Formally, Half the Picture isn’t a revolutionary piece of documentary filmmaking, but it doesn’t need to be. Amy Adrion responds to an extremely relevant and inflammatory issue with urgency and fierce conviction. She jumps straight in – after all, discrimination needs no introduction – mixing statistics that are somehow still staggering and interviews with a fittingly diverse array of female filmmakers, industry analysts and scholars. Everything is presented with impressive and compelling clarity; everyone is generous and intelligent. The interview subjects shine. Adrion gives them the space to present experiences and well-reasoned insights rather than editing-friendly soundbites, and also finds room to pay tribute to figures from early cinema.
Half the Picture is a beautiful who’s who of female filmmaking talent, and it embeds a clever fourth wall-breaking conceit which showcases and celebrates the women who worked on this film too. There’s barely a man in sight.
Adrion jockeys almost exclusively for improvements for female directors and gives far less attention to other roles, yet this emphasis is well justified by Half the Picture’s arguments and strategic outlook. Thankfully, the film doesn’t overlook the (even more drastic) under-representation of minority and queer filmmakers, and in a thrillingly provocative move it also condemns inequality within film criticism. Several men left the screening early.
Half the Picture honours landmark movies but isn’t fooled by them; it’s surprising and sad to see Catherine Hardwicke and Ava DuVernay share candid stories of prejudice continuing after they helmed massive financial successes. Half the Picture justifiably provokes rage, but also admiration and inspiration.
Brimful of seething condemnation that is in no way indulgent or a hindrance to its capacity to inform, Half the Picture is a necessary and powerful document for our times. Hopefully it also heralds a better future. Women in Hollywood; the glass is half full.
CAST: Rosanna Arquette, Catherine Hardwicke, Ava DuVernay, Karyn Kusama, Mary Harron
DIRECTOR: Amy Adrion
SYNOPSIS: A documentary about the dismal number of women directors working in Hollywood, using the current EEOC investigation into discriminatory hiring practices as a framework to talk to successful women directors about their career paths, struggles, inspiration and hopes for the future.