Critics' Pick

Half the Picture (NR)

Documentary 94 min. June 8, 2018
By Serena Donadoni
Many of the directors featured in Half the Picture (including Gina Prince-Bythewood, Karyn Kusama, Patricia Riggen and Jamie Babbit) reinvigorated stale genres with their debut films, and Amy Adrion follows suit in her first documentary. Employing a simple talking-head format, Adrion and editor Kate Hackett weave women’s voices into a flowing conversation that needs no narrator. By eschewing explanatory voice-over, Adrion keeps each woman’s perspective distinct while examining gender discrimination. It’s experiential revelation as advocacy filmmaking, an incisive and inviting example of the personal as political.

There’s a commonality to these women’s experiences regardless of age, race or sexual orientation: They’ve all been diminished, sidelined, undermined, overlooked, dismissed. Obstacles are internalized as insecurity, which Catherine Hardwicke felt after successfully launching the Twilight series — and not getting hired to direct the sequels. Women are also pitted against each other: Lesli Linka Glatter (Homeland) was warned that the filmmakers she mentors will “take your job,” as if women are allowed only one representative on set. (Adrion easily disproves this with a majority female crew.)

Half the Picture is an excellent primer on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission investigation into underrepresentation (white women are a small percentage of directors, minorities a minuscule one). Adrion covers the give-and-take of filmmaking, including big-budget features (stifling for Penelope Spheeris, freeing for Ava DuVernay), but 95 minutes isn’t enough to address the diversity of perspectives. Filled with topics that warrant further exploration, such as creative and personal partnerships (Chris Hegedus mentions interviewers who only want to speak to her husband about their documentaries), Half the Picture is a timely and entertaining antidote to the devaluation of women’s accomplishments.
Amy Adrion Rosanna Arquette, Lena Dunham, Sam Taylor-Johnson, Penelope Spheeris, Jennifer Warren Gravitas Ventures

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