Programme

The Assistant

Kitty Green

USA, 2019 / 87 min / English OV with French & Dutch subt. / Drama

LuxFilmLab – 7th July 2021

A searing look at a day in the life of the assistant to a powerful film executive who turns out to be a serial sexual predator.

An aspiring film producer, Jane, has landed her dream job at a prestigious entertainment company as a junior assistant to a powerful media mogul. Her duties – mostly mundane administrative tasks – begin early and end late, and include putting up with the mercurial executive’s verbally abusive outbursts. But as Jane follows her daily routine, she grows increasingly aware of the abuse that insidiously colours every aspect of her work day. When she is asked to train a new hire, an attractive young woman with no experience whom the company is putting up in a luxury hotel, she can no longer ignore the fact that her boss seems to be a sexual predator. Jane decides to take a stand, only to discover the true depth of the system into which she has entered.

In 2017, a series of shattering exposés levelled allegations of sexual assault across the entertainment industry, unearthing a watershed moment and sending powerful predators running for cover. As the courage of outspoken accusers inspired women in all industries to step forward and say “me too,” documentary filmmaker Kitty Green knew she had found the subject for her first narrative film: not the misdeeds of one person, but the entrenched system that supports the many. Based on copious research, including scores of interviews conducted by Green with a wide array of workers from across several industries, The Assistant is a fictional exploration of one of the most destructive issues in today’s workplace, as a low-level employee at a top media company tries to reconcile her own beliefs with a deeply entrenched atmosphere of abuse and exploitation. The film is a searing indictment of a system that perpetuates capitalist societies’ endemic culture of workplace harassment and enables the predators within it.

Screenings
Wed 07/07 19:30 Ciné Utopia EN OV with FR & NL subt. Public https://kinepolis.lu/en/films/lux-film-lab-assistant

“Harvey Weinstein doesn’t appear in The Assistant, and nobody mentions him by name, but make no mistake: Director Kitty Green’s urgent real-time thriller marks the first narrative depiction of life under his menacing grip […] Beyond a few unfocused glimpses of a hulking figure roaming his office in the background, the Weinstein of The Assistant is a phantom menace who barrels down on the young woman’s life, but this fascinating psychological investigation doesn’t allow him to hijack a story that belongs to her. The Assistant doesn’t document the specifics of Weinstein’s abuses recounted by so many over the past two years; instead, it explores the harassment and control that kept his unwitting enablers under his grip. […] As much as The Assistant involves the process through which one man exerts control over a woman trapped by his direction, it also shows how the toxic workplace infects others in its grasp. […] A quiet work with major ambitions, The Assistant is a significant cultural statement in cinematic form.” Eric Kohn, IndieWire, 2/09/2019

“While Weinstein and men of his ilk have dominated much of the public conversation for the last two years, the story of The Assistant, which premiered at the Telluride Film Festival today, is not theirs. It belongs instead to Jane — and to the nearly 100 women writer-director Kitty Green interviewed while developing the film, whose experiences she melded to craft an intimate and often deeply uncomfortable portrait of one day in the life of a young, female employee.” Maria Fontoura, Rolling Stone, 30/08/2019

“Green looks beyond Weinstein’s fictional counterpart, taking aim at the structures in place that allow such predatory behavior to continue. Jane’s boss, who remains unnamed, never appears on-screen. […] In preparing for the film, Green spoke with people who had worked under toxic, often predatory bosses as studio, agency and production assistants — including a few who had worked at the Weinstein Co. She picked up on patterns of women feeling disempowered, threatened or ignored, incorporating them into the screenplay.” Sonia Rao, The Washington Post, 8/02/2020

“Originally envisaged as a work of ‘scripted nonfiction’, this insightful film by Kitty Green mutated into a drama inspired by the real-life stories of women working in the film and TV industry. The result may be fiction, but everything about it rings true […] Brilliantly, Green opts to keep the monster at the centre of this labyrinth off screen, the presence of Jane’s faceless boss registered mainly by the sound of his laughter and screams seeping through closed doors and down telephone lines. It’s an astute choice that lends a universality to this unseen spectre, focusing our attention instead on the trickle-down toxicity of his regime, enabling his crimes, silencing his enemies, turning his underlings into de facto accomplices. Astutely, Green shows us how the boss’s behavioural mantle has been adopted by everyone in this workplace, creating a culture in which covert aggression and harassment are just business as usual.” Mark Kermode, The Guardian, 3/05/2020

“the film maintains an intriguing and well-managed tension, and its exacting evocation of a very particular time and place in very recent film industry history will stir the interest of industry members and students of it. […] The Assistant stands as an insightful, if after-the-fact look at long-tolerated behavior. It’s a reminder of how things were until very, very recently.” Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter, 1/09/2019

“However much silence and loyalty may be prized in the film and television industries, everyone knows that assistants know everything. That’s part of what made the Weinstein situation so shocking: Rumors of misconduct (including allegations of assault) had been swirling for years, but airtight nondisclosure agreements made it virtually impossible for victims to come forward. The Assistant grapples with the way that those who don’t speak up become passive enablers.” Peter Debruge, Variety, 1/09/2019

Awards
  • NYFCO Award – Top Films of the Year, New York Film Critics Online, 2021 (USA)
  • Louis Roederer Fondation’s Directing Prize, Festival du Cinéma Américain de Deauville, 2020 (France)
  • Truly Moving Picture Award, Heartland International Film Festival, 2020 (USA)
  • Halfway Award for the Best Actress – Julia Garner, International Online Cinema Awards, 2020
  • Best First Feature Film, Jerusalem Film Festival, 2020 (Israel)
Cast & Credits
Cast 
Julia Garner, Matthew Macfadyen, Makenzie Leigh, Kristine Froseth, Jon Orsini, Noah Robbins, Alexander Chaplin, Jay O. Sanders, Juliana Canfield, Dagmara Dominczyk
Screenplay 
Kitty Green
Cinematographer 
Michael Latham
Sound 
Leslie Shatz
Set 
Fletcher Chancey
Music 
Tamar-kali
Production 
3311 Productions, Cinereach, Forensic Films, Symbolic Exchange, Level Forward, JJ Homeward Productions, Bellmer Pictures
Distribution 
De Filmfreak
Biography

Kitty Green is an award-winning Australian filmmaker, director, writer and producer. Her debut documentary feature, Ukraine Is Not a Brothel (2013), explored a provocative feminist movement in Ukraine. After its premiere at the Venice Film Festival in 2013, the film screened at more than 50 film festivals internationally and won the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (AACTA) Award for Best Feature Length Documentary. Kitty Green’s follow-up project, the documentary short The Face of Ukraine: Casting Oksana Baiul (2015), won the Short Film Jury Prize for nonfiction at the Sundance Film Festival. Her latest feature documentary, Casting JonBenet (2017), was acquired as a Netflix Original, premiered at Sundance in 2017 and screened at the Berlinale before receiving the AACTA Award for Best Feature Length Documentary. The same year, Kitty Green became a Sundance Institute Art of Nonfiction Fellow. The Assistant (2019) is her first narrative feature.

Filmography
  • 2019 – The Assistant
  • 2017 – Casting JonBenet (documentary)
  • 2015 – The Face of Ukraine: Casting Oksana Baiul (documentary short)
  • 2013 – Ukraine Is Not A Brothel (documentary)