Vanessa Pellegrin has returned to the director's chair with new documentary film The Trouble with the F Word.
The Trouble with the F Word explores feminism and anti-feminism and sees Lucy-Anne Holmes and Nick Lancaster have their already established views challenged by the opposite site to their beliefs.
I caught up with the director to chat about the new documentary, her viewpoint on feminism, and what lies ahead.
- The Trouble with the F Word is your brand new documentary, so can you tell me a bit about the film?
The Trouble with the F-word' is more of a performative than a classical documentary. The two central characters, Lucy Anne Holmes from No More Page 3 and TV presenter Nick Lancaster - a woman and a man with differing views - are participating in an experiment to test their established beliefs about feminism and anti-feminism.
The aim is to take them out of their comfort zone and face them with a reality they didn't expect. Nick, despite being absolutely in favour of gender equality dislikes Feminism as he thinks it is a movement that goes too far sometimes, whereas Lucy doesn't understand how people can be against a movement that liberated women.
Therefore, Lucy will meet anti-feminist groups and Nick will get involved within feminism activism. After this adventure, they will be capable to tell what is wrong with the F (Feminism) word in the western world. Indeed, we focus on the issues of modern Feminism in the UK and the US.
- You are in the director's chair for the film, so where did this project start for you? And what was it about this subject that particularly interested you?
After the celebration of the 100th anniversary of Suffragette Emily Wilding Davison's passing in 2013, surveys establishing the 'death of feminism' were spread across the media and I felt the need to investigate more around this topic, together with my friend, executive producer Beverley Morisson.
I have always been interested in society debates and very keen on exposing controversial subjects, but at this time, I had no idea about what to expect. Indeed, we have discovered an incredible amount of people, men and women, rejecting feminism and claiming it to have become a sexist movement that is no longer representative for the majority of women.
In 2013, Caroline Criardo Perez received death threats for suggesting to put a woman's face on a tenner, and sex workers were complaining about modern Feminism because it was ostracizing them. Last year, after the tumblr page called 'women against feminism' which broke to the news and the launch of Emma Watson's He for She campaign, we had no more doubt that the debate around Feminism had become a hot topic.
- Where did you stand on the feminism debate before you started making this film? How much did that point of view change throughout the making of this film?
I am still making my own journey as we are still meeting people and learning a lot from them, regardless of the side. There is something for sure I have always stood for and that is gender equality and the abolishment of stereotypes.
Clearly, there is a long way to go to reach it but now the question is: how can we do that if it is not with modern feminism? 36% of the UK and US population seem to struggle with it and often associate it with a negative movement. Then, what are the other options people offer? Is the He for She campaign the answer? That is all we're trying to find out.
- What kind of movie did you want to make as you set out filming The Trouble with the F Word? How did that change over the course of shooting with the footage that you were able to get? Did you find yourself going down a different path because shooting threw up something that you hadn't previously thought about?
Initially we just wanted Lucy to explore both sides but we realized that also getting a man involved in the debate was a better idea. The shoot changed according to the current affairs, some specific news needed to be taken into account and be developed within the film.
For example, meeting the antifeminist party campaigning for the general elections in the UK was something we couldn't miss, neither skip Emma Watson's campaign.
- The documentary sees Lucy Anne-Holmes and Nick Lancaster on board and they are exploring the opposite side of their beliefs throughout the film. How did you get these two on board? And what sort of experience did you want them to have while they were making this film?
The way they know each over will be discovered in the film so I can't say much about that. Lucy has to meet and interact with antifeminist groups whereas Nick has to get involved in feminist activism.
It is all about taking them out of their comfort zones and asking questions to the people opposing them. Will they change their minds? This is what we will discover.
- How do you think their opposing viewpoints were challenging during the course of the film?
It is still too early to answer this question as the experiment isn't finished, but there is indeed a growing interest in the subject and an aim to learn more!
- Feminism is something that has a bit of a bad reputation, so why do you think that is? And can you realistically fight inequalities without feminism?
Feminism includes a lot of different movements: the radical, the activists, the sex positive and often they interfere within each other. Sex workers claim themselves feminist but feel ostracized by feminist organizations as they are mainly abolitionists and this has an impact on their lives.
Moreover, men have been targeted individually on the name of feminism. Everybody remembered how scientist Matt Taylor burst into tears for wearing an alleged sexist T shirt and the Manspreading campaign on New York's underground. All these events portray feminists as 'men haters' and a lot of women don't want to be associated with this label.
Now can equality be achieved without Feminism? This is the question the film will answer because funnily enough, pro or anti-feminist, most of all the people we interviewed are very much in favour of gender equality.
- However, feminism is something that has been talked about quite a lot recently with the likes of Emma Watson taking up the cause - she quite rightly points out feminism is not about 'man-hating.' Do you think public figures like her have the power to change how feminism is viewed?
I think she's trying to do something no one has tried before by considering both men and women within the gender equality debate and it seems that a lot of people are keen to listen to her as her speech rings the bell: men and women have been trapped as stereotypes for too long.
Now, some people would argue this campaign is all about men becoming better for women but still their issues are ignored. That is what we hear even if it is not from a majority of people. I am really looking forward to the evolution of that campaign and I am very supportive of the fact that she's trying to create a better and fairer society.
- What do you hope people will take away from the film when they see it? And how have you been finding the response to the film so far?
The debate has been on going for years in a very aggressive way on social media. Yet it exists. This film is an opportunity for them to see all the points of views exposed, all the questions answered and a real debate taking place.
Surely they will be able to develop a better understanding of feminism and antifeminism (Also it is not only about misogynist men, it is a lot more complex) and eventually think about solutions for tackling gender inequalities in their respective countries. Indeed, even if we are equal by law in the UK and the US, there is still a long way to go, but the problems are exposed in a different way.
- You started out your career in journalism, so how have you found the transition into the director's chair? Was it a natural progression?
I really enjoyed my job as a journalist but I think working for a newspaper or any media involves too many boundaries and limits. By making my own documentary, controversial debate is still possible. It was a natural transition to me.
- Ownership Rules was your first feature film, so what lessons were you able to take from that and implement this time around?
Ownership Rules was a very journalistic work where my point of view wasn't exposed at all and I realized I could still be fair and balanced even if I chose to go through a different type of documentary.
This time, two presenters with their own views decide to go through an experiment and I think this will be more efficient in communicating the message as the audience can directly emphasize with one of those presenters.
- Finally, what's next for you going through 2015?
Lots more projects, but can't tell much more now. The important thing at the moment is to show this piece of work to people, as I am sure they will be really interested to find out more about a society debate that has been on going for years.