Reebok and ARRAY, the media and arts collective founded by filmmaker Ava DuVernay, hosted a day-long event dedicated to celebrating and amplifying talented women in film. Throughout the day, hundreds of people came to ARRAY’s Creative Campus in Los Angeles for free screenings of a quartet of female-directed films including Honey Boy, Late Night, Queen & Slim and The Farewell.
The event, entitled “IT’S A MAN’S WORLD”: A Celebration of Women in Film, was created in response to on-going award season debate, as celebrities and industry insiders continue to raise concern with the continued lack of female representation and recognition in Hollywood. The panel was moderated by Teen Vogue’s Director of Culture and Entertainment, Dani Kwateng-Clark, joined by star of “Pose,” Mj Rodriguez, Kasi Lemmons (Director, “Harriet), Stella Meghie (Director, “The Photograph”) and Nisha Ganatra (Director, “Late Night).
The discussion, kicked off by Ava DuVernay, and attended by industry VIPs and Hollywood icons Vondie Curtis-Hall, Ryan Michelle Bathe and Arika Himmel (ABC’s “Mixed-ish), tackled important questions related to women’s pathways to recognition, what cultural and structural changes are needed, the social consequences of persistent gender inequity and how women will break through these barriers to create a more level playing field in Hollywood and beyond.
Throughout the dynamic and engaging panel, our diverse group of panelists had the following to share with audience members:
On the purpose of the event, Ava DuVernay said, “We know a lot of people were excluded from the conversation, so we’re making our own conversation. We can’t be disparaging black women. We can’t be threatening black women. We can’t be tearing each other down. We can disagree with each other, and still lift each other up.”
On making a difference in today’s society, Mj Rodriguez, star of “Pose,” said, “I’m someone who loves to scratch the surface constantly. I was always told that artistically, it’s the most important thing you can do. So, when you don’t see the opportunities given to you, it’s kind of deterring. I don’t think it’s specifically critical, because anything can constantly change, but I think we have to constantly keep scratching the surface by getting back to what we love to do and not caring what other people say.
On how 2016 changed the storytelling landscape for people of color, Kasi Lemmons, director of “Harriet,” said, “Art thrives when it pushes against something. In many ways, all art is resistant. It resists a preconceived notion. It increases empathy. Art finds a time to come into the world.”
On call-out culture, Stella Meghie, director of “The Photograph,” said, “This is the first year I don’t care to watch the Oscars. I grew up loving the Oscars, and caring every year about who won, even if I didn’t see myself in the films. I made my first film in 2016, which was the first year of #OscarSoWhite, and now it’s four years later, and it’s still bad. We have to figure out whose opinion we value now. I find myself in a position today when I have a movie come out, where I don’t trust the critics. If they say they like it, I’m like, “they don’t get it,” and if they don’t like it, that doesn’t satisfy me either.
On judging art and creative storytelling, and who holds that power, Nisha Ganatra, director of “Late Night,” said, “The Academy is under so much attack for what’s happening. But really, when you look at it, they have actually made a big change. They heard the criticism, acted, and a lot of women of color, a lot of people of color, and a record number of women directors, got into the Academy this year. So, when everyone is targeting The Academy as the problem, we need to take a step back and recognize that it’s the industry.”
On what motivates Hollywood and the film industry, Kasi Lemmons said, “”The tricky thing is that we do it for the work, but then we’re reminded that we get pay bumps based on our awards. It’s a way of promoting white men to bigger and bigger salary raises and keeping women, and underrepresented women especially, at a certain salary. Most of us care about the bottom line. We want the ability to make movies, we want our budgets to go up and we want to get paid for what we do.”
Reebok aspires to be an influential platform for women who manifest true change in the world, dating back to the creation of the first fitness sneakers for active women in the ’80s with the Freestyle High. Today, as cultural and gender stereotypes remain at the forefront of societal discourse, Reebok continues to drive awareness around gender equality through the “IT’S A MAN’S WORLD” campaign and sneaker collaborations by celebrating female trailblazers.