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On Wednesday night, the Women in Film Honors: Trailblazers of the New Normal recognized three of this year’s top female creative partnerships, with Jean Smart and Hannah Einbinder (Hacks), Marlee Matlin and Sian Heder (CODA), and Zendaya and Ashley Levinson (Malcolm and Marie).
The gala, held at the newly opened Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles, was hosted by comedian Jenny Yang and also recognized Jane Fonda and Zazie Beetz with special awards. The three pairs sat down for brief conversations while accepting their statues, rather than giving traditional speeches; Malcolm and Marie costar John David Washington presented to Zendaya and Levinson, a producer on the film.
The duo discussed the Netflix film’s shared equity model, made during the early days of the pandemic, and Zendaya spoke on how to move the industry toward being more inclusive.
“It’s not a lack of talent, it’s a lack of opportunity, and there’s always this idea that there can only be one, and I oppose that idea,” the star told the audience. “When you open the door, your job is to open the door and jam it open for other people to come in,” adding, “I hope to be a part of that change, I hope to continue to do that, and I learn so much every day from Ash, you’re a beast. Being able to learn and grow and know what it takes to be a producer and put all of this together and make these things happen but do it in a way that’s thoughtful and caring and full of love. Let’s all just keep looking out for each other.”
CODA director Heder and star Matlin later sat down with Eternals’ Lauren Ridloff, also a deaf actress, about the importance of authentic representation and casting deaf talent to play deaf characters, where Heder pointed out how easily the industry can figure out a complex stunt but, “Hollywood seems totally stumped by how to be inclusive on set. Why?”
Beetz accepted her WIF Max Mara Face of the Future Award virtually, and Smart (fresh off her best actress Emmy) and Einbinder chatted about Hacks‘ female-led set, both in front of and behind the camera.
“It was like the island where Wonder Woman is from,” joked Einbinder. “I feel really spoiled though, I hadn’t worked on another set before so to me that’s just the way it is. Can you imagine?” Smart added, “I am probably the last man-bashing person you’ll ever meet. I love men, I had a great father who I just adored, so to me men were always just great. But, maybe it’s just scientific, I do think that women in positions of power, they don’t feel like they have as much to prove, it’s not as much about their ego as about just wanting to do what they love.”
And, after Yang had thrown support to IATSE in her intro speech (“As a former labor organizer, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that we are on the precipice of a potential IATSE strike and that workers deserve dignity, equity and respect”), Einbinder echoed those sentiments with changes she would like to see in Hollywood.
“Humane practices would be nice, those folks are sort of asking for the bare minimum,” she said. “A living wage, workable hours so they can see their kids.”
To cap off the night, RuPaul (also just off of some historic Emmy wins) presented Fonda with the Humanitarian Award, which was renamed in her honor for years of activism.
“There was a time in my life when I thought addressing women’s issues was a distraction from war, poverty, inequality, things like that. But with time and a lot of study, smart feminist friends, traveling in the global south where the wounds of patriarchy are so visible, I was able to see what women’s issues are the core issues,” Fonda said. “If there was no racism, if there was no misogyny there would be no climate crisis, they’re all part of the same patriarchal mindset — commodification, greed, a hierarchical view of humanity and nature, violence against what is perceived as other.”
“You here in this room have a superpower to make films and television shows that can change how people see things. That’s what changes culture,” she added. “Wanting to change how things are is what activism is, and it isn’t a sprint or a marathon, it’s a relay race, and this award I think is a torch that will be handed off year after year to new generations of activists who will I hope do a better job than my generation did.”
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