Director, Producer, Trailblazer: Ida Lupino

In the 1940s and ’50s, in what is considered by many to be the “golden age” of the film industry, few women were working behind the scenes. They could be seen on screen, usually portraying polarized female stereotypes: the virgin and the whore, the good girl and the villain, the love interest and the mother. Behind-the-scenes positions for women virtually disappeared after WWII, coinciding with the societal shift to focus on the nuclear family and feminine ideals. Any role that did exist were always given to white women — women of colour, if they appeared on screen, were generally only given roles that either cast them as servants or fetishized them. That’s an issue that’s still being addressed today. When it comes to contemporary female directors, we are finally seeing support and recognition for their works, but we are only still at the very beginning.

It was the same in the 1940s as it is now: in order to see the stories they want to see, women needed to make the movies themselves.

Ida Lupino did just this. In the 1940s, she was a big ticket actress, working alongside high-profile actors like Humphrey Bogart. She was top-billed, talented, and beautiful, but she wasn’t finished. She wanted to make movies. While on the set, she would watch the directors and the camera operators and learn from them, probably one of the best education a young filmmaker could ever get. While she was always a student of film, Lupino didn’t get a chance to direct until she sat in for director Elmer Clifton for the 1949 film Not Wanted when Clifton fell ill. Lupino was not credited, but it was her first unofficial project.

Ida Lupino. Photo via TIFF on Twitter.

In 1950 she opened her own production company with her husband, Collier Young. There, she wrote, directed, and distributed a number of films without studio backing and without famous actors. These were films with strong female characters, complicated women, women on the outside of society. Her topics were controversial for the time — sexual assault, unplanned pregnancy, and mental health to name a few —, and even now, despite more open dialogues on these topics, the stories Lupino told and the films she created are still very relevant.

“She’s a humanist,” says Anne Morra, Associate Curator at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. “She doesn’t pack her films with known movie stars, so the audience has a character without a story attached to them. Her films could be documentaries.”

In her official directional debut, Never Fear, the subjects are professional dancers and lovers with Carol and Guy at its center. Carol contracts polio and loses the ability to dance, causing feelings of worthlessness and inferiority. In Outrage, Lupino tackles sexual assault, depicting a violent attack on a young woman and the subsequent emotional fallout and police investigation.

A still from Outrage (1950). Source.

These are topics that big production companies would never touch since the box office payoff would have been minimal at best. Who would want to see such terrible and unromantic things? Generally, films at the time were much more formulaic, falling under romance or crime. Think of the noir thrillers from the 1940s and the romantic comedies of the 1950s. The main characters are cool, competent men and the women are seductive, soft speaking side pieces. Lupino’s realistic, female-driven narratives were hardly what audiences at the time were used to consuming.

“She’s quite avant-garde in her role,” says Morra. “She learned from other directors but it’s important not to compare her because her works are very unique.”

Despite not fitting in with her contemporaries, Lupino’s works have staying power. This month, TIFF is hosting Lupino’s first-ever retrospective, showing a restored selection of her works as a director and an actress. Morra, who has done extensive research on Lupino, introduced the screening of Never Fear last Wednesday at the Bell Lightbox. The retrospective celebrates Lupino as both a pioneer for women on screen and in independent filmmaking.

“I hope [viewers] take away the idea of Ida as a revolutionary filmmaker. She was a woman working without a blueprint,” says Morra. “I hope they’re able to rediscover her or discover her for the first time.”

As someone who wasn’t very familiar with Lupino, I discovered her for the first time through Outrage, a movie that tore me up emotionally but impressed me with how it handled a story of sexual assault, arguably better, despite some religious overtones, than some television shows aim to depict it now. I was surprised by it, shocked by it, and thrilled to have discovered such a strong point of view from a female director. We now have many more female perspectives. We have Ava DuVernay, Ana Lily Amirpour, Jennifer Kent, and Kathryn Bigelow, all talented filmmakers with distinct perspectives and styles. It doesn’t make sense to compare them with one another, just as it doesn’t make sense to compare them with Lupino, who worked in a very different time and industry. What cannot be denied is Lupino’s effect on cinema, her legacy of a phenomenal body of work and the ground she broke in her time.

