‘Women are circling the wagons’: Blanchett weighs in on Weinstein verdict

Cate Blanchett’s television series Stateless has emerged as one of the events of the Berlin Film Festival, where the plight of refugees and other displaced people is a dominant theme in a programme of more than 300 films.

Stateless, which tells parallel stories of prisoners and guards at an Australian immigrant detention centre, will screen from next week on the ABC in Australia. Two days ago in Berlin, Netflix announced they had bought it for the rest of the world.

Cate Blanchett at the Berlin Film Festival.Credit:dpa

Blanchett, who was a prime mover and executive producer on the series as well as appearing in it, spoke about the series in an on-stage interview at the festival along with co-creators Tony Ayres and Elise McCredie.

“I think a lot of people telling stories – and a lot of people who are not telling stories, but witnessing stories – are bewildered by how, as a species, we have got where we are,” she said. “It was a basic human question: how have we got here?”

Blanchett has had a long involvement with refugee issues including serving as a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations Refugee Agency since 2016. She has the figures at her fingertips: 70 million displaced people in the world, half of them children, with an average displacement time of 19 years.

Dominic West, Cate Blanchett, Jai Courtney, Soraya Heidari, Asher Keddie, Yvonne Strahovski and Burhan Zangana, attend the Berlinale Series Premiere for Stateless.Credit:dpa

“At what cost are we maintaining our borders? What fundamental aspects of our humanity have we allowed to be eroded? As a parent, when I go to film with the UN Refugee Agency and see children in detention, my heart breaks and I just do not understand how we can allow that to happen,” she said.

Series development began in 2013, but the creators decided to set it in the early 2000s when immigrants were yet to be sent offshore. Camps on the mainland like the fictional Baxter Centre in Stateless were certainly remote, but more accessible to advocacy groups and the media than Manus Island would be.

“At the time we were starting the story, it was cloaked in silence,” said Blanchett.

At the same time, it was “highly politicised” along an increasingly bitter divide. She compared the level of debate with the public discussion around the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment in the United States, the subject of her last series Mrs America.

“There was a level of public discourse that seems to have gone, certainly out of our culture, so that discord and disagreement and discussion is somehow turned into haranguing," she said. Very complicated issues require nuanced discussion of the grey areas that just don’t take place. So I think now drama is the place where you can present all of those perspectives.”

In a talk largely confined to Stateless, Blanchett did respond to a question about the ramifications of Harvey Weinstein’s conviction.

Time to move forwards, she said. “I think women have for far too long been separated from each other, but I’ve noticed a way that the songlines between women creating work have deepened. Women are circling the wagons, not in an exclusive sense, but being more open about roadblocks or difficulties or moments of failure.”

One change, at least, she has on record.

“The last few years, every set I’ve been on I would go on a walk through in the morning and I would take a little picture, just for myself, of who was behind the camera. One morning I was one woman among 35 men. And I thought ‘I’ve been doing this for 20 years. I have been the only woman on set, in front of the camera or as a crew member, for 20 years'," she said.

"But in the last couple of years I did Mrs America and Stateless and there was parity. And I thought ‘I really enjoy this’. It’s about making that change permanent.”

Source: Read Full Article