On Friday the 18th Marzio and I went to see Star Wars Episode VII. As each of the trailers was released Marzio got more and more excited, while I held on to my reservations. Like Anakin Skywalker, and most of you, I was left terribly scarred by the prequels. After Lucas’ cinematic abominations, misa thought Star Wars was poo doo and best left in the trash compactor. Still, I’ll admit, that some small part of me held on to a glimmer of hope. Somewhere beneath the scars left behind by Lucas’ hubris there was in me–a Star Wars fan. I wanted to believe in JJ Abram’s promise even if I refused to drink the Disney Kool-Aid.
Strangely enough, as people were filing into the movie theater, my husband, coauthor and I, were debating art and economics. My husband was arguing that most artists, when forced to put food on the table, succumbed to mass market demands and true and tried formulas. I argued that some artists would rather starve than sell out–often taking menial jobs so they could continue to make their art on the side. True and tried formulas couldn’t always guarantee monetary gain, and in fact could backfire, resulting in total market saturation–a perfect example of this is superhero movies, vampire books and three-chord wonder bands.
What really got people’s attention, I countered, was innovation and originality. If all artists cared about was putting food on the table, movies like Star Wars would have never been made in the first place. At the time that Lucas made Star Wars he was hungry to succeed, but also passionate about film-making. The studios hated his idea and many times he almost got shut down. His funding faltered. No one got him. If Lucas wanted an easy buck, he could have tackled any number of easy-to-swallow movie projects which would have paid the bills, but if he had done that, an entire culture would have been deprived of the wondrous phenomenon that was Star Wars.
I saw Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope when I was six years old in a dilapidated movie theater in Havana, Cuba. By that time the film was four years old. It was sub-titled in Spanish, edited for Cuban politics and terribly grainy. In spite of these shortcomings, my dad and I both left the theater that day feeling as if we had seen something truly special.
I learned to read when I was four. By age six, I had already tackled Verne, Asimov and Bradbury and was intensely interested in space travel. Star Wars had changed my life in ways that wouldn’t be obvious until many years later when I went on to get a degree in film.
For many years I admired George Lucas and what he was able to accomplish within Hollywood. Same went for Coppola, Scott, Lynch, Spielberg, the list goes on. Then, I began to notice something strange. Opportunities for original ideas were being stifled by dollar signs. Sure, movie making has always been a business, but as more and more sequels, reboots, remakes, and “re-imaginings,” flooded theaters, I became disillusioned.
My brand new degree wasn’t going to usher me into an artistic field seeking innovation, but to a corporate machine seeking dollars. As if that was not bad enough, the corporate beast repudiated females. At the time of graduation, the only female directors making waves were Campion, Bigelow, and Dash. There were some others like Diane Keaton and Sally Potter, and out of the small handful, none were hispanic. An internet search now, hardly yields many more names. The deplorable lack of female directors, screenwriters, and cinematographers has not changed much in the thirteen years since I left college.
Back to Star Wars Episode VII. [SPOILERS AHEAD]