KARYN KUSAMA left St Louis for New York City where she took up boxing. Now she's made Girlfight, a movie about a female boxer. The List went a few rounds with her to find out why.
Words: Miles Fielder
Women don’t have the natural clout of an AM or La .\lotta. do they'.’ ‘We‘re trained to believe that‘s true.‘ counters Kusama. sitting in the shade of a palm tree in (‘annes where (iii'f/i'g/ir received its liuropean premiere. ‘If you‘re given the opportunity to express yourself in that way. it can be quite freeing to he encouraged to hit other people. It's not necessarily the healthiest thing I've heard of. . . Aggression is a part of human nature and to assume it's only the province of men is a little foolish.’
‘Boxing's one of our greatest sports.‘ she continues. “It‘s a very pure expression of an athlete’s ability. It creates a set of rules that the outside world doesn't seem to have an easy ~ time enforcing for itself. People who use lighting as a means to survive will use it in or out of the ring. and it‘s better that it he in. The sport is so dramatic in itself. there‘s a simplicity to the ring. it has a classical feeling to it.’
Like the best boxing films. from 1948‘s The Sc!- ('1) to Raging Bul/ to Kusama's favourite. l‘ill (ill. (fii'I/ig/ii is about more than the sport itself. The ring offers Ktisama's teenage protagonist. Diana. something neither school nor her dysfunctional home life have: a sense of self—worth.
Kusama made (£1'i‘f/ig/i/ with the help of John Sayles‘ production team: it‘s well placed to follow Buys /)(HI '1 ﬂy as this year’s American indie success
28 THE LIST 5 190;: 2.3)?)
$ ‘ 'Aggression is a part of human nature and to assume it's only
the province of men of is a little foolish.’
‘The ferocity we were looking for is difficult to find in females'
story. Like that Oscar-winner. (Hr/ﬁght scooped prizes at the Sundance Film Festival and is the debut of a remarkably talented young female director. The film also sports an astonishing powerhouse performance from new contender Michelle Rodriguez.
"l‘lie sort of ferocity we were looking for is very difficult to find in female actorsf says Kusama. ‘because there's such a premium placed on women‘s ability to please. accommodate. serve and be pretty. That didn’t serve my purposes at all. I wanted to create a character who had an iconic power. who had a basic. blunt. almost stock character feeling the way Stanley Kowalski or 'l‘erry Malloy [an ex-boxerl have. I wanted to create that same presence but with a female character. l'm traditional. 1 like the idea of a heroine who is just a locomotive of energy.‘
Diana Guzman certainly is that. but unlike Kowalski or .\lalloy. she‘s neither self-destructive nor a victim. She doesn‘t just find her feet in the ring. she also finds love. ‘In the ring you have an agreement with your opponent to work together toward a goal that‘s very uncertain} says Kusama. ‘You want to hurt someone else. but you also want to avoid being hurt. that‘s the primary goal in boxing. There's something about that agreement and then exchange of power that reminds me intimate. romantic relationships at their most raw. In boxing there's a similar sense of the necessity of experience in the moment: if you spend your time dwelling on what
just happened you get into trouble. and if you spend
your time anticipating the future you get into even bigger trouble. That‘s also a funny demand of love.‘
Kusama is currently fending off Hollywood offers to do another sports film. instead she’s working on what she terms a ‘biotlogicall thriller“. Meanwhile. the ferocious Rodriguez is training to become an action movie heroine.
Cameo, Edinburgh from Fri 13 Oct. See review.
Lights, camera, action. . .
NATIONAL SCHOOLS FILM Week (Friday 6—13 October) is back for its fifth year of promoting cinema to the kids, as if they needed to be told to bunk off school to see the new modern interpretation of Shakespeare. Seriously, this is the largest film education event for schools and colleges in Europe. It comprises free - yes FREE — screenings and guest speaker events revolving around key themes including animation, world cinema, documentary, film promotion, directors on directors, film and Shakespeare (yup) and, my favourite, BFI 100 teachers’ choice: Blue Murder At St Trinians, sir? The events include a preview screening of Purely Belter, Mark Herman's follow-up to Brassed Off(Glasgow only I'm afraid). For further details look up www.filmeducation.org
MENTAL HEALTH WEEK runs Sunday 8—Saturday 1-1 October. This year Artlink and the Filmhouse have teamed up for a screening of the excellent lacgueiine dii Pre biOpic, Hilary And Jackie, starring Emin Watson on Tuesday 10 October There will also be a workshop event on Monday 9 October with Filmhouse Education Officer Shona Wood which looks at representations of mental health in film
EDINBURGH'S CAMEO CINEMA is now inviting submissions for its second annual Jim Poole Short Film Award, the event which supports short filmmaking in Scotland and takes its name from the late cinema entrepreneur. The winner of last year's inaugural event was Adrian McDowall, who went on to collect a BAFTA for Who’s My Favourite Girl?. The next winner (to be announced in March 2001) will receive a £1000 cash prize and have his/her film screened at the Cameo and in London at sister cinema the Ritzy. The submission deadline is 15 January 2001 and full info is available via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
FILM TRIVIA QUIZ gets new leading lady. Filmhouse general manager Rod White has retired after ten years of running the ever popular quiz for film aficionados, but fellow manager and film buff Jenny Leask takes over from Sunday 8 October and every second Sunday of the month thereafter
Could that be Alan Shearer in Purely Belter, man?