a really clear mandate in the casting Charlotte--I wanted to cast an actress who women love. So the list went from all the actresses who could green-light it to six women who were the right age and had the right vibe, and Maggie was at the top. Judy Cairo came on board as producer and she had produced Crazy Heart and said she'd like to give the script to Maggie. You don't even dream of stuff like that. I said, "Yes, send it right now! Send it to her yesterday!" It was awesome that Maggie loved the script and wanted to do it.
Q: Talk about the tone you wanted to establish in the film.
TW: We were very clear in the writing how it wanted to feel. But when we were raising money that was a question that came up. It was tricky. You kind of had to nail it. I didn't want it be a sex farce and I didn't it to be serious like homework. I wanted it to be fun. I'm a mom with four kids and was really tired. There are many worthy movies that I'd find too depressing or would make me feel even more tired. I wanted to laugh. And I wanted to make a movie I wanted to see. I didn't want to make another movie that just has wedding dress. There are great fluffy movies that do that but I wanted something that I could sink my teeth into a little bit but was mostly fun and that I could see with my girlfriends and have a good time. If Merchant-Ivory, Jane Austin, and Richard Curtis had a movie baby, that's the movie baby I would want to make. It was clear to me but I had to find a way to answer that question beforehand. The tone was the thing I was most conscious about.
hysteriawexlerworking.jpg Tanya Wexler on set (Sony Classics)
Q: Were you worried about censorship?
TW: The great thing about independent films is there is no censorship. I loved my producers. They were really protective of the piece and we had great, frank, smart discussions in which we'd challenge each other. An upside of the movie taking so long to get financed, is that you're constantly perfecting the script, so by the time we made the film it was pretty well honed and we had no fear of censorship. I was fascinated to see what rating we'd get. There's no bad language, there's no violence, there's no nudity...BUT. I didn't know what rating it should get. I was very open and thought it was Sony Classics call.
Q: Did you worry about budget?
TW: I was hyperprepared because I knew about budget and how fast we had to go. It was lightning fast so I lost a transitional scene I'd like to have but in no way is crucial. It was a passing shot of the settlement house at night. It would have given a little more light to Charlotte's world. But we ran out of time, partly because it had children in it and they can shoot only at specific times. My kids were all in the movie largely because I could make them stay later. "I know you're tired, honey, but you can have dinner after the set-up." Q: Has Sony Classics always been behind the film?
TW: Yes. It's wonderful that Tom Bernard and Michael Barker are championing the film. After the film was screened at Toronto, we sat down and in our discussion, Michael said, "I have two daughters and they need this movie. That point of view and understanding is very progressive. I love seeing the joy it brings and the sense of empowerment it gives to women in the audience. It's just a romantic comedy. It's not going to change the world but it's appealing that it will increase the scope of conversation.
Danny Peary: Could you have made a serious film with the exact same script?
TW: If you read the script by Stephen Dryer and Jonah Lisa Dryer you'll laugh so I couldn't have made a serious film from it.
DP: I was watching the film and thinking it could be done seriously.
TW: I think the topic could be done seriously but not the script.
DP: Did you feel you restricted because it's a comedy, and that you couldn't go farther with the serious, political parts?
TW: I set out to make a comedy. The way the script developed is that we knew the mechanical vibrator was invented in Victorian England somewhat as a labor-saving devise. The vibrator was not for a man, right? Then we said if we did a movie just about the invention of the vibrator, it's a fifteen-minute movie. So we asked who were all the people in the world who orbit around that nucleus. What made me laugh and want to make the movie was the juxtaposition with the denial. The core joke and humor for me is not the vibrator, oohs and aws, or ducks having sex--although I think that's a really good microcosm and metaphor for the movie--but the denial that we all are in about something. In one scene a doctor can masturbate women in his office and think that this is a completely nonsexual event, and in the next scene he can barely hold the hand of the woman he's courting. To me that is funny. I view the world as a funny place that makes me laugh.
DP: But you have Charlotte talking positively about socialism; this is the only American film that would do that.
