Dakota Fanning took to Instagram Wednesday to respond to the controversy surrounding her part as a Muslim woman in Ethiopia in Zeresenay Berhane Mehari’s Sweetness in the Belly (2019), according to the Chicago Sun-Times. The twenty-five-year-old actress says her character is British, abandoned by her parents in Africa at seven years old and raised Muslim; the film, based on a book by Camilla Gibb, will debut at the 2019 Toronto Film Festival later this month. Twitter’s reaction to the casting is still divided, with some defending the faithfulness to the source material and others criticizing the whiteness of the protagonist.
With the United States and the Taliban negotiating to end their eighteen-year conflict, archivists at Afghan Film, the nationalized filmmaking company, are conserving and digitizing reels not yet destroyed or decayed since the civil war began in 1992, according to The Washington Post. After taking over Kabul in 1996, the Islamic militants, enforcing the strictest interpretations of religious modesty, banned music and motion pictures to keep women’s faces from appearing onscreen with uncovered hair, lusting for a leading man. Actor Mamnoon Maqsoodi says Afghanistan cherishes movies because they function as a coping mechanism in a rich culture devastated by decades of war.
The University of Southern California Annenberg’s Inclusion Initiative, in partnership with the National Partnership of Latino Independent Producers, has found that only three percent of the leads in the top hundred grossing films from 2007 to 2018 are Latino, according to TheWrap. Even further, four-and-a-half percent of all speaking characters are Latino, despite the ethnic group being the largest in the United States, and these roles are commonly relegated to such stereotypes as poor, isolated criminals. Of greater than a thousand top-grossing movies from 2007 to 2018, only four percent of the American directors are Latino (one out of thirteen hundred is Latina), and just three percent of the producers are Latinx.
Yesterday, on her twenty-seventh birthday, no less, Demi Lovato announced via Instagram she has been cast in David Dobkin’s Eurovision (without revealing who her character will be), which has no release date scheduled as of yet, according to People. For the video announcement, fifty-two-year-old costar Will Ferrell presents Lovato with a store-bought cake he says he made from scratch before smashing it into the camera, which then cuts to the songstress blowing out her candles on the set. Costarring Rachel McAdams and Pierce Brosnan, the comedy centers around Icelandic musicians Lars Erickssong and Sigrit Ericksdottir at the Eurovision Song Contest.
The Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film published findings this month which indicate that out of nine hundred seventy independent films, women’s representation among writers and executive producers increased six percent this year, according to Ms. Unfortunately, only thirty-two percent of the writers, executive producers, producers, editors, directors, and cinematographers surveyed are women, and male-directed independent movies are screened twice as often at film festivals as those directed by women. Furthermore, Jane Fonda, Robin Morgan, and Gloria Steinem’s Women’s Media Center says just three percent of science fiction and superhero pictures released this decade were directed by women; however, the path to change is clear, as “Indie Women: Behind-the-Scenes Employment of Women in Independent Film” outlines that seventy-two percent of writers behind female-directed films in 2019 are women.
With the 2010s coming to a close, the time has come to reflect back on all the industrial and social progress of the decade which shapes the trajectory film is taking into the future, according to IndieWire. Beginning with Matthew McConaughey’s “McConaissance” in 2011 and ending with the Walt Disney Company’s acquisition of Twentieth Century Fox in March, the last ten years have seen the rise of the streaming wars as well as the first steps toward diversification in representation. Between the Sony Hack of 2014, Netflix carving out its romantic comedy niche in 2017, Universal’s failed “dark” cinematic universe that same year, and the 2019 Writer’s Guild of America strike, the ‘20s are sure to change filmmaking even more from what it is right now.