Marianne Farley Talks Lesbian Love, Oscars and Breaking Barriers

Marianne Farley is currently the only female director nominated for an Academy Award in the Live Action Short Category. Her Oscar nominated short Marguerite highlights the comfortably of being a homosexual between an elderly woman and a middle-aged caregiver. Being something, society is not quite comfortable talking about, Farley wants to bring attention to same sex love, women in film needing attention, and more.

ATM: What story were you trying to hint through the nonverbal communication of Marguerite’s eye coordination?

MF: I wanted to evolve very slowly. I wanted the relationship to evolve organically and not forced to come out what she said to say about what she held back for years and years. This is why there is not a lot of dialogue in the film. I feel a woman who has this kind of secret would not come out to talk about it. It would take a while. This is why you see seasons passing. The film starts in the winter and ends in the fall of next year.  As an actress, I feel a lot of time there is a lot of exposition. You have to explain the story in your lines. I wanted to do an exercise with this film to see how far I could take with having the characters talk about the story. Well, she does in the end about her lost love. It takes a while. Like your side, it is a lot of nonverbal information.

ATM: How did you prepare to show the female caretaker of how she grows to understand this missing link?

MF: There is an evolution in this when she talks about her girlfriend. Marguerites’ reactions are not judgment, and the caretaking is not comfortable with it. She is used to the elderly passing judgment on her lifestyle. She does not care because she loves this woman, and this is who she is. This takes some time. Eventually, she realizes through Marguerite’s reaction and nonverbal actions that it is fascinating. This evolves and then she asks what’s it like to make love to a woman. Slowly, Rachel who is the caretaker starts understanding there is more to this woman is a lesbian. She is not used to people being open-minded about it. It was important to me that this relationship took time. It is a very delicate relationship that evolves through time.  

ATM: While moving in this diversified climate, why do you think people might still be afraid or hide their homosexuality?

MF: There is still a lot of fear when it comes to this. There is a lot of judgment and discrimination. People are afraid whatever is different than them. This is why it is hard trying to bring diversity to the screen. WE are used to seeing white people on the screen. We are used to seeing straight people on screen. We are used to seeing a lot of men on screen. It is important to bring to the screen different characters like an older woman. The caretaker Rachel is not 22. She does not look like a model. The more we bring these types of characters to the screen, we will get used to this. The more people would want to see it. I am excited because there is a lot of LGBT in the Oscars. A lot of minorities. I find it is encouraging what is happening.

ATM: How did you foreshadow the journey for this film?

MF: Oh, boy. You make a film, and this was a story that moved me. I wanted to see what I could do with it. After this, you have to let go. I was not expecting to go to the Oscars. This is an incredible surprise and magical. It is not something you can work towards because it sort of happens or it does not. I feel blessed that this is happening right now. We did not have a lot of control over how people will respond to our work. It is great when people do respond.

ATM: Describe the feeling of the same fear that was seen in Marguerite as she kept this secret of her female lover.

MF: I have fears and regrets in my life. I was not born in the 1920s like Marguerites. I am very lucky. Women of my generation can express themselves. This was different during the time of Marguerite’s time. They had to have kids, get married, and live to different standards. Women are free to express themselves in any way that they want today. We free to express ourselves. It was very different from her time.

ATM: Would you agree that the different expectations that are put on each generation can control the formation of their life, which can be possibly more accepted in the next generation?

MF: Yes, I do. Hopefully, it will keep going in this direction. Women’s Rights have come such a long way since the 1920s and even 1950s. I do believe this. We are going to learn certain things from this generation. This is the beauty of human beings. We learn from our mistakes and the choices that we make and the things we have been through.

ATM: What do you want this film to signify as an Oscar-nominated film?

MF: It is only directed by a woman. It is a feminine message. It is a film about compassion and empathy. I feel we need more empathy and compassion. This is important to me. This film was me saying we can have films about violence, explosions, and other things. We can have superhero films, but there is also a different kind of narrative we need to start putting forward. This is a more female driven narrative.

ATM: What is your reflection about people who still have judgments and feel it should be swept under the rug?

MF: It all comes back to empathy. If we do not have empathy on other people’s experiences in life, then what are we doing here. I would never presume to know what it is like to be a black man, a black woman, or a Chinese woman. Do you know what I mean? We all exist on this planet. We all have a right to our truth. It is important to let everyone to have a say about what they are going and their experiences. There is still a lot of unconscious bias when it comes to minorities in general: women and all other minorities. On paper we are equal, but in realities, there is still a lot of work to be done. We have to keep fighting for equality.