TW: Yeah but there's a difference between seriousness and solemnity and great comedies have incredibly serious moments but don't have to be solemn. I've talked about this a lot with friends--there's a reason it's called Four Weddings and a Funeral and not Four Weddings. I think it's because sober moments and serious moments are what creates the contrast and relief. There's always a moment when the characters sober up and say, "Oh, my God, we've been such assholes," in some shape or form. It was really important for me that the stakes mattered. I remember that we were struggling to figure out how to get out of the second act and into the third act. And I asked, "What's the closest thing we can threaten Charlotte with that's threatening her life?" And that's when we came up with "hysterectomy." It's an unusual word to say when you're writing a romantic comedy. But good comedies go to that serious place.
I met my wife in college twenty years and I fell in love because we made each other laugh. We went through serious stuff, but in the end I want my life to be filled with laughter. Hopefully, both can exist in the same thing.
Q: Does Charlotte have a modern counterpart?
TW: The woman who wrote Infidel pops into my head. Ayaan Hirsi Ali. She's so amazing. She was in the Dutch parliament and when the filmmaker Van Gogh was killed and there was a note stabbed into his chest the note was to her. She's unbelievably interesting and phenomenal. That's the level of bravery that is beyond. There are so many brave people who give of themselves beyond what they have to get through life. They are inspirational people.
SPOILER ALERTQ: I heard there was more than one ending that you had in mind. Did you film them?
TW: We filmed a scene where we see Charlotte and Mortimer after they're married. I love poor Mortimer because I'm not really interested in us-against-them, guys-against-girls, because I have a son and I'm not interested in vilifying guys. I'm interested in working things out together. But poor Moritmer asks two women to marry him and neither says yes. Charlotte says, "We'll see," and it's implied she'll say yes. So we had a little scene but I left it out because I wanted it to be a bit open at the very end, I wanted to have a sense that it's a new beginning so I didn't want it too be conclusive.
END SPOILER ALERTDP: Is being at the Tribeca Film Festival important to you?
TW: It's so awesome. It has been fantastic. I haven't shown my home town the movie yet. I'm a downtown girl who lives in the village, so this is my community, including parents from school. I'm so psyched.
Danny Peary: Did your uncle Haskell Wexler ever talk to you about filmmaking?
Tanya Wexler: Oh, sure. It was dinner table conversation. I'm super close to him. He's my dad's brother. My dad died when I was twenty-two and particularly after that he has been in my life. I remember being on the set of my first film, about halfway through a four-week shoot, and I had no idea how hard it was going to be. I'd made a couple of shorts. I remember calling him in tears. I'd wanted nothing more in my life to be on the set of my first film and I told him, "I want to go home." He talked me off the ledge. He gave me some pointers, like sticking close to my DP and working hand and glove with him. He told me to trust myself and just be there, not check out of the process. If it gets hard, just stand there until you get it right. He is just a very practical guy. Not only was he a director but was one of the best cinematographers in the world. Some of the most amazing stuff he's done came out of his just trying to figure out what he wanted to do. It was like putting a camera on his shoulder and getting on a helicopter. He just did it.
DP: Medium Cool is one of my favorite films. Did you realize how much impact it had on people?
TW: Oh, yeah. My dad was in real estate in Chicago and he joked, "We'll have to pay him more money to take our names off the film or we'll never work in this town again." It had an impact on my family. Haskell doesn't have any sacred cows, like film versus video. He's a storyteller and that's what I learned from him. Having snobbery about anything doesn't help you tell a story. I sent him a draft of Hysteria and got his feedback. He's very young at heart. He's a vegan, he exercises for an hour a day, he's in way better shape than I am, and he's never going to disengage. I had a screening in L.A. a few weeks ago and told Haskell and his wife Rita I'd love to have them there. He calls me, and says, "Hey T, how important is that screening on Wednesday? Because there's something I want to shoot and it's going to conflict." Still, that chance to shoot excites him. I said, "Dude, I'd go shoot! Would you like me to talk to Rita and tell her I won't be disappointed you're not coming?" He says, "Would you do that for me?" I said, "Of course.!" He said, "Oh, you get me!" It's family.
DP: If someone asks you what Hysteria is about, what is the first thing you say?
TW: It's a romantic comedy about the invention of the vibrator in Victorian England.
DP: So it's not first a film about the inventor of the vibrator, but a romantic comedy?
