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About Jenna Cato Bass

I'm a director, writer, photographer, aspiring explorer and retired magician living in Cape Town, South Africa

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Posted October 29, 2009

mika, so I've been doing a lot of thinking on a subject i know you must have an opinion on. When you get down to cape town i look forward to having this discussion. But, namely: women in cinema. Let's start on women's film festivals. I've quite constantly not had much time for these - being semi-outraged at the need for them, considering them as further secluding women from the competitive stage and highlighting the differences surrounding women filmmakers when, really, we all just make movies. I would want my films out there, accepted for what they are, not at all who i am. However, of late I've been wondering if I'm at all right. This debate was begun when The Tunnel was invited to screen at a woman's film festival in India. At first, Grade A Skepticism kicked in, and then I read the curator's note. To cut a long story short, I started to wonder whether the term "women's films" cannot rather more constructively refer to (and excuse me if this is no revelation to some) the portrayal, or the responsibility to portray, of women within films. Hold on a second though, I thought. How backward is society then, that even that should still be important? And then I remembered that last weekend I saw Inglorious Basterds.
OK, let's hang back, one moment, to address all those who don't take anything I say about film seriously because of my so-called analytical perspective (which is a whole 'nother ball game and way too narcissistic to discuss here... not that blogging has much to do with anything besides narcissism. or at least, great platters of ego. with ego gravy. ANYWAY). The film has great, great scenes. It plays to Tarantino's many strengths. Unfortunately, it also shows up the cracks, and one of these cracks appears about  two hours in, accompanied by an edgy soundtrack and even edgier shade of lipstick. Here I'm talking about how women are portrayed in the director's films - up until now, this hasn't particularly bothered me. I've vaguely admired the frequency with which Tarantino writes powerful female characters. Who get to kick ass. Or... do drugs. But on watching IB, it occurred to me how completely and inextricably linked feminine heroism and sexual allure are. Women cannot be powerful without it. And without it they may kick ass, but ultimately they will get their just deserts, along with appropriate amounts of suffering and humiliation, depending on the director and the film. And the fact that this doesn't bother anyone, men or women, really gets to me. I know not everyone is watching a film like IB looking out for such points, but the information is going in somewhere. And it makes me very uncomfortable.
But look. I'll think about this some more - at the least I'll re-watch some Tarantino. So, I'll say this - just got home from watching Fargo (for the, let's see, billionth time) at Jacques house (we are so playing "Frances McDormand, Frances McDormand" when you get here! Or at least refurbishing the shrine) and there I see a great female character. Pure genius. Wonderful. And I compare the part to other films and say, here-is-a-great-example-of-what-female-characters-can-be-like. BUT, on the other hand, it's also a portrayal of the great traditional balance - Yes, ladies can have a career, but not without forgetting their god-given maternal responsibility, no sir. Argh! I can't believe I am even dreaming of critting such a perfect film. I must be staying indoors too much.
Oh no, one more thing - a line from Preminger's "Fallen Angel" which I saw last night - (Anti)Hero asks love-interest (who has since displayed both musical and intellectual prowess. Or at least, she admits to 'reading') if she's considered a career. To which she replies: "Oh no! I know my limitations!" So, I suppose we have come some way since then.


Oh - and one last last thing, completely off the topic: If you know anyone who would like to sponsor my ticket to this (click here) well, I may possible go INSANE and then graciously and humbly accept. I'm sorry, but for me this has just got to be the cinema event of the year. 70mmmmmmmmmmmmm!!!!!! Nothing this big has happened to me since I say the redux 35mm print off Ashes of Time. OK, so you must know what it is now....

over and out. 


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White Noise

Posted October 13, 2009

Hey Orli!

