A young woman is a junior assistant in the US office of an entertainment mogul. She starts early and works late, gets lunches, takes care of her kids and unexpectedly cleans the office for her equally junior male colleagues. More worrying for Jane, it seems that her boss is also a sexual predator.
The Assistant, by Australian filmmaker Kitty Green, is not the story of Harvey Weinstein. But the film – starring actress Ozark Julia Garner in new recruit Jane and Matthew Macfadyen as manipulative boss Wilcock – has its roots in exposure to power and abuse in the film industry at the continuation of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements.
The film premiered at the Berlin Film Festival in February – the same week that former film producer Weinstein was convicted of rape.
“It is reductive to say that the film only concerns Weinstein,” says Green. “It is a disservice to do so, because now that he is in prison, people might say,” Oh, the problem is solved now, let’s go ahead. “
“But it’s a bigger problem than that and it’s still what the film was trying to explore. These are systems and structures that essentially hold women back from power. “
“I was looking specifically at what work environments support a predator – how many women hold positions of power, how staff are treated, the toxicity of the workplace. “
Green, who has conducted anonymous industry interviews for his research, says his own desire to make the film started when he took a previous film to a festival.
“I found that some people there didn’t take me seriously, they asked me which male producers were in charge. I was wondering if I would get credit no matter how hard I tried, and I started to explore power structures and women are excluded. “
The director adds that she has gone through pretty horrible things at film festivals, adding, “Some of my friends have had worse, really horrible experiences.
“In this film, I found a way to explore it. If we let people get away with toxic work environments and sexual misconduct, what about they won’t keep pushing? “
The Wizard is not the only film directed by women that has its origins in the spirit of the #MeToo movement. Philippa Lowthorpe’s bad behavior, released last month, explores protests and gender stereotypes at the 1970 Miss World contest in London. A promising young woman, with Carey Mulligan, highlights sexual assault on college campuses.
Eliza Hittman’s award winner Never Rarely Sometimes still follows a fictitious teenage girl from rural Pennsylvania to New York for an abortion because service is not available in her area. Her pregnancy appears to be the result of sexual abuse.
“It still wasn’t an easy movie to get despite recent support for female-led stories in the industry,” said Never Rarely producer Sara Murphy. “But it seems like it’s a good time to target the audience.
“I think this film is important not only to speak to a lot of women who have had this experience, but it will reach a wider and more conservative audience outside the political debate on abortion. “
Co-producer Adele Romanski says the film sounds like a “scary moment” in the United States, as some states have closed down reproduction services due to Covid-19.
“Some state governors have said that abortion is not an essential service,” she said. “Never Rarely does a woman depict certain socio-economic means who needs to travel for an abortion.
“Now add the idea that it is not safe to travel right now, and think about how it will affect women who previously had access to abortion services and who can no longer travel out of state. “
Larushka Ivan-Zadeh, chief film critic of the Metro newspaper, believes that these films are the result of the #MeToo movement.
“These kinds of movies got the green light in a way they wouldn’t have done three years ago,” she said. “Something like the Wizard would never have been done before the #MeToo movement.
“Now it has a resonance and people are going to refer to it, but before, if you can imagine the production meetings on financing, there would be cries of” Who is going to watch this? Something has changed. “
Ivan-Zadeh also does not think that viewers will find it very difficult to access films at home.
“In some ways, it is more beneficial for them to be seen at home when viewers have so much free time,” she said.
“It’s kind of awesome what’s going on in this space during Covid-19, when people think about what’s important to them and how they’re going to make a change.
“These movies give you a chance to take a break and think about what you’re going to endure when you get back to” normal “life.” “
The Assistant is available on digital platforms from May 1. Never Rarely Sometimes Always streaming on digital platforms from May 13 and on VOD from May 27.