As Morra put it, “She’s someone who deserves to be seen.”

Tickets to Ida Lupino’s retrospective can be found here. The retrospective runs through September 2nd. Continue following our arts & culture coverage on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

Alice Ivy Makes Her Toronto Debut

Alice Ivy is a 23-year-old producer and artist hailing from Melbourne who will be taking the stage during the upcoming Canadian Music Week. While Alice is a newcomer to the Canadian scene, she is a touring veteran by any standard whose sound is often compared to the likes of The Avalanches and Mark Ronson. After completing two Australian tours as well as shows in the US and Singapore, Alice is making her way across the globe and sharing her music with those lucky enough to experience it.

Alice’s single, Almost Here, has collected 900,000 plays on Spotify combined with her smash hit, Touch.

With Canadian Music Week quickly approaching, one can easily be overwhelmed with the list of international artists gracing this year’s stage. This is one you don’t want to miss out on. We had the opportunity to chat with Alice about her upcoming performance, her musical influences, and her tour experience.

 Shot by @shotbyletans

Kimberley Drapack:  Welcome to Toronto! Have you been to Canada before?

Alice Ivy: Thank you, no! I’m super excited because this will be my first time.

K: Are you excited to play Canadian Music Week?

AI: I’m super nervous actually. Showcasing is a pretty hard thing to do. I am super excited to see a bunch of cool music, hang out with some like-minded people, and get to know the scene in Canada.

K: You are known to be quite active onstage during your concerts. What is your favourite part of live performance?

AI: I put 100% into my live shows. I really believe that a live performance is just as important as a recording, so I keep my shows pretty energetic and exciting. My favourite part of a live performance is being on the same level as the audience. I’m having a good time, they are having a good time.

K: How did you first get involved with music and creating music?

AI: I have always grown up with music, but the first involvement I had with creating music was when I picked up a guitar at 12. I used to play in lots of bands and never really had my own solo project going. When I began a music course at university, I started to produce and write my own beats. I love the freedom and control I get from doing it all by myself from a laptop, but sharing it with others in collaborations and live performance is the best.

 

K: Who would you say are your musical influences?

AI: I am a massive soul and motown fan. I grew up listening to a lot of Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross, and Curtis Mayfield. Now, I listen to a lot of Kaytranada, Anderson Paak, J. Cole, Kendrick, Onra, Gramatik, Gold Panda — a whole bunch of music really.

K: There is something about your music that sounds amazing when paired with a rap verse. Would you describe your sound as being influenced by hip-hop and soul?

AI: I love the mixture of hip hop and soul-based beats. Especially when performed live, it’s music that is exciting and made to feel good. That’s what I really aim for in my music.

K: In late November of 2016 you played at the Queenscliff Music Festival and the Paradise Music Festival, but afterwards you were taken to the hospital because you had broken your leg. Even though you had injured yourself, you still powered through and played your sets. What was this experience like?

AI: I’ve been healthy my whole life, so for a broken leg to stop me and cause me to take a step back was super hard. I spent a lot of time at home writing, which was awesome, but the break gave me a lot to think about when approaching my live set. I generally jumped around a lot on stage so I worked out a way of still doing that on one leg — a set of crutches and a stool, haha. It was a pretty crazy experience but I’m so glad it all worked out because I really didn’t want to cancel any shows.

Shot by Dom Schmarsel 

K:  You have been touring for some time now.  Do you enjoy it? Do you ever get homesick?

AI: I love travelling, I haven’t reached that point yet of being homesick on tour. The broken leg, however, has made me really appreciate the couch, so I’ll check back with you in a couple of months.

K: Almost Here (feat. RaRa) is my go-to anthem. How did this collaboration begin?

AI: I had been sitting on this track for so long. I recorded the vocals in London, the drums in Hobart, Tasmania, and the beat in my studio in Melbourne. I really wanted some rap verses on it and I have always loved RaRa, so I reached out to them. We then finished it off in the studio.

