Sunday, February 28, 2010

PROFILE – KATHRYN BIGELOW


“The Rush of Battle is often a potent and lethal addiction, for war is a drug”

                                            -Chris Hedges



These are the first lines that come on your screen when you begin to watch (one of the) the best movie of 2009 -- “The Hurt Locker”, directed by Kathryn Bigelow.

Born November 27, 1951, in San Carlos California; Kathryn Ann Bigelow was an only child raised by her factory painter father and librarian mother.

After high school, she attended the San Francisco Art Institute where she studied painting and art for two years. In 1972, she won a scholarship for the Independent Study Program at the Whitney Museum in New York. Bigelow moved on to study film theory and criticism at Columbia University, earning her master’s of fine arts in 1979, after having filmed backgrounds for performance artist Vito Acconci. During this time, she made her first venture into filmmaking with “Set-Up” (1978), a 20-minute short that depicted two men (Gary Busey included) beating on each other while a voiceover read an essay on the nature of violence.

Then she briefly ventured into modelling in a Gap advertisement. Her first full-length feature was “The Loveless” (1982), a biker movie which she co-directed with Monty Montgomery and it featured the acting debut of Willem Dafoe. After moving to Los Angeles in 1983, Kathryn made her acting debut in artist and independent filmmaker Lizzie Borden’s “Born in Flames”, playing the role of a newspaper editor. Teaming up with her frequent writing partner Eric Red, Kathryn directed the vampire western “Near Dark” (1987), during this period she became the third wife of fellow director James Cameron; and “Blue Steel” (1990), a tense action thriller about a rookie cop (Jamie Lee Curtis) who becomes romantically involved with a killer (Ron Silver).


In her first collaboration with Cameron, also the same year they divorced, Kathryn directed “Point Break” (1991), which starred Keanu Reeves as an FBI agent who poses as a surfer to catch the "Ex-Presidents", a team of surfing armed robbers led by Patrick Swayze who wear Reagan, Nixon, LBJ and Jimmy Carter masks when they hold up banks. She then made the jump over to television, making her directing debut in that medium with a segment of the six-hour miniseries, “Wild Palms” (ABC, 1993), a sci-fi drama about the dangers of brainwashing and technology.


Bigelow then teamed up again with her ex-husband James Cameron (as writer & producer) in “Strange Days” (1995) starring Ralph Fiennes. The following year she scripted the thriller “Undertow”, which was produced and aired by Showtime; she also directed three episodes of the acclaimed cop drama, "Homicide: Life on the Street", including one of the series' final episodes. The following year, she was back at the multiplexes with "The Weight of Water” (2000), a psychological thriller that interwove the story of a female photographer (Catherine McCormack) who investigates a 100-year-old murder that leads her to suspect that her husband (Sean Penn) is having an affair based on Anita Shreve's novel of the same name.


In 2002 she directed “K-19: The Widowmaker”, starring Harrison Ford, about a group of men aboard the Soviet Union's first nuclear powered submarine. Despite an action-packed storyline and attention to detail, the film like most of her previous work tanked at the box office.

But after directing episodes of the short-lived series “Karen Sisco” (ABC, 2003-04) and “The Inside” (Fox, 2005), Bigelow returned to the feature world with “The Hurt Locker” (2009), an Iraq War drama as seen through the eyes of members from the Army’s elite Explosive Ordinance Disposal unit. The powerful film would go on to garner Bigelow the most accolades of her career till date, as well as put her in contention for the same Best Director Golden Globe as her ex-husband, Cameron, nominated himself for "Avatar" (2009). Though Cameron won the Globe, Bigelow took home the Directors Guild Award for Best Director in late January 2009, becoming the first woman in history to have been so honored. Just a few days later, Bigelow had the chance to shatter the glass ceiling for good when she was among the five filmmakers nominated for Best Director at the Academy Awards, making her the fourth female director ever to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Director. Then she won the Best Film and Best Director at the 2010 British Academy Film Awards. She is the first female ever to win a BAFTA Award for Best Direction.


Hailed as one of the preeminent stylists of contemporary Hollywood filmmaking, Kathryn Bigelow was often too easily pigeonholed as a female director with a flair for traditionally masculine movies. Her artistic background has helped in combining art with the narrative – which in turn has helped in the bringing "The Hurt Locker" (2009) which honed in on her fascination with the meaning of violence that was once thought to be the exclusive domain of male directors.