TW: Absolutely. When the idea showed up in my life, I'd made two little movies, I'd made these four little kids, I was happy but tired. I was desperate for a night out but my partner [Amy Zimmerman] and I wondered how that was going to happen. I like this vast array of films, from experimental films to Some Like It Hot. I have huge, eclectic taste but at that time, emotionally, there were some films I just couldn't handle watching. I was too drained. I just wanted to laugh. And my friend Tracey Becker said, "How about a comedy about the invention of the vibrator in Victorian England? I have a two-page treatment." I said, "Done!" It's a movie I wanted to see because it would make me laugh. I was looking for a movie that you'd walk in thinking you'd have a fun night and walk out having an interesting conversation. I wasn't looking for a movie where it was the same as going to a history class or a women's studies class. I already went to college. I think movies are these transporting things. Some are more intellectually engaging but I like when you go into a dark room and turn off part of your brain and enjoy the ride with a lot of strangers.
DP: As I said at the roundtable, I believe your film could be a serious film with almost exactly the same script. You made a really good comedy, but I want to ask again: did it restrict you from going into really serious areas that you might have wanted to go? Did you ever pull back and say we can't go farther?
TW: No. We pushed to see how far we could go. I feel there is no funny without ouch. Comedy comes out of pain or at least has to have pain, whether it's physical pain or emotional pain or Charlie Chaplin pain. Working with the writers, we always knew it was a comedy. There has to be stakes when Mortimer breaks out of convention. It's funny that it's a romantic comedy about the invention of the vibrator in Victorian England but in some ways it's a feminist romantic comedy about a guy. A guy is the main character. In many ways it's a true believer who loses his way and finds it again.
DP: Yes, and I see it as a movie about a guy who thinks he's progressive but then meets someone who really is progressive.
TW: Absolutely. That's why I always say if you talk about themes and the characters, it's a story about progressives--progressives in medicine, progressives in technology--Edmond has the money and creativity--and Charlotte, this firebrand Katharine Hepburn, does amazing things at the settlement house. I'm from Chicago, and what she does was born out of my knowledge of the Hull House in Chicago that was founded by Jane Addams, and its sister house called Toynbee Hall in London. So when we talked about the genesis of the movie and the medical "treatment" and the denial, and we thought about who'd populate that world. We went through history books and the writers happened upon the settlement house and I said that I grew up near Hull House.
DP: When I was watching the film I felt transported into a different world. It wasn't necessarily Victorian England, there was kind of an alternate universe feel to it for me.
TW: Really? Hopefully in a good way. We really worked to have period details, and I hoped that people would turn to their friends and say, "I can't believe they really did this." Because reality is most absurd. I thought about that question you asked more than any other, "Could it have been done as a drama?" Because it had the same facts. But again, it's Four Weddings and a Funeral, not Four Weddings. At the end, everyone goes, "We've been such jerks, we've been wrong about all this stuff and what's important." There's a sobering moment. The writers and I sat down and kind of went, "How far can we push it? What are the stakes?" And we had to loop into the main themes--women, hysteria, freedom over your own body, and problems manufactured--and we said threatening Charlotte's life didn't seem to fit into the movie's storyboard construction. There were certainly women given hysterectomies or institutionalized for "hysteria." Well, it's the title of the movie, so let's go there. We didn't pull any punches as long as it felt right. The tone I was going for was Merchant-Ivory meets Jane Austen meets Richard Curtis who wrote Four Weddings, Love Actually, and all those movies and started Blackadder. I wanted to get the balance right and have modern banter.
DP: This is the only American film where there is a character, Charlotte, who offers a defense of socialism, saying it's just people doing things together. You snuck that in and you get away with it.
TW: I know. We asked ourselves about that scene but more about whether it was boring for a character to go on a political rant at that moment. But it's true to her.
DP: She simplified the meaning of socialism for three people who couldn't think any deeper.
TW: Absolutely. She was saying that it's easy to vilify but the bottom line is it's just people doing things together. Britain is more socialist than we are.
DP: If you had a trailer on tv with a clip of Charlotte saying, "Socialism is just people doing things together," it would anger people I bet.
TW (laughing): But that's not really what the movie is about. Whether it's politics or gender politics, it all has to grow out the characters who populate that world and I think that line is just true to the character. So it felt totally right. There was a socialist model between me, the producers, and writers. We all sat down and said, "Socialist pact." We made our deals together and nobody gets more than anyone else." And we kept to it.