K: Your music seems to hold a nostalgia to it with a throwback sort of feel. What does this mean to you?

AI: I think just growing up and playing soul/Motown and listening to it everyday along with the memories associated with that type of music have given me a real passion for creating it. I just want people to have a good time listening to my music and watching a show.

K:  Who would be your dream artist to collaborate with?

AI: Missy Elliott, Little Dragon, or Anderson Paak.

K: What is next for you? When will you be releasing new music?

AI: I’m about to go on a really big Australian tour with Urthboy and then I’ll jump on a plane to Canada. I will release some music in between 😉

Check out Alice’s latest single, Get Me A Drink, and keep a lookout for her debut album coming later this year. Catch her set at Canadian Music Week on April 21st at Longboat Hall and continue following our fashion & lifestyle coverage on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

A Voice For All: Jahmeelah Gamble

There are only so many hours in the day, and Jahmeelah Gamble makes every moment count. From her community involvement, facilitating programs for youth with disabilities, to hosting her own television and radio shows, she is the epitome of a superwoman.

1) First and foremost, can you talk about what you do? I was reading your website and it seems like you have your hands in everything, with a strong focus on disability and equality? How did you get into this and what is your background?

JG: I’ve been in the field for fifteen years, with a background in Developmental Services Working from Fanshawe College in 2010. Prior to that, I was involved in various day programs supporting children and adults with disabilities, and that’s when I decided to turn my passion into my career.

The way I got into it, well I really cannot say; I myself don’t have a disability, I don’t have a child or any family with disabilities. I’d like to say that God had a plan for me and thought that I would be a great asset to this field, so that’s how I got into it.Working in this field, I was trying to find different ways to be an advocate, but not be in the typical thick of things. Yes, I work for the School Board and I am an Education Resource Facilitator, but I wanted to go above and beyond that, so I started my own business, Ms. Jams. I consult with families, workshop facilitation, and community advocacy. There’s different organizations that have me come out, and I do workshops, whether it is parent empowerment or disability sensitivity classes with them, just to give them a really lighthearted and open perspective on how they can better understand disability awareness, and whether it is improving their business or just improving their attitudes, that is my goal when I go out and I support them. With parents I consult, especially with those first time parents whose first child is born with a disability, I help them understand the system and what the next steps are, and really remind them that they are first and foremost the expert of their child, and help them decide how they can be the best possible advocate for their children.

My show, A Voice For All, launched in 2014, and it’s hard to believe it’s in its fourth season. As I said, that wasn’t my educational background, but I did do an interview on Roger Television to promote Autism Awareness Month. The following year, I wanted to come back and talk about families, and that I was concerned that as a community, we didn’t do enough to help parents with children with disabilities feel welcome and understood. I wanted to pick which show I wanted to be on, so I thought that if I put my application in for Show Proposal, that that was me proposing to be on a particular show, and little did I know, I was asking to have my own show. I ended up totally winging an interview with a producer, explaining how I could have my own show and what it would be about, and next thing you know, I had a pilot then I had my first season, and I have not looked back since!

I am the host and the producer of the show. We proudly support people with disabilities, their support workers, the grassroots organizations that need more exposure, and most importantly, we provide support to parents. I have had parents come on the show and tell their stories, and it creates a sense of community for parents tuning in and they can learn from each other. What I love most about my show is when we have organizations like the Special Olympics come on, and there are athletes that rarely get mainstream television and they get ten whole minutes about why they are awesome, how they became the person they are, and regardless of what their disability or their cognitive level is, they made it work and they made it happen.

