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Cathy Yan ('Birds of Prey'): "There is nothing about this movie that should be unappealing to men"

Jessica Waugh Friday 07 February 2020

'Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)' arrives in UK cinemas on the 7th February and has already been hailed by critics as "funny and violent", though some did also point out that the narrative could be somewhat erratic at times. In spite of this minor criticism, the return of Harley Quinn to the big screen invites both your average viewer and your die-hard DC comic book fan to enjoy 108 minutes of the iconic character's emancipation. To find out a bit more about the ins and outs of the film, we seized the opportunity to interview Cathy Yan, the director at the helm of this delightfully crazy adventure, which is her sophomore effort as director.

'Birds of Prey' is written, directed and produced by women as well as starring a female ensemble and, according to Yan, this notable female presence on set led to a new and fresh atmosphere during the shoot: "It definitely made a huge difference - I think innately in the way that we see the world and our understanding of the female characters in the movie. Even in the way that we ran sets", says Yan. For her, it was "really nice to look around and just see all these really strong, powerful, creative women around me".

Regarding the film's violent nature, one of the big selling points of 'Birds of Prey', the director credits Margot Robbie with pushing for that tone from the start. "I loved that idea because I think it's fun to see these women completely unfiltered and unabashedly themselves", says Yan. The R-rating freed the film from a lot of censorship, which Yan believes really benefits the effectiveness of a character such as Harley Quinn: "She can be as funny [as she wants to be] and there is a violent side to her".

Cathy Yan directs Margot Robbie and Rosie Perez on the set of 'Birds of Prey'

After posing the same question to the cast in a previous interview, we were interested to know whether Yan thought that men would struggle to relate to female-led films: "I don't think it should happen. I think that there is nothing about this movie that should be unappealing to men". The director also pointed out a double standard that has been in effect for as long as cinema itself: "If you look at it from the reverse side, we women have been watching movies with mostly male characters for most of cinematic history".

Justice for Greta Gerwig

With regards to the upcoming 2020 Academy Awards, Yan offered us her point of view on the fact that 'Little Women' received nominations for Best Film and Best Screenplay, but was overlooked in the Best Director category: "I think there's a lot of different reasons that you can point to. I think the biggest issue is that there just aren't that many women directing movies. We're still around 12% of everybody (...) Until more women can really be at the helm of these movies, it's really hard to prove to the Academy that there should be more female nominations". In addition to the small percentage of female directors in the Hollywood pool, this much-needed change in mindset could be held back by the fact that male employees count for 68% of the institution itself, of which 84% are white and the average age is 50 years.

'Birds of Prey' hits cinemas on the 7th February.

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