DP: The Dalrymple sisters are named Charlotte and Emily, after the Brontes. Was there a thematic reason for that? Because they seem more different than the Brontes were from each other.
TW: In the treatment given to me, the sisters were Charlotte and something else that didn't sound right. Probably the writers made a nod to the Brontes. Our literary nod that didn't make it into the film was Oscar Wilde; for a while Wilde made his way into the party scenes because he was trying to date Rupert Everett's character, Edmund. But we cut it from the script.
DP: Charlotte seems to be her mother's daughter and Emily seems to be her father's daughter, but they're not opposites. They're both accomplished. That's harder to write.
TW: You're right. The hardest thing was not making Emily a shrew. It would have been easy to make her one. The difference is that Charlotte can't help being who she is; Emily has more of an ability to hold it in for awhile, although by the end we get the sense that she's not going to be able to do that for much longer.
DP: If you're going to spend a year and a half making a movie, what kind of men are you are you comfortable having as your protagonists?
TW: It's truly dependent on the story. Mortimer was the perfect guy for this story. There was something he had to learn. He had almost an ingnue quality to him, a that I really love. He's very honest, very bright, and funny and kind of charming, but he has some arrogance and naivete combined. So it takes him a while to learn what he needs to learn.
DP: There seems to be a gentleness to your guys.
TW: Yes. My dad is my total hero. He died when I was twenty-two and I miss him every day. He was a real "guy's guy" in many ways. He loved sports, he would have loved to have been an NBA coach but there aren't many 5'8" Jewish basketball coaches in the world. He ended up getting sick because he had a job collecting rent. He was a suit and tie guy his whole life but he'd put his arms around you and give you the biggest hug. I remember being on the beach with him and I was telling him my crazy, big dreams and he had tears in his eyes. And I said, "Dad! You're crying!" He said, "I'd never want to be a guy who couldn't cry. I love that I can feel stuff. I love my family and I love you. You remind me of my dad and he was my hero." And he gave me this big hug and it was the best moment of my life. The last thing I want to do in my movies is vilify guys. I'd rather make a movie about how we work it out together and have things in common rather than how men and women are so different.
DP: Was that a Wizard of Oz-Margaret Hamilton reference when Charlotte is dressed in dark clothes and riding her bike?
TW: It wasn't meant to be a filmic reference but when we were setting up the shot, everyone was humming the riding music.
DP: You filmed a scene in the settlement house with your kids, right?
TW: There's a scene when they're playing ball. I didn't cut anything, we just ran out of time to shoot it. There was a scene we filmed with Mortimer and Charlotte in their room in the settlement house. If we didn't run out of time I would have filmed a scene in the settlement house we're they're all at dinner, serving soup. I would have killed for it because it would have brought such richness to the work.
DP: What I wanted was for Mortimer to finally be seen doing meaningful work and the marriage thrives because of that.
TW: Absolutely.
DP: There was no moment where he offers her a vibrator and she asks, "Will I need it?"
TW: I don't think it's either/or. It's not his competition; it's part of his team!
Q: Did you do any research and base Charlotte on anybody?
Maggie Gyllenhaal: Not really. If this had been a realistic drama about suffragettes at the turn of the last century, then I'd have to do a different kind of research to be historically accurate. The research I did was more inside myself, challenging myself to be as wild and free and strident as I could be. That's really why I did the movie. I thought it would be fun to see how wild I could be. It's funny: I've played characters who are a lot wilder but in the constraints of that time, wearing those clothes, I just thought it would be cool to see how far it could go.
Q: Did you like that it is primarily a comedy?
MG: Not only that it is a comedy, but I really like the style of comedy that it is. It is English with clever, really tight dialogue where you have to pay attention and use your brain--as much as there are jokes about women cumming, which is great. (Charlotte doesn't have much to do with that.) I liked the mix of intellectual comedy with women having loud orgasms.
Q: How important was historical accuracy in this film?
MG: People's names and things are shifted and changed but the fact is the vibrator was invented to masturbate women to orgasm who were considered hysterical. That makes one wonder if it was really true that these people who couldn't look at a woman's ankle thought that they give a woman an orgasm and that was considered a medical procedure. Really, don't you think men have known what a woman's orgasm was for a long time? It's not that it just happened in 1925. Either there was a massive amount of disassociation running rampant, which was probably partly true and what led to "hysteria," or there was a sexuality in it--how could there not have been? People have been having sex for a long time and enjoying themselves. Both Mortimer and Charlotte's father walk a very difficult line, believing somewhere that they're doing something that is medically necessary and also knowing somewhere inside them that they're giving women a sexual release. It's complicated.
