Helen Mirren brings an environmental message to the Now!  Festival and warns: "Misogyny is always lurking"

Helen Mirren brings an environmental message to the Now! Festival and warns: “Misogyny is always lurking”

Academy Award winner Helen Mirren is an ideal godmother for the Italian Ora! Fest, a festival featuring films and series highlighting themes such as the environment, sustainability and social justice, will take place in Monopoli, Puglia, on Italy’s southern coast, from 3 to 7 June.

Her outfit – a hot pink, calf-length, beaded and sequined dress with a matching headscarf – also paid homage to the region, known locally as “Puglia”. Mirren jokingly called it “peasant Puglia”.

Officially, Mirren attended the festival for the Italian premiere of 1923the Paramount+ prequel to the hit western series Yellow stonein which she stars opposite Harrison Ford as an early 20th century pioneer, battling pandemics, droughts and the Great Depression.

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At that time! however, the battle of Mirren is all about Save the Olives, the non-profit environmental organization of which she is a member and whose name she carries, handwritten on a piece of paper, holding up in front of the cameras at the festival photocall before a small round table with a group of female journalists.

What do you think of this festival, which is dedicated to environmental issues?

Film festivals are often completely ignorant of where they are. You could take a festival like Cannes or other big festivals and move them to another place and you would still find the red carpet, the photographers, the paparazzi. Time! Fest is very different, the roots of this festival are in this area, and this makes the difference.

Let’s talk about Salviamo le Olive. Do you think this is a really underestimated problem in Italy?

Olive trees are part of the historical, cultural but also economic heritage of Italy, especially in the south. Around our farmhouse in Salento there are thousands of hectares of dead olive trees. It is estimated that 60 million trees will be lost to Xylella |a pathogenic bacterium). It’s an unimaginable disaster and you can’t point the finger at the Salento farmers, who are mostly small farmers in these areas. The epidemic is spreading, and will soon affect other parts of Puglia as well. Xylella seems to have arrived in Italy from Costa Rica, it is the result of globalization, and I think it must be managed nationally, even internationally.

These are battles in which the conflict between capitalism – understood as a globalized Western vision of the world – and nature seems to dominate, a theme also present in 1923

It is true! It’s a real conflict, and it’s also a running theme in 1923. If we think about the 1900s, it was an extraordinary century, it started with no cars and no electricity and ended with computers and the Internet. All in just 100 years! And I think the 1920s were very interesting: they were the years in which the effects of the industrial revolution began to be felt, and they were the years in which we and the West began to mistreat nature, in the grip of our stupidity and ignorance. And we went on like this until today. I hope we have started to open our eyes.

Your role is that of a strong woman. Do you think these kinds of characters are the result of an attempt to create more “gender equality”?

I think characters like mine have always existed, (their stories) just weren’t told. While researching my character, I read autobiographies of “pioneering” women. We are talking about women who crossed the United States to go West, incredibly strong, yet their stories were ignored, because only men’s stories were told. But the women were there and they had tremendous willpower.

What advice would he give to you younger?

I would like to tell her: “Don’t worry, things will get better”. For me it was shocking when I hit puberty, when I was 13, 14 and realized how disadvantaged we women were. I was angry, enraged! I didn’t come from a wealthy family, my father was a taxi driver and the concept of economic independence was central. My sister and I didn’t grow up with the idea that a man would come along and marry us and everything would be fine—in fact, it was the other way around. What I understood, and what I think is the most important thing, is the opportunity: you can choose to ride the opportunity or not, but when there is no opportunity, like when I was younger, everything becomes absolutely impossible. And if I may add, it’s a thousand times more so if you’re a black actress. And in this sense I was lucky. But times are changing.

Times are changing, but there is still a lot to do.

Misogyny is always lurking, it’s under the carpet, and if you raise it you see it creeping in. 20, 30 years have been fought and won, but you never know. The triumphs of some political figures around the world make me think: “My God, are we really going back to the 1950s?” For me that’s the biggest challenge, making sure I never go back.

Do you have regrets and remorse in your career?

Of course, I have so many! But that’s life, you have to learn to live with it, and the beauty is that regrets give experience and wisdom. I would not have liked to live life without mistakes.