Vet­eran film­maker Patricia Rozema just ‘get­ting started’

Waterloo Region Record - - Arts & Life - CAS­SAN­DRA SZKLARSKI The Cana­dian Press

TORONTO — It’s been more than three decades since Patricia Rozema stormed the film world with her fea­ture de­but “I’ve Heard the Mer­maids Sing­ing” but the Cana­dian di­rec­tor says it’s only now that she feels her ca­reer “get­ting started.”

“I feel the dif­fer­ence now. I feel that all of these stu­dio ex­ec­u­tives are go­ing, ‘Oh my God, we didn’t have any women di­rect­ing any­thing forever. Man, we bet­ter get a woman. Who can find one?’” she chuck­les while dis­cussing the im­pact of the #MeToo move­ment. “I now feel this dif­fer­ence when I go into a meet­ing — they want me to be good.”

Rozema’s lat­est film, “Mouth­piece,” delves into the cur­rent de­bate about sex­ism, fe­male iden­tity and em­pow­er­ment as it ex­plores the in­ner life of a young woman reel­ing from the sud­den death of her mother.

The story is based on the play of the same name, and stars the same two ac­tresses from the stage pro­duc­tion, who also wrote the avant-garde piece. No­rah Sa­dava and Amy Nost­bakken say they wrote the script back in 2013, be­fore the push for equity and in­clu­sion be­came a dom­i­nant siren call for Hol­ly­wood. Now they note that equity is a key theme of this year’s Toronto In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val, where “Mouth­piece” pre­mièred.

Ev­ery time they’ve em­barked on a new chap­ter of the play, some­thing from the head­lines has fu­elled its fem­i­nist theme, Sa­dava notes wryly.

“The first time, Jian Ghome­shi was ac­quit­ted. The sec­ond time Don­ald Trump was elected and Hil­lary Clin­ton lost. The third time it was re­mounted, Har­vey We­in­stein and all this came out. Ev­ery time we’ve done it some­one has said: ‘This! Now is the time this is im­por­tant,’” Sa­dava says.

Rozema gushes over her film adap­ta­tion, which ex­per­i­ments with nar­ra­tive, per­for­mance, genre and tone. That’s es­pe­cially so with its un­con­ven­tional hero­ine, a young woman plagued by self-doubt who is por­trayed si­mul­ta­ne­ously by Sa­dava and Nost­bakken.

The vet­eran di­rec­tor, whose var­ied cred­its in­clude the pe­riod drama “Mans­field Park,” the real-life tragedy “Grey Gar­dens,” the post-apoc­a­lyp­tic drama “Into the For­est,” and premium TV dra­mas in­clud­ing HBO’s “In Treat­ment” and Ama­zon’s “Mozart in the Jun­gle,” says she rel­ished the chance to push her­self in new ways, call­ing her lat­est ef­fort an “ex­trav­a­ganza.”

“I just feel freer than I’ve felt since I made my first film,” says Rozema. “Not to den­i­grate what’s gone be­fore, but there’s some­thing very, very play­ful about this one. I al­ways re­gret not go­ing far enough and this one I just tried to go as far as I could.”

Rozema’s gusto ex­tends to her broader ca­reer as­pi­ra­tions, not­ing that Hol­ly­wood’s ap­par­ent awak­en­ing to gen­der dis­par­ity is open­ing doors pre­vi­ously closed to her. She senses a new-found openness to her work, “which is a very dif­fer­ent feel­ing and I love it and I wel­come it and I think, ‘Where were you when I was 30?’”

While Rozema is known for more in­die, small-bud­get fare, she says she’s ready to play in a big­ger sand­box. “I love tech­nol­ogy, I love CGI, I love magic re­al­ism, I love he­li­copter shots, I re­ally do love some of the ex­pen­sive toys of film­mak­ing. I haven’t had it in my tool kit be­cause I’ve had fe­male leads and the gen­eral idea was that, ‘Well, that doesn’t sell.’

“I’m just get­ting started. I’ve tried all these dif­fer­ent tones — the com­edy, the sus­pense, the apoc­a­lyp­tic, and now this, what­ever this is, I don’t know what to call it, and now I feel like, ‘Oh, OK.’ Now, I ac­tu­ally feel like I can re­ally play. So that’s my plan.”

The Toronto In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val runs through Sept. 16.

CHRIS YOUNG THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Film di­rec­tor Patricia Rozema says her lat­est ef­fort, “Mouth­piece,” is an “ex­trav­a­ganza.”

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