Q: How far do you think we've come in regard to women's sexuality?
MG: I think we've come really far. It would thoughtless to say we were in the same place we were then. I've seen Hysteria all the way through only one time, which was when I was in Toronto, where there was mostly an American and Canadian audience. And then I watched the end in Rome and I've done a lot of international press on it, in Italy and Scandinavia, all over, and I have been surprised by how shocking the movie is. In some ways it's just a sweet romantic comedy but the orgasm stuff and women cumming and thinking about their bodies in sexual ways...I wasn't a part of shooting any of that stuff because Charlotte doesn't use the vibrator ever, so when I watched it I was kind of flushed and people in the audience were laughing hysterically. Nobody was used to seeing stuff like that. Even I felt that way, and the first movie I ever made was an S&M movie. I don't think of myself as prudish at all. I'm interested in sex, I'm curious about it, I think of myself as pretty open, but I was surprised by my own response as well as the audience's response. It still makes us uncomfortable. At the same time we've come really far.
Q: You'd never think Europeans would be so prudish.
MG: People keep saying and that we're the prudish ones, but I think we're pretty even. I had some pretty interesting conversations with women in Italy about it. My favorite one was when a woman asked me which I thought had done more for women's rights and the women's movement--the vibrator or the dishwasher? I think I have to go with the dishwasher.
Q: You have a great English accent in the movie.
MG: Thank you. People tell me I sound like Emma Thompson. [Laughing] Yeah I learned it watching Nanny McPhee. I've done three plays with an English accent. That accent comes quite easily to me. I like talking like that. So what I do is talk like that all the time when I'm working, even in the car going to work. I say, "I know this is silly, forgive me, but I'm going to talk like this all the time." And people get used to it. The truth is that it's fun to talk like that.

Q: In the beginning Charlotte and Moritmer seem like opposites.
MG: They're supposed to be like couples in 1940s movies who say, "We hate each other, we can't stand each other," but there's something under there that looks like love.
Danny Peary: Did you talk in thematic terms about Charlotte and Emily being the names of the two daughters?
MG: No, we never talked about why they were named after the Brontes. It was a light-hearted set. You'd have to ask Tanya if it was meant to have a Victorian literary bent.
DP: Did you think about the mother who was connected to Charlotte, like Emily is connected to her father?
MG: I did think about her. There is a big section about her in Charlotte's story. There is a scene where Mortimer says, "You're mother would be proud of you" because she's hocking her diamond earrings to help the settlement house. Nobody else seems to be particularly proud of her, there's not a lot of support. So I think that when he says that to her is an important moment because she doesn't have support or guidance.
DP: In the courtroom scene, Mortimer agrees with all of Charlotte's views and vindicates her. You had a choice of how she was supposed to react to him and you play it pretty impassively. Was that your decision to not have tears running down your cheeks or big smiles.
MG: Mortimer has been a huge asshole. He refused to help Charlotte in any way with sick children, even only once a month. That's kind of how he left it. So he has a lot of work to do in order to move her. In that scene, I had tons of reactions to him, although not tears running down my cheeks, but what is in the film is what was chosen by the editors. I wasn't speaking so they could cut to me any time they wanted.
The following scene when he comes to meet her at the jail and asks her to marry him, I made a choice, which was not to have Charlotte accept him until the very, very, very last minute. It was a long scene, maybe seven pages. I could have played it with Charlotte reacting as if he'd already won her heart. But Charlotte had begged him to help at all and he said no, so to come back from that was difficult for her.
Q: How do you think you would be if you lived in that time?
MG: I think a lot of us who live in this time would like to believe we'd be like Charlotte if we lived during her time. I like to imagine that. But I think it would have been incredibly difficult to actually be like that and survive. I wasn't concerned playing her that she'd be historically accurate, I just wanted her to be alive and wild and full of being a woman. She can be from any time and any planet. There are so many things in the script that gave me clues that that was the way to go. For instance, when Mortimer asks her if she'll be all right spending a little time in prison, she says, "Yeah, I have tons of friends in prison." But in truth would she have been all right in a Victorian prison? Maybe not! The politics that she's talking about in the movie are so simple and are about things we take for granted now in this country--women should be able to go to college, women should be able to have jobs, women should be able to vote. So if I took her literally, she'd be kind of boring today.
