MUST SEE “THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING” a one time only screening event this Monday July 22 at 7:30 on over 800 screens across the US in a special Fathom event! TIX ONSALE HERE!
THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING is required viewing for anyone who doubts gender discrimination still exists, in Hollywood and wherever Hollywood intersects with other institutions like the government or banking, and wherever male hierarchies prevail–so pretty much everywhere. This is a potent, clear-headed, meticulously researched and analyzed documentary, validated by women and men in front of and behind the camera, from Meryl Streep, Reese Witherspoon, Taraji P. Henson, and Sandra Oh, to Shonda Rhimes, Mira Nair, Rosario Dawson, Judd Apatow and Alan Alda, as well as dozens more directors, actors, executives, writers, artists, all Hollywood players whose career trajectories and personal experiences ground the data in reality.
I stress “data” because without it, the film could easily be dismissed as an emotional propagandist screed. Though we seem to traffic in the latter these days, anyone with a brain, a heart, and some courage will recognize that the yellow brick road to equal representation and pay parity is still long and littered with obstacles. The evidence the film carefully assembles on all fronts–from the psychological impact of seeing oneself misrepresented or not represented at all, to the actual numbers of talented women who have been sidelined by biased Hollywood practices ignored by the government and studio execs– betrays the illusion that the problem has been solved. The documentary takes apart the myth of equality brick by brick, not only constructing a case for inclusion, but also paving a path toward making inclusion a reality.
Directed by Tom Donahue, significantly a man (it shouldn’t make a difference, and that’s enlightened!) the movie is executive produced by Oscar-winning actress and Olympian archer Geena Davis who hits the bull’s eye as founder of her Institute on Gender in Media whose mantra is “If she can see it, she can be it.” The Institute’s pioneering data on gender disparity in the movies is the impetus and spine of the film and remains shocking. Even now, according to Davis, as more lead characters are women, “a female lead is onscreen and speaks about a third of the time that a male lead does.” There are many staggering statistics just like that to open your eyes.
Davis’s own career illustrates her personal trajectory. We first met her in her underwear in 1982’s “Tootsie,” but she made her mark years later as “Thelma” in 1991’s “Thelma & Louise,” a film that turned a road movie starring two women on a cross country chase into a game changing cultural conversation– or so we thought. A prominent male critic once said to me that THELMA & LOUISE was “not character-driven.” Huh? Here are two central female characters, literally driving across country on a high-speed chase, their actual trip paralleling the evolution of their characters’ inner journeys to parts unknown, leaving an entire culture in their dust. These armed and dangerous women who took off for the wild west, not only had a smokin’ one-nighter with Brad Pitt’s frisky hitchhiking cowboy (before he was “Brad Pitt”), but abruptly altered the socio/sexual terrain between men and women while driving a conversation we are still having.
THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING which Geena drives behind the camera, continues the journey which Thelma & Louise left–literally– up in the air and which Geena bluntly confesses she thought would change everything. This film aims to change the landscape by giving these women somewhere to land, driving home the point that it is not enough to show people the facts. So the film continues the trajectory– a trajectory for change. Facts are the beginning. Facts then need to find their way into laws which redress what the facts prove. Those laws then need to be enforced. The film points up how interminable this process, and how much relentless effort is required. The film also makes the case for the positive impact of inclusion.
Indeed, one of the most persuasive parts of the movie occurs near the end and involves the firsthand experience of a powerful male business leader, the CEO of Fox Network, John Landgraf, who realized that this is not a zero sum game, but rather that a rising tide lifts all boats. When he changed the culture of his business by widening the circle of power to include women and their points of view, he saw a huge increase in the quality of the work as well as the profits– which benefitted everyone.
Indeed, the data here forms a concrete basis for action, which the documentary outlines in its closing moments. So often a documentary gets us fired up and then leaves us feeling helpless to right the wrongs we have just witnessed. THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING lives up to its title by giving us a road map and fueling the fire it lights to ignite the change we want to see. Action changes everything. See THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING and let’s get going!!