Sarah Gavron Q&A: ‘Suffragette’ director
"It felt really timely," says director Sarah Gavron of her new film "Suffragette," which chronicles the early days of the feminist movement, specifically women's fight in England for the right to vote. "On one hand, it felt overdue: it was such a vital piece of our history, and it felt we should be resurrecting these women who changed the course of history. It also resonated with so much of what's going on in the world today where we still haven't got equality. Women are still fighting for basic human rights in some parts of the world."
"Suffragette" focuses on Maud Watts (Carey Mulligan), a laundress who joins the movement in protest of her harsh working conditions and unequal societal role. "We decided it would be interesting to focus on the foot soldiers of the movement," says the director, "the working women with no platform and no entitlement who sacrificed so much and achieved such a lot."
The character of Maud was created to serve as a composite for the many women who fought the good fight, and for Gavron, there was no better actress to embody this symbol than Mulligan. "I think Carey's an extraordinary actress. She's able to inhabit a role so fully: she's so truthful … Carey's character has to carry the enormous emotional journey, and she's an actor who's totally capable of all those shifts and showing that complexity."
"Suffragette" couldn't have come at a better time, considering current events. "Suddenly, women have become vocal," says Gavron of the continued fight for equality, "and there's a light being shone on the inequity in the film industry, and I think that's a great thing. It feels like it's gathering momentum, and that will result in change."
In Hollywood, the issue of inequality has come to the forefront this year, with the gender imbalance in both pay and jobs in front of and behind the camera coming to light. "Kathryn Bigelow did a lot for inspiring a generation of filmmakers, including me," says Gavron of the only woman to ever win an Oscar for directing (for "The Hurt Locker" in 2009), "and I think role models are essential: if you can't see it, you can't be it. I became a filmmaker because I saw the work of women filmmakers. And so I think we need to keep readdressing that balance, we need to keep scrutinizing it, and at the moment what's really exciting is I think more than ever this year it's a part of the conversation like never before."
Bigelow was not only the first woman to win an Oscar for directing, but to date the last woman nominated, despite Best Picture bids for Lisa Cholodenko's "The Kids Are All Right" (2010), Debra Granik's "Winter's Bone" (2010), Bigelow's "Zero Dark Thirty" (2012), and Ava DuVernay's "Selma" (2014). Could Gavron break that streak and earn a nomination? Watch our full interview below for more on the making of "Suffragette."