ROUNDTABLE WITH HUGH DANCYDanny Peary: Is Mortimer's story known in England at all?
Hugh Dancy: Not dramatically more than it's known here in America.
DP: It's not known here at all.
HD: Well, there you go.
DP: So there are no vibrator-shaped statues of him?
HD (laughing): No, no, there are no monuments to him. And nothing you can put a coin in to make it work.
Q: Was there something in the script that made you feel you wanted to be a part of the film?
HD: What drew me to it initially was that it made me pause and wonder how I could make it work. It was a challenge finding the bridge for Mortimer between the serious stuff with Charlotte and physical comedy. I thought that would be difficult to do but was interesting. I also liked that the movie retained that element of the period but undercut it with a raucous aspect. I enjoyed that being combined.
Q: What was your favorite things about going back to that era as an actor? Was it the mannerisms, the locations, the costumes?
HD: All of the above. It's a fun era to visit because there's still such formality there. What we're probably the most aware of in the Victorian era was the stiffness, the etiquette, and the rules. That applies to the costumes as well because half the work is done for you just getting dressed up in waistcoat and collars--and that's just for the men.
Q: Did you snag anything from the set?
HD: No. Oh, yes, I took a scarf that I liked. There was nothing naughty to take home.
Q: Would you have done the movie it were a historical drama, emphasizing the sexual and legal aspects of the story?
HD: If it was a good script, sure. I certainly don't think it's a story that has to be treated comically. In fact, if it had just been that I think I would have been hesitant to do it. What redeems the movie for me is that it does try to have its cake and eat it, too. It presents the preposterous elements of these uptight Victorian doctors who are completely oblivious to what they're doing--it's the best joke in the movie but true. But it also respects the more serious aspects.
Q: Did you have a reservation about starring in a movie about the vibrator?
HD (laughing): No, that was the appeal. I didn't have strong reservations. I just wanted to make sure I had a stab at making it work and getting all the tones to unite. I didn't want to be stuck in the middle as a cipher, not being funny or serious. I didn't want to feel like a straight character in Dickens who is surrounded and lost when surrounded by wild, fantastical characters. So I had to try and not fall into that trap.
DP: Mortimer considers himself a progressive until he meets Charlotte, a real progressive. Why doesn't he help her at all at the settlement house?
HD: Because he's nervous about his career at that point. His decision hasn't been put into stark terms, and ultimately, when she is facing a severe penalty, he reconsiders. For now, it's more a take it or leave it thing. He'd like to help her but...
DP: But will he?
HD: I think he will. He can see she's on to something good and doing good work, and he's having a great time with her. But before he commits himself, he realizes at the last minute he can't afford to jeopardize his employment with her father. He's made the decision a lot of people make. He's spent the first five years of his career pursuing his idealistic vision and dreams of what he can be, and that came to nothing. So he gave in. He saw the writing on the wall and needed to get serious and earn a living. That's the track he's on and the first time she asks for his help, he's not ready to go back to how he was before and give up everything.
Q: What do you think is the tipping point where Mortimer is willing to risk his job and comfortable position because of Charlotte?
HD: Love. At the beginning of the movie, he tries to make clear he's progressive and forward thinking and he keeps coming up against that head-in-the-sand Victorian attitude, where the status quo is preferred and no one is interested in modern medicine or theories. So he gives up, but that is still in him and I don't think it takes too much to reignite his more liberal qualities.
Q: Do you think Charlotte has modern-day counterparts?
HD: The issues Charlotte is agitating about, we're pretty much in agreement about. The truth is that those people usually aren't recognized until years later for their bravery and at the time are considered pariahs.
Q: How was it working with Maggie Gyllenhaal?
HD: She was great fun to be with on the set. Maggie is so strong as an actress and that helped her play such a strong character. Her commitment to her character was remarkable and the degree she maintained her English accent was astonishing. When she looked over a scene, she did it from the perspective of her character, which gave her a real integrity in what she's doing. There are many great actresses, but they don't necessarily bring that particular power and wouldn't have been as good in the role.
