I'd like to stress at this point, that a good film and a feminist film are not necessarily the same thing. If it wasn't a Friday, I might not even mention Winter's Bone, I don't watch things in order to deconstruct their gender politics because if I did that I don't think I'd enjoy another film again. I will always notice, but it isn't how I choose films to watch, and many of my favourite films could not be considered feminist. This is not a review of Winter's Bone, it's a reflection on the messages I find within it.
Chris actually liked the film more than I did, although I liked it too. I will try not to give spoilers, in fact, I don't really need to say very much specific about the plot. The good news is, it passes the Bechdel Test within about five minutes, but more than that, the film is full of female characters with names all talking to each other. Amazing. And even better, they all do it fully clothed, and in some cases, with woolly hats on. It is the female community in the film that supports, advises and helps Ree, the central character - and although violence is threatened by male characters, the only real violence in the film is executed by women. What's interesting about this violence is that it is committed in the name of protection; not revenge or power or personal survival. Astoundingly, given the odds for escaping this in movies in general, no one is raped.
(I had to search really hard on Google for an image of more than 1 woman from the film. Note to self: in future, avoid googling anything with the word 'bone')
So, is it a feminist film? At first I thought not, because in this community men represent power, authority, they are still the catalyst for change and most of the progression in the plot. Most of the conversation between the women is about men, and indeed the plot revolves around a man. There is still a moment where a man comes to the rescue - but I am coming to the conclusion this is more in the vein of 'sidekick' than 'superhero'. Some of the men try to be heroic, but they all fail through cowardice, greed or malice. Ree on the other hand succeeds without becoming a masculine archetype. She is still able to nurture, communicate and seek non-violent solutions to her problems. She is brave, selfless and dignified. The film does truly celebrate feminine characteristics without devaluing them.
What interested me most though, was the number of women involved in making the film, reading the credits, there were women - usually plural - in pretty much every behind-the-camera department. I think our commercial film industry is so skewed towards male stories and tells them in such a blatantly sexist way is because women generally have such a tiny part in the process, men genuinely forget about them. Then women aren't interested because they don't feel reflected in cinema, and so movies just get made for young men and it becomes a viscious circle. There was still nothing like an equal split but women clearly had a much stronger presence in the making of Winter's Bone, on a project led by women. The more this happens, I hope, the more we will see an honest reflection of our world on screen.
While writing this I've been listening to Debra Granik being interviewed about Winter's Bone, and she makes the point that if we are to have any kind of 'biodiversity' in film making, we need to support the small films, because if they make their money back, the investors are happy and they get to make more films. She's not talking from a feminist perspective, just any kind of independent film-making outside the glossy Hollywood model. So I am making a resolution to seek out and pay for movies like this, in the hope that my one voice will go some way to ensuring I get to write more positive blogs!