It’s been a rewarding experience for me, to better understand the organizations in our communities that really need our support, but also I’ve learned a lot about myself as an advocate. I’ve been doing this for fifteen years, but I still feel like I’m just getting started. The first couple years was me getting my feet wet and exploring who I am, and now that’s I’ve found this passion in media, whether it is magazines I’ve written for, my show, and I’ve recently launched my online radio program called Straight Up with Jam, where I talk straight up about disability issues and awareness within our community and around the world. The channel that my show airs on, Voices For Ability, is the only online radio show within the region that is for people with disabilities by people with disabilities, so I was honoured when they approached me about hosting a show. So I am speaking on the perspective as an able-bodied person, and identifying things that my fellow able-bodied people do that are not always right, but at the same time, trying to help the able-bodied community people with different abilities. We have various people from different organizations come around, and we talk straight up about the issues. It’s my way to contribute to an amazing group of people who are often misunderstood and I’m just doing my part.

2) What have been the struggles of doing this, as well as the rewards?

JG: The struggles of me being in this field of work is convincing people why they should pay attention, especially because I am able-bodied. I have been asked “Why are you so passionate about disabilites? You don’t even have a disability, and no one in your family is affected”. My answer to that is I have a heart, and my heart cares about individuals who do have different needs. When I go to different events, and especially mainstream events, my struggle is getting the platform to express to people to open their ears and their eyes and their hearts to what I am trying to promote. My struggle is a part of the story. When you have these setbacks, it gives you that fuel to keep going, and when I do come across these walls of people, that shows me that I need to work harder to promote the work that myself and other people are doing. There are harder days, when I am in the school system when I am seeing my students being misunderstood, I become sort of a mama bear, and showing people that they have a value and a purpose.

The rewards are the people I work with. I love my students, I really do. My previous student from last year was actually my flower girl at my wedding. She holds a very special place in my heart, so it was only natural that she be a part of our big day. I have had students and clients who have underestimated themselves. We have had big goals for them, and when we achieve that goal and I see that sense of pride on their face and their parents’ faces, that’s the biggest reward for me. Even with A Voice For All, and seeing how far it has come, that for me is a reward: having people understand what I am trying to promote. My work is my reward, every single day.

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3) Tell me about your dance classes and how they started.

JG: I am not a classically trained dancer, I just happen to have some rhythm! For a couple years, I was a fitness instructor for the YMCA, and a previous colleague wanted to partner with me to do an event for individuals who have disabilities, especially adults. What the general population does not know is that typically when people with disabilities get to about 18 years old, they are essentially pushed off the cliff by the system. There is not enough funding and programs to support them, so they are left to their own means. We decided to launch EmpowerMe Fitness and Education about a year ago, which is a non-profit fitness program for adults with developmental disabilities. We took my fitness routines and modify them to each class; so for example, if we have an individual who is in a wheelchair or someone with autism, we completely modify the class so everyone is up and moving and everybody included. We rely solely on public donations and are now exploring government funding as well, because we need to have programs like this running consistently. It’s come together by need, with my background in Developmental Disabilites and dance, and her extensive background in Behaviour Therapy, to create something that a lot of people and their families were looking for. Some people weren’t even meeting us, they just showed up because there was nothing else like this available. We are always expanding and growing because the need is there. In the future, we hope to work with more classically trained dancers and get into gyms to help the staff working better understand and connect with members with disabilities. EmpowerMe not only aims to support people personally, within our program setting, but also the population and the community at large understand how they can better welcome individuals with disabilities.

What is next for you, in 2015 and beyond? What are you most proud of?

JG: I am hoping that we can take A Voice For All on wider platform to reach a bigger audience. I don’t believe in five year plans, because I really do not know. What I want is to continue to be healthy physically, mentally, and emotionally, so that I can continue to do the work that I do. In the upcoming months, I want to continue to learn more, become more passionate, and become a stronger advocate. I want to be involved in greater opportunities that allow me to further my experience, connect with more people, and strive to become a person who can create change and understanding.

With confidence, I can say I am self-made and that I am always looking for ways to grow. Yes, I am a Teacher’s Assistant during the day, but I have my television show, my radio show, I sit on committees, I do events, I do public speaking, so that to me is something I am really proud of. In such a short amount of time, I have accomplished so much, and I have grown, and helped people grow, and we are just getting started.

Stay connected with Jahmeelah by following her @MsJamPccs and keeping up with her at http://www.msjam.ca/