By David Hennessy
Irish film director Mary McGuckian told The Irish World that she was unsurprised by the lack of female representation among the nominees at this year’s Oscars. The nominations for this year’s Academy Awards were announced last week and while Irish actress Saoirse Ronan received her fourth Oscar nomination, the female who directed her to her last two nominated performances, Greta Gerwig, went unrecognised.
Mary was chatting to us about A Girl From Mogadishu which premieres in London on Sunday 2 February when she said: “We have another year of an awards season without a single female director nominated anywhere. I’m not shocked. I’m just shocked that it’s still shocking. It’s not a surprise.
“This has been the issue for years. There are so few films made about women because distributors think that the population who buy tickets wouldn’t be interested. I don’t know why. I just said, ‘Let’s put out a film that reflects the world we live in and reflects the gender that most buys film tickets.
“It’s extraordinary. It’s been going on for years. It’s been going on the entire time I’ve been making films.”
Mary McGuckian has directed numerous feature films with the 2000 George Best biopic Best among them. She knew her latest film was going to be a challenge as McGuckian was inspired to make her latest by Ifrah Ahmed’s tale of escaping war torn Somalia to become a female genital mutilation advocate in Ireland but knew that film production companies were less inclined to make female themed movies: “After 25 years of finding it impossible to get any films made with the lead characters female, let alone a female Irish character, let alone a female Irish character who is from Africa… I was prepared for disappointment but determined to try.
“Films like this are still not easy to get off the ground. In fact, they are a rarity.”
Mary points out the contradiction in the film industry’s rhetoric and their actions: “There’s something very unusual going on in that we talk, in the wake of #metoo, about ensuring that films from and about women are produced and distributed and that we reflect the world in which we live but there are very few people actually writing cheques and putting their money where their mouth is. And Screen Ireland is way ahead of the pack.”
In fact, Mary was told making the film was a bad idea with one of her contemporaries suggesting it would end her career.
“There were people who said, ‘Jesus, Mary, please don’t make the FGM film, you must be crazy’.
“One person, one very well known male film maker, said: ‘Don’t make the FGM film’.
“I said, ‘Why not?’ He said, ‘It will be a career killer’.
“And I thought, ‘It doesn’t really bother me. Actually female film makers don’t have careers to kill’.
“If you want to try to have a career as a female film maker, it has to be for reasons other than the more traditional trajectory. You have to be innovative. You have to make films because you want to make them not because you think you will have a career, unfortunately it ain’t going to happen.
“It isn’t going to happen that you’re going to win an Oscar. You have to decide that you’re making films for other meaningful reasons, which is in a way quite freeing because you get to make films like this.”
Mary speaks more about the film A Girl From Mogadishu here.