ATM: It is sad. It makes you think why it truly has to be an inferior or superior in this world. This is regarding race, gender, and sexuality. Just why?

MF: It all stems from fear. People are afraid of whoever is different from them.

ATM: Also, we as individuals were taught that if someone is different than you, then you treat it bad or pay no attention to it – or treat it in a marginalized way.

MF: It is really sad. Marguerite for me is a message of hope. Things have evolved and changed just a little bit. I do not feel in 2019; we are there yet. We have to be careful about what is next.

ATM: Do you feel we will get there in your lifetime or this generation?

MF: The idealist in me says yes. The pessimist says hmm, I am not sure. I do feel we are recording a lot of importance to money and power. This goes into a completely opposite direction. Money and power are the opposite of compassion. There is a movement on both sides. I think love, compassion, and empathy will win. There will be no discrimination, but there still is marginalization and fear. I do hope it does happen in my lifetime.

ATM: You are the only female director at the Oscars. In 2019, there is a lot of natural or already expected broken barriers that are now getting broken. We say America is progressing, but these show that America is now slowly moving. There are a lot of barriers that seemed to have already been broken because of this message of America is changing but are currently being broken. It is surprising to us because we look at you and others who are breaking barriers for things we thought might have been already broken.

MF: Yes. I agree with this completely. I do think social change takes time. It takes a lot of time. It is like the Metoo movement. We expect things to change in months or years. When it comes to women in the film, there is still an unconscious bias with women in power. This is going to take some time. The more female directors we see, the more we will start getting used to seeing women in the position of power. To see women behind the camera and driving projects. I do believe it is going to happen, but not overnight. It takes one person at a time. It is going to start the engine, and we go from there. I do believe it is going in the right direction.

ATM: One day or soon it will become the norm.

MF: Yes. I am convinced of this.

ATM: Why did you choose the film in one location vs. having it in two or three to continue the storyline?

MF: I wanted to create a bubble in these two women’s lives. I wanted to concentrate on the relationship, and not have too much exterior action. The other thing is that Marguerite is very sick. I could not imagine her going out. I wanted it to be a bubble of intimacy. I wanted their relationship to revolve around this bubble. I did not want them to have other people or other action come into the story. Marguerite is very sick so she would leave her house anyway.

ATM: It is interesting that you say bubble. Internally her emotions have been in a bubble for so many years. Rachel metaphorically releases for her or pops the bubble.

MF: Yes. She gives her that place to open up. It was like a bigger, security, and intimacy bubble. It was important on set that we create this intimacy bubble that people respect the space and the delicate nature.  

ATM: If you would have brought in more of Marguerite relationship with Cecile into the storyline, then would this have shifted or impacted the relationship between Rachel or Marguerite that you were aiming to build?

MF: Cecile, the lost lover? It is a short film. If I had brought in more exterior storylines or developed Marguerite’s and Cecile’s past, then this would have taken some screen time away from Marguerite and Rachel screen time. This would have made the relationship not as deep. It was important that the relationship got deeper and deeper. For Marguerite who is 80 years old to open up with Rachel, she has to feel safe. She repressed this her whole life. It is a very delicate thing, and it takes time for her to open up. I had to show this evolution, and this is evolving very slowly.

ATM: Emotional security solved her lost love pain.

MF: Yes exactly.

ATM: It seems this is what she was searching for.

MF: This is how it is in real life. We do not just open up to anyone on the street or our doctor. Someone of Marguerite’s generation had shame in being with a woman. Being homosexual was criminal. For her to be able to talk about this, she has to see herself in Rachel. This takes time to do.

ATM: Rachel is the new generational replica of who she would have been if homosexuality was allowed during the 20s.

MF: Exactly this is what it is. This is why she opens up to her. She sees the potential of who she could have been if born at a different time.

ATM: Right. So, you have this young and old. The new and old generation paradigms going on in the film.

MF: Exactly this is it.

ATM: This is interesting. So, it is kind of like a mirror or a reflection.

MF: It is exactly this. I am so happy you saw this. This is even very superficial things. Cecile had blonde hair, and Marguerite had dark hair. Rachel has dark hair, and her girlfriend has light hair. To me, this was the basis of the story. These two women could have been the same person but born a completely different time. Society’s rules are different now.