Each January, nearly half a million people visit the small town of Saundatti for ajatre or festival, to be blessed by Yellamma, the Hindu goddess of fertility.
From the moment I went to Hollywood for the first time, I was accused by various people of selling out. So I feel I’ve done my sell-out films already. I’ve sold everything! I’ve sold every piece of soul I ever had!
I once gave a talk at a girls’ school and, once I’d finished, 29 out of the 30 girls wanted to be film directors. I think that’s where we need to get girls interested in making films. We need to give them the idea that they can, that it’s one of the things on their horizon.
I’ve walked down the street with Madonna, and I’ve walked down the street with Colin Firth, and it was a little bit more… with Madonna they were a little rougher, but they were all there for Colin. It was amazing. Women adore him. They swoon.
I think it is a great gift to make people laugh, and it shouldn’t be underestimated.
Making a big commercial movie is hard when you think about how many of them flop.
People have a right to have their lives witnessed; if we coexist with the systems that abuse people, then we have a duty to understand.
I hate it when everybody thinks I’m a… what’s the word, a marauding mother! It’s bigger than that.
If Twitter is worth seven billion next month, I’m happy for them to be worth six billion and spend a billion making it safer for people, for example.
The idea of the Internet as sort of open and democratic and free and with no hierarchy, the libertarian beginnings as it were, with peer-to-peer networks… I’d sort of like for everyone to just admit that we’re beyond that now.
I don’t see such a huge difference between online and ‘in real life’. I think it has now become one and the same.
I come from the school who thought the Internet could be the great democratising force, that getting rid of the gatekeepers was a positive move.
The thing I have come to find astonishing is that people from all political sides routinely say that the Internet has to be the model of free speech and freedom.
When politicians say, ‘Oh, parents should supervise their kids’ Internet use,’ it drives me crazy.
Parents cannot be in the same physical space as their children at all times.
Whether in cave paintings or the latest uses of the Internet, human beings have always told their histories and truths through parable and fable. We are inveterate storytellers.
Cinema is arguably the 20th century’s most influential art form.
The film that changed my life is a 1951 film by Vittorio De Sica, ‘Miracle in Milan.’ It’s a remarkable comment on slums, poverty and aspiration.
We are increasingly offered a diet in which sensation, not story, is king.
This idea of the digital native in the bedroom taking down a fascist regime and building a billion-dollar company is a very attractive image, but actually, if you look at the research, young people are on the lowest rung of digital opportunity.
For me, trying to articulate the world to help people see it in a way they haven’t seen it before is hugely important. Sometimes, you have to take something that is completely inexplicable and say, ‘Look, here is the beating heart of something you must understand.’
I think I’ve been very, very lucky in my life, and I do believe in public service.
Life is really hard for some people.
Make films whenever and however you can – don’t take no for an answer.
In the U.S., it would be so much better if the studios made many more smaller films for niche markets rather than a few tent pole films that swamp cinemas and Hoover up all the funding.
We need to work out who is paying for film; in the U.K., it is increasingly difficult to get production funds – and pre-sales demand more and more shot/cut material.
My children know not to shout before Mummy has warmed herself into something human with her coffee.
During my ‘difficult teens,’ I read about worlds that were mysterious.
Unfortunately, teatime in London is when people in Los Angeles arrive in their offices and pick up the phone.
The previous generation paved the way for my generation to gallop unheeded into jobs previously reserved for men.
If we don’t record our own history on the Net, it will disappear.
We now have powerful technology, which allows us a voice across boundaries, which was unimaginable at the time of the Greenham Protest, a protest that pre-dates the Internet and the mobile phone.
In 1982, fellow film student Amanda Richardson and I went to Greenham Common for the day – to see what was going on and to shoot some video. The day turned into a weekend, the weekend into seven months, and the dozens of hours of footage turned into a film – ‘Carry Greenham Home.’
Arguably, it was the introduction of international non-proliferation treaties in the late ’80s that finally led to the missiles being removed from Greenham Common.
The Greenham women left home for peace: ‘Not in our name!’ they cried. And in doing so, they spoke for millions.
For most women, Greenham was a place of principle, growth and song. Often joyful, sometimes terrifying, and almost always cold. As it got harder, with constant evictions and mounting violence from a frustrated and humiliated police force, the women got more determined. It was a community with a shared purpose – to live in peace.
The devices that our kids use are shipped from the factory with every possible audio, visual or vibration alert switched on. Each new app, website, tweet and message adds another layer of intrusion – each intrusion is cynically designed to get a response, and each response creates an appetite for another intrusion.
