Interview with director Poppy Gordon: “There’s something very brave about refusing to be tokenized for someone else’s agenda.”

We caught up with talented female director Poppy Gordon to speak about her film For Your Consideration. A film that bravely takes a snapshot of American culture and dares viewers to laugh and cringe at how it is manufactured has been doing very well on the film festival circuit, screening at Oscar-qualifying film festivals such as Rhode Island International Film Festival, Odense International Film Festival and many more. We were able to speak with Poppy and pick her brain as to why she felt doing this film was important and still is important to her.

Your film takes a satirical approach to woke culture, which is a dying art these days as people become more apprehensive about offending anyone. How did you get past the challenge of knowing there would be haters and people who didn’t see the truths the film was blaring out and chose to be offended by the means, thus proving the point you were trying to make? 

I can tell by your questions, that you truly understand what I set out to do, which is so nice to hear. Yes, it did take a moment to kind of jump over my own shadow in that regard. I knew the film was very much a time capsule of sorts. I had never considered that I had wanted to make a dark satire until this moment in time when I felt it urgent to do so. Even if that meant having some viewers that wouldn’t understand how to engage with the film and would misunderstand its message. And to be honest, given its subject matter, I had very low expectations of its reception and was pessimistic about it finding its audience, so I’m very positively surprised now. 

Your film is about creating a film that could be Oscar-worthy. How weird is it that now your film could be in the running for an Oscar, and what do you think will be the reaction to it by the major film industry players?

I still think it’s too risky of a choice. I just do not think the Oscars would select this film (no way!), but the screeners might crack a cringe-worthy smile while reviewing it which would be a bit of a win already. I do wish someone could show this film though to Ricky Gervais who has been such an interesting host choice, as I definitely think he would understand the spirit of it.

The producers in your film take a very privileged and almost dismissive approach to the serious issues they casually discuss. Do you think this is a reflection of the reality that these issues face every day, that despite all the movements nothing resonated deep enough to cut through the bigotry?

This piece was written 1.5 years ago, now. I’m sure, some cultural gatekeepers are genuine in their desire for reform and work to breaking barriers of inequality and bigotry. But the problem is systemic. And I’ve definitely found myself surrounded by enough hypocrisy, insensitivity, and performative allyship to want to call it out. By adopting but subverting the progressive ideals in a tokenistic fashion, these caste-like systems of oppression further cement themselves into our society — just this time, under the veil of “inclusivity.” And as much as FYC takes a hard look at human nature in that regard, it also dares viewers to laugh and cringe at one’s self and the pop culture machine that we are all a cog in.

Often, movies reflect how we see the world. With this film, the producers roped in two token POC’s (People of Color) to give relevance to their story, even though they were as privileged as they were, and had no actual experience with the topics they touched. Your film managed to point out the glaringly obvious; that POC also have a hand in their own people’s marginalization, either by accepting their role as the groups token POC, or by encouraging the misappropriation of their own culture and that of other marginalized groups. Was this very difficult to reflect through your film, knowing the backlash you could face, did it change anything in how you produced the film?

Here we were highlighting that classism and nepotism, regardless of ethnicity is also very much in play when it comes to what voices get to be seen and heard. It’s how cultural power players, sheltered by their privilege and protected from consequences, leave the rest of us shaking our heads and wondering how that notorious Kendall Jenner Pepsi ad ever got made. Or Green Book or American Dirt, for that matter. I seriously do not know (except that I totally do) how Kendall didn’t read the script and see how insanely offensive that was. From working in advertising, I can tell you that it’s entirely possible that no BIPOC were involved in the decision making. And this type of insular thinking which allowed these results to come to fruition, I see at play within many accepted institutions and processes – now actually more than ever.

In your film, it seems that the producer does not actually hold any affection towards these causes, and is simply viewing them as a means to an end. Do you believe this reflects the reality of the film industry?

Not always but I do see it around me — and not just in the film industry. I see it happening with a lot of brands, contemporary art, and all the industries that support these pillars of commerce. It’s the same thinking that shaped our culture to be so exclusionary and narrow, but now they are playing at making it more inclusive while skirting any blame, responsibility, or self-reflection. I read an article recently about a Turkish, female photographer living in Germany who loved capturing architecture. A prestigious gallery curator asked her to be part of a show about the immigration experience but the curator hadn’t even looked at her work. She turned it down because she was not interested in monetizing her story and heritage. There’s something very brave about refusing to be tokenized for someone else’s agenda. And stories like this, where the gatekeepers demand “succeed on our terms only” — are pervasive across all industries. I hope that gallery curators sees my film.

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