The disparity of women in film is so ingrained in our moviegoing experience that we hardly take notice. According to a study by the Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism "out of 4,475 speaking characters on film, only 28.4% are female" of the movies released in 2012. B. Ruby Rich, a film critic and professor at University of California, Santa Cruz also wrote, "When more than nine tenths of movies are made from the male perspective it unconsciously reinforces the invisibility of women." Without imagery and stories that reflect the female experience, how can contemporary women see themselves as their most complete, complex and powerful selves?
It comes as no surprise then, that my heart skipped a beat when I heard the reknowned film director Deborah Kampmeier was in production for a movie based on the Sumerian Goddess Inanna. Deborah's passion is for telling powerful stories and narratives through women's voices. Her 2007 film Hounddog, which stars a young Dakota Fanning, was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival and won the Best in Show, at the 2009 Female Eye Film Festival in Toronto.
Through an email correspondence, I learned Inanna's story had been ruminating in Deborah's mind for many years. Her upcoming movie Split is a contemporary reinterpretation of this epic journey and is "about reclaiming the female imagination in a male imagined world," she said. The film focuses on the transformational journey of a young actress who is cast in an experimental play based on the ancient myth, "The Descent of Inanna."
Written on cuneiform tablets over 2,000 years before the Bible, Innana is truly the first Goddess of recorded history. As told, the Queen of Heaven and Earth, Innana, makes a dramatic descent to reunite with her sister Ereshkigal, the Queen of the Underworld. Her epic passage reveals her search for deeper wisdom, self-knowledge of her shadow self, and a perilous spiritual quest.
Deborah interprets the myth of Inanna and Ereshkigal as two sides of the same person. Ereshkigal represents aspects of the female experience we are encouraged to deny -- rage, grief and authentic sexuality. Inanna represents the quest to be whole by reclaiming this banished side of herself.
On a warm, August night, near the Hudson River and beneath the towering palisades of Hook Mountain, a Goddess portrait was made. The actresses Amy Ferguson and Raina von Waldenburg, who boldly portray Inanna and Ereshkigal in Deborah's movie, embodied this sacred myth for the Goddess on Earth series. Amy wrote:
So many times I have been given the opportunity to stand up for myself, yet still I didn't. As I have come to accept and love myself for all of who I am, I have become more empowered. Like Inanna, I now take those opportunities, to heal myself, and through that, help to heal us all.
And on portraying Ereshkigal, Raina said; "It is so difficult to accept oneself, to invite the parts that we hate so deeply about ourselves, the shameful parts, the inadequate parts, the sexual, hysterical or rageful parts, the stupid parts, the zits, blemishes, the vulnerable "weak" parts, the parts that are not perfect-- the parts in us that have cracks."
Can an ancient myth over 4000 years old have meaning for women of today? Oh my Goddess -- Yes! Inanna's struggles and triumphs are indeed our own. So one movie at a time, let us all support women's voices. I for one can't wait to see Deborah's version of this iconic story realized on the big screen.