Q: Is there anything about Mortimer that you relate to?
HD: Other than his idealism, kind of what makes Mortimer interesting is his friendship with Rupert Everett's character Edmund. He's not just this straight-laced guy but somewhere underneath that's a mischievous quality to him. And I'd like to think that's true of me as well.
Q: Your scenes with Rupert Everett are a lot of fun. What was it like working with him?
HD: It was great. All of my stuff with Rupert was done during the last week of shooting. I was kind of exhausted so he was the exact person you want to walk through the door and give you a burst of outrageous energy. He's really good company.
Q: Did anything funny happen behind the scenes that you can share with us?
HD: No. [Laughing] In order to make it light there's actually a lot of hard work that goes into it. Tanya ran a very happy set, partly because of who she is and partly because of the people she picked to work on her movie. There's a very long gag reel for this movie. It was hard to keep a straight face on virtually every scene.
Q: How did you handle the sandbag scenes?
HD: The sandbag was there mostly for the sake of modesty. Jonathan Pryce put such power into his acting that he took the skin off the end of his finger because of the roughness of the sandbag. I didn't have to do anything so sustained.
DP: Mortimer squeezes a ball at times? Was that in the script?
HD: I think so. He squeezes the ball because he's developed carpal tunnel syndrome from his job.
DP: There's no sexual frustration or tension?
HD: I think there's some of that. If someone gives you a ball to squeeze you make the most of it over the course of the day. It's not exactly sexual tension; it's more that he's becoming increasingly awkward and uncomfortable in what he's doing.
Q: How much feedback were you getting from Tanya about how to play Mortimer?
HD: Not so much, but that was good. We had talked a lot before we started and that's when I put in my five cents worth about the script to make his relationship with Charlotte a little more convincing. We had to add a little more friction to it because if you don't have that in a romantic comedy it tends to be boring. I tried to give him a bit more of a spark. But all that happened before we started filming. Once we started filming it was pretty easy.
Q: Do you think Hysteria will start a trend in American films and more will explore sexuality as a theme?
HD: No, I don't. It is still a taboo, a strange taboo. I think we tried to treat it honesty, while approaching it through comedy. For whatever reason, people are squeamish about it.
Q: Are you then surprised at the positive reaction to your Broadway hit, Venus in Furs?
HD: I thought the play was great when I first read it but I'm not going to claim that I understood it immediately. Now that I know it very well I understand the reaction to it. There is a degree of titillation to it but actually it's a play of ideas dressed up as a play about sex. It demonstrates very clearly to me that sex is about the mind and that's a pretty powerful concept. I'm delighted the play is successful but I'm not completely taken aback because the writing is so strong.
Q: Have you gotten surprising reactions from people who saw the film?
HD: Not to sound self-serving, but I'm pleased at what a crowd-pleaser it is. You make a movie like this where the premise isn't well known and there's the anxiety of doing a comedy where you're having a great time but wonder if it will translate. It appears that it does and not in a nervous and naughty giggle way. Frankly, that's the biggest surprise.
Q: I'm surprised that at screenings Europeans have been more prudish about the film than Americans.
HD: The Brits invented prudishness! There's a difference between prudishness and Puritanism.
Q: When you guys were doing research, were there case studies you looked at?
HD: No, there was no case study. The diagnosis for hysteria for all these women was completely spurious. It covered so many women who were just unhappy or frustrated. This was pre-Freud (and it turns out that many of his diagnosis were kind of spurious). But physically, the idea of shifting the uterus by pelvic manipulation is ridiculous. This still baffles me. Because we know that some men by the late eighteenth century had figured out that women can enjoy sex. We've all read Byron and other romantic poets. Yet there was a whole body of men who weren't in denial but truly didn't realize what they were doing--and that astonishes me.
Q: Were there any other novels or films that dealt with similar subjects?
HD: The short answer is no. So many films try to stick to a recognizable genre or tone, but I thought what was fresh about this is that it tried to cover new ground.
Q: Tanya talks about filming a scene in which we see Mortimer and Charlotte happy together.
HD: I think they'd have a great time being together. Because they not only love each other but also like each other. He's a doctor and she's liberated so they've got a good chance!