NEW YORK, N.Y. – Anger, shock, unity and solidarity: Those were the prevailing emotions on Tuesday at a Manhattan event for women filmmakers, writers and actors, where the Harvey Weinstein scandal wasn’t far from anyone’s mind.
“I’m mad as hell!” Jane Rosenthal, executive chair of Tribeca Enterprises, said to the crowd. She was channeling the famous line from the movie “Network,” and telling guests that they needed to be mad, too.
Rosenthal did not reserve her ire for only Weinstein: She also excoriated President Donald Trump for his comments about grabbing women, as well as Bill Cosby, former Fox News Channel host Bill O’Reilly and the late Roger Ailes, and former congressman Anthony Weiner. (She even threw in a mention of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.)
These men “aren’t going to change their world through conversation,” Rosenthal said. “We have to change the world around them.”
On the sidelines of the luncheon for “Through Her Lens: The Tribeca Chanel Women’s Filmmaker Program,” many discussed the sordid saga roiling Hollywood, where a slew of women have come out with allegations of sexual harassment, and worse, on Weinstein’s part.
Actress Olivia Wilde said that while she felt anger was necessary as an “energizing” factor, people needed to remain optimistic and hopeful, “or else we won’t try to reach out to each other.” And she said she was indeed hopeful that the Weinstein scandal — and the reaction to it — could prove to be a moment of real change in awareness of sexual harassment and assault.
“If it is that kind of moment, the change will come from women recognizing that they’re not alone,” Wilde said in an interview. She said the stories women are now telling of their ordeals with Weinstein, and others, “are so personal that they will add a humanity to the issue that will potentially inspire people to operate with less fear.” She added that she hoped women would now be able to overcome “the shame factor, this idea that ‘it was my fault,’ and to admit it is somehow admitting weakness.”
“Right now I’m just saying to everyone, ‘I’m here to listen and nothing you say could make me value you any less as a powerful woman,'” Wilde said. “And through those conversations I have learned some heartbreaking things but I am also really feeling connected to the women in this community more than ever.”
Actress Cynthia Nixon wasn’t sure that Hollywood was experiencing a watershed moment. “That would be nice!” she said in an interview. “You know, the jury is out. It’s hard. In Hollywood, traditionally the women were the showpieces and the men were the power. Still, unless you’re really holding the reins of power, you can fall into a trap where your job is to please, and then it’s hard for you to speak up when a crime is happening to you.”
But Nixon also noted that change was afoot. “I do think that generationally, people’s attitudes about what’s OK and what’s not OK are changing,” she said. “Whether they will change completely, I don’t know. Even a great lessoning would be a step in the right direction.”
Director Mira Nair (“The Namesake,” ”Monsoon Wedding”) said she was not totally surprised by the Weinstein scandal, but was “shocked that it took so long to be exposed, and that they did such a good job of shutting it up when it was going on.”
She said that she had made an active choice not to work personally with Weinstein because of his behaviour and temper. “I try to stay away from those that contaminate the air,” Nair said. “Life is hard enough.”
She added that Weinstein had professed to love her films and sent her elaborate floral arrangements. “He was a passionate creep,” she said.
Would Weinstein’s sudden and stunning downfall eventually be that needed watershed moment many are hoping for?
“I think so,” Nair said. “It bloody well better be.”
The luncheon, in its third year, launched a three-day workshop in which five rising filmmakers receive one-on-one mentorship and classes, and receive funding for developing and producing their projects.