‘The sort of ferocity we were looking for is very difficult to find in female actors’

KARYN KUSAMA moved to New York City and took up boxing. Now she’s made female boxer movie Girlfight. The List went a few rounds with her to find out why. Words: Miles Fielder

attempt to strike a blow for men: women don‘t have the natural clout of an Ali or a La Motta. though. do they'.’ ‘We‘re trained to believe that‘s true.‘ counters Karyn Kusama. effortlessly. sitting calm and composed in the shade of a palm tree in Cannes at which film festival (Hr/fight received its liuropean premiere. ‘If you're given the opportunity to express yourself in that way. it can feel quite freeing to be 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.‘ 'l‘hirtysomething. intelligent and articulate. Kusama continues: ‘Boxing‘s one of our greatest sports. 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

‘Aggression is a part of human nature and to assume it’s only the provrnce of men is a little foolish’

be 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 I948‘s The Set- Up to Raging [full to Kusama's favourite. Fat City. (iii'Ttig/it is about more than the sport itself. The ring offers Kusaina‘s teenage protagonist. Diana. something neither school nor her dysfunctional home life have: a sense of self-worth. And like last year‘s American indie success story. Boys Don't Cry. Cir/fight scooped prizes at the Sundance Film Festival and is the debut of a remarkably talented young female director (Kusama's an alumni of John Sayles‘ production team he makes a cameo in her

24 THE LIST 12—26 Apr 2001

film). The film also sports an astonishing powerhouse performance froin 22-year—old l’uerto Rican- American new contender Michelle Rodriguez.

‘The sort of ferocity we were looking for is very difficult to find in female actors.‘ says Kusaina. ‘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. altnost stock character feeling the way Stanley Kowalski or 'l‘eri'y Malloy [Marlon Brando‘s characters in .'l Streetcar Numerl Desire and 0/1 The Hitter/rent] now have. I wanted to create that same presence but with a female character. l‘in traditional.

I like the idea of a heroine who is just a locomotive of


Diana (itllmttll certainly is that. but unlike Kowalski or Malloy she‘s neither self-destructive nor a victim. She doesn‘t just lind 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 Kusarna. ‘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 of intimate. romantic relationships at

their most raw. ln boxing there‘s a similar sense of

the necessity of experience in the moment: if you spend your time ,. 3 dwelling on " what i ti st 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.‘ Kusaina is currently fending off l‘lollyyvood offers to do another sports film: instead she‘s working on what she terms a 'biotlogical) thriller". Meanwhile. the ferocious Rodriguez is training to become an international action movie heroine with two thrillers. 3 AM. and The first And The l‘iirr'mrs. under her belt. and a role in the forthcoming computer game adaptation. Resident Elf].

GFT, Glasgow; Cameo, Edinburgh from Fri 20 Apr. See review.

Rough cuts

Lights. camera. act/on

lili \ANNE 8 l ll,,lvl l i SilvAL

:L‘ ' it hit; "t‘ .il‘ itl Shifting} up

~ t"e official

'iev'. festival

t‘ws .ie'". l.".~.>"‘. l 'en‘at..' vvenl

'9 Ann. check these ‘. .i"i‘.‘ll‘.ll’t‘\l 3151:; We kJUt‘l‘

t'. time e. [lavrtl

l in: est l\'.‘oi\:1how

Hut '.7.. [" 1e. Human

l '.it‘.‘.:;' t‘. ii;\e2.i':; t3 t).

,‘ task/e. Tten by Her/iii

Jim“ Nina; .Ib scribe Charlie

l\.i.."“.in, Sean Penn}; The

Petra: .l."‘.l’ '.‘§lr.ii‘." Singleton's

“.31”. {3‘ l’efer Hoiitlariovicli's

The tier}; '.'v liliTllJlti

l 'Mhifet't; ‘.'..i»\i't_..‘ l ifi‘, Al‘t‘l

l erraia‘s fi‘ \mas and the real

.1. bn lyiallxoyrch's ilirei‘trnii effort

The [Mover Upstairs,

Apocalypse Now - Director’s Cut

lhe strong; American presence is armed at wooing l'lollwrootl talent. noticeava absent in recent years Not that it Will (loininate: world cinema auteurisin is well represented \‘Jllll .Jean l ur: Gorlar'il's I loge de l 'Arnour. l lI(: l‘iohrner's lying/arse et /e {)ue Nannr Morettr't; [ a Stan/a {)e/ fig/it). Carlos .‘aura's; Bunue/ And King .‘So/ornon't; Tab/e. Werner l lei/oti's //?l’/lli.‘l/)/t.’ ariil Abbas Kiar'oz;.arni's ABC Afr/ea. Ken l. oargh. who's currently working (:it a Scottish set followup to i'i/lr Milne /.‘; Joe. becomes patron of the Critics Week section. .‘./llt:l"_,‘ his; lit/f) frlrn, Kes, p'eiiiiererl. At; prenarrutdy reported. a longer director"; cut of x'iiioi,‘.'i/i';>se /‘\.loi'./ v/rll premiere at the festival anrl Ba? l i.l:rviiariii's; Meir/in Rouge Will open Cannes. IF YOU’RE INTERESTED IN dance on film check out Abbi Warrilow’s short Cross Spin, screening at Filmhouse, Edinburgh 19 April with The Tango Lesson. Warrilow leads a post-screening discussion. THE US T HAS SIX PAIRS OF tickets to give away fer screenaig of The Harder They Come With guest appearance by reggae legend Jimmy Cliff at The Belriiont. Aberdeen. Fri 27 Apr; Filinhouse. Edinburgh. Sat 28 Apr: and GFT. Glasgow. Sun 29 Apr. Simply answer this questrcn ‘.’l€i email or postcard. Stating ‘,/Our venue preference: In what city lS The Harder They Corrie set?