So, I'm writing to you, this time, at 4:32am, which I know would probably upset you :). Reason being, I've been up doing rewrites on 5.6 Seconds of White Noise, the feature screenplay I'm busy finishing off. It's weird, as rewrites are the kind of thing you postpone, or do when you have to, when a deadline looms. But in this case it's like a kind of madness, except without the angst. And I'm enjoying it way too much. Right now, infected with early dawn mania, I'm excited as hell about this script. It breaks all the rules in all the right ways (so wrong, so right, la di da). I'm in love with the characters, bordering on obsession. It's bad. So basically, we have to make it. OK? I'm thinking we can do it for very little money (a first for one of my projects, hey?). So I'm starting investigating all the channels again and was reminded of us, 6, 7 months ago, sitting in my computer room amoung all my mom's palliative care notes and my sister's homework, mass emailing for funding. Ah, the good old days. And they're about to start again. Don't worry, I'll handle it myself this time, at least until I get myself a proper producer :) Anyway, thinking of having another crack at Sundance, if they'll invite me again. Don't know if you get that chance twice. But really. The tides are on the move with this one. And what's so great is it's the kind of story and script where you really can be what the bleeping bleep bleep we can just do it ourselves. Except for the airoplane scene with the Hari Krishnas. But Jacques is working at me to take that out anyway. So we'll see. 

At the video store though, I saw something which I thought you'd enjoy: I'd put on a BFI collection of early cinema short films, the beginning of special effects, primitive filmmaking. This little kid, maybe 7 or so, was at the counter with his mom, and he's staring at the screen, enraptured. Eventually, he asks his mom, "Mom, what movie is that?" She says she doesn't know. He looks very solemn, then says "That looks like the most interesting film in the world." It was GREAT! New generation of South African filmmakers. Obviously.

OK, so the birds are tweet tweeting ("Bastards", as my dad would say). So I'd better make another attempt at sleep. Too many pictures swimming through the murky waters of my mind right now. But I'll try put them to bed. For now. 

I'll let you know when the script is finished- it's almost there. It's a bit shocking, horrible in parts, but what lovely horror. I hope you'll like it.

Over and out. 


PS if you haven't already seen it, try get hold of a copy of Seapoint Days - the best local film I've seen. 


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It all looks good on paper...

Posted October 09, 2009

Hi Gavin

How are you? I'm writing this post to you because I'm not really sure if anyone will still read this now that the furore of production is at an end. Yes, of course, the work still continues - have begun to submit with bated breath, clammy hands and a serious mistrust of the postal system to the major festivals (hello, programmers). But results will only be yielded (that's a word??? Spell check says it is) in the next few months.  Overall, there is no more money to fight for (for the first time in a year), no more people to co-ordinate. It's weird to speak to one of the next generation of AF winners and think that's where I was a year ago (almost) - tears in my eyes, the cold New York wind in my ears. The sound of sirens. And panic, always panic. But now, it's just this strange lightness coming back. And the ideas have started to flow again with the liquidity (I just checked and that is indeed a word, albeit a malapropism. to hell with it) of someone who has nothing to lose. Coming to terms once again with the fact that it may be a while until money for films is in constant supply. It'll be a battle from one thing to the next. Each time a little step up the ladder, a little bite at the apple. Or something.

"So, Jenna, what's next up?" Or so people ask. Well, I'll tell ya. I've written a short called "The Ballad of Michael the Fox" about a shape-shifting assassin, which I say with my ego on my sleeve, is very 'me'. Then, there's "5.6 Seconds of White Noise" which is decidedly not, but great anyway - a collaboration with writer and favorite local Renaissance genius, Nikhil Singh - about teenagers in 1994 Durban, based on a true story, sort of. It breaks all the rules, structure wise, but I'm really fascinated, bordering on obsessed, by it. Two other low-budget features which I hope to get done soon. And then Jan Hendrik has very kindly invited me to work on writing a short for him  - we'll see if he likes my approach (hi Jan Hendrik - I hope we don't end up filing for divorce citing irreconcilable differences about Christopher Nolan. It's a touchy subject. I mean, it affects one's entire world view. It's quite scary. Where does one stand?). So yes, will try rustle up some money from various sources and see from there. My last attempt at gainful employment on someone else's production ended in utter disaster and purgatory and basically dismissal (no really), so there really is only one way forward. Or it's picking strawberries in Sweden for me. Or an oil rig. It all comes down to the same thing. 

Oh, blog of the week: This belongs to our post-producer from Waterfront Post, Richard Lackey and concerns all aspects on digital cinema in a sober, comprehensive and, like, awesome, manner - check it out: It made me see myself for the techno-primitave I am. 

Other than that, I am thinking of starting a petition to make sure "Antichrist" comes to cinemas in South Africa. Because I might just die if it doesn't. I'll let you know if I take this further. 

OK. That's about it for now - I hope le film school is treating you well. If not, give em hell from me. Let me know how you are, it would b good to catch up. 



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