Our children, manipulated to become exemplary consumers, increasingly admit they do not feel ‘in control’ of their own Internet use.
Everything a teenager does, says or looks at, however transitory, contributes to an aggregated virtual self that might one day have consequences for its real-life counterpart. How many of us would keep all our relationships and reputations intact if every transgression, mistake or youthful folly was held in public view?
I am still cautiously hopeful about the potential of the Internet. But it seems that the greatest revolution in communication has been hijacked by commercial values.
Vittorio De Sica famously made ‘Bicycle Thieves’; that’s the film of his everybody knows.
At 99 and after a long stay in a nursing home, the death of legendary photographer Eve Arnold was hardly a surprise – though she may have been just a little annoyed to quit a few months short of 100.
We have allowed a situation to develop in which it is legal for a multibillion dollar industry to own, wholly and in perpetuity, the intimate and personal details of children.
We think that there is this terrible idea that the kids are digital natives… and they know what they’re doing, but all the evidence says that they’re hanging around going, ‘Where are you, I’m here, can I post my picture?’ They’re not actually writing wikis; they’re not actually listening to great poets live.
I want to talk about privacy, the quality of the information you receive, whether it’s neutral or commercial or pointed, bringing consciousness to the lack of neutrality in the algorithms.
I love text, I love email, I love Skype; I think it’s amazing.
The Internet has crept up on us, and we need to know what it is and start looking at it. We have to decide which bits we want, which bits we don’t, and how we’re going to use them – and how we’re going to put pressure on the people who deliver these goods to deliver what we really want.
Our politicians don’t say anything anymore: they just refute and assert.
I think the documentary is something that people are hungry for, that it embodies careful thought, nuance.
On telly, there’s been a move towards entertainment – with some very high-powered, fast-moving dramas. Then we have the Internet, where we get our information but it’s all in bite-size pieces. I think the documentary, as a form, actually speaks to what’s missing.
I had a sort of classic moment when a friend of mine rang up and said she’d just been to a funeral, and in the middle of the eulogy, this kid had taken out the phone and had a whole proper text conversation – while everyone was weeping!
If you look where kids are spending time on the Net, they may have all the information in the world, but they’re not accessing it.
The thing about documentary is that you don’t really choose your subjects: they come and grab you out of your bed.
I’m in the communications business.
I often go out on the street with my camera and ask questions.
The thing that upsets me is the ubiquitous use of reward technology, which uses our evolutionary biology against us.
Sometimes you have to put back in the community.
There is nothing wrong with Facebook in itself, except that it is not a very good tool to express the quality of your relationships.
What is the point of teaching how to analyse a poem or a piece of Shakespeare but not to analyse the Internet?
I love being in real life, and in particular, I like being with young people.
I like the accidental nature of being in the real world.
There’s something about actors – not stars, but actors – if they have the character, and someone is pushing and shoving them to be the best they can be, they enjoy that.
I’ve discovered my Jewishness late in life. And I’ve really enjoyed exploring that world.
I’ve liked being Jewish in America – there’s a secular version of Jewishness there that’s more about bagels and jokes than going to synagogues.
I hope that every film I make has something to offer in the area of making people feel either vindicated or different in terms of who they are.
We need to be much more robust consumers.
This is a culture filled with perfect images of women and perfect images of movie actresses, and most people can’t live up to them.
I’ve always been interested in exploring difficult subjects for the mainstream.
Everything serious in the world is well approached by humour. It’s a powerful and often quite subversive tool. I suppose there is an argument that could be made against me for being frivolous, but I do think a laugh is a very generous thing to give.
Girls from poor families of the ‘untouchable,’ or lower, caste are ‘married’ to Yellamma as young as four. No longer allowed to marry a mortal, they are expected to bestow their entire lives to the service of the goddess.
I absolutely don’t want to suggest that women are unreliable because we’re mothers – on the contrary. But the question of who brings up the kids has a material effect on all women’s careers.
The devadasis have a multilayered story, a story in which poverty, deprivation and injustice against women is central – but what has happened to them is absolutely an outcome of imperialism and the impact of British rule in India.
A white woman with a camera in the Devadasi belt of Karnataka is not inconspicuous… it took time for these women to believe that I was not an official, carrying the threat of fine and imprisonment.
When I was 13, I had a weekend job at the Photographers Gallery Bookshop in London.
Not many young women of my age have been lucky enough to have had a wonderful mentor in their life.
I’ve lost count of the plane tickets I’ve had in my pocket for people’s weddings and other celebrations which I’ve had to tear up because I was making a film. How many things like that can you miss and still be in people’s lives?