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03 April 2018

REVIEW: Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist + Q&A with Director Lorna Tucker, WFTV and Kodak

Lorna Tucker’s new documentary Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist solidifies Dame Vivienne Westwood firmly as all three. From her humble beginnings as a single mother, to her revolutionary fashion of the punk movement, to receiving her OBE – Westwood’s story is a heart-warming one of upward mobility, which feels rare in today’s climate.

Vivienne Westwood herself is a reluctant protagonist, insisting that she doesn’t need to go over her life story for the cameras because ‘it’s all so boring’. She’s adamant that people won’t want to hear what she has to say and seems agitated to get on and do something more interesting. Which fits entirely with the woman we watch through the rest of the film. As a Greenpeace activist, she rolls down the streets of London in a tank denouncing fracking. At a fitting for an upcoming show, she meticulously checks each individual garment and demands they be altered. Vivienne never sits still for a moment. Her son, Joe, says at one point ‘my mum is the only real punk’. He’s probably right.

What is immediately clear is Vivienne Westwood triumphed within an industry that didn’t want her there. Her designs, often controversial and outrageous for the time, shocked on the runway. She was an artist who didn’t much care what other people thought about her. Even through an excruciating interview on the BBC, which is cut into the film, Westwood comes off looking much better than the audience (and other guests) who laugh loudly at the models wearing her designs. As is the case with so many creative and intelligent women, Vivienne Westwood persisted despite being told she couldn’t. Or, as Tucker’s documentary shows, perhaps Westwood succeeded precisely because she was told she couldn’t.

After the screening, distributor Dogwoof, Kodak and WFTV led a panel discussion on women in the film industry. Documentary filmmaker Becky Brand was our representative on the panel and offered insight into statistics about women working in the industry, as well as how to improve these numbers. “Statistics haven’t really changed in the past 30 or 40 years though, there’s roughly the same number of women working in the industry” Becky told the audience, emphasizing that it is only with continued attention to data that we can start to change this.

Director Lorna Tucker discussed the barriers to entry for women who have children and suggested that more needs to be done to allow women to get back to work – either assistance with child care, job sharing schemes or other alternatives.

There was also a discussion of how exactly we can promote and encourage diversity within the film industry, with panellist Jordan Stephens venturing the idea of inclusion riders (as inspired by Frances McDormand’s Oscar speech), whilst also asking that men stand up and asking for space for women too.

Questions from the audience were many and varied with one attendee asking Lorna what it was like to work with Vivienne and the rest of the designers. “You have to blend in to the background and earn the trust of the brand and the contributor,” Lorna explained. “That’s why it took 4 years to make!”. Lorna also expressed that it’s about finding the balance between authenticity, keeping the trust with the brand but also remembering that it is a documentary – not a glossy fashion film. Lorna also mentioned how she’s learnt not to ask permission anymore, a move inspired by Vivienne Westwood herself.

The Q&A ended on a high, with plenty of optimism for the future of women in film. From creative and talented women behind the camera, to an inspiring and driven woman in front of the camera – Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist is a must-see film.

 

By Becky Kukla