Hot Docs 2021 Women Directors: Meet Bobbi Jo Hart – “Fanny: The Right to Rock”

Bobbi Jo Hart is an award-winning American/Canadian documentary filmmaker with Adobe Productions International, based in Montreal. Her most recent feature documentary, “I Am Not a Rock Star,” premiered at dozens of worldwide film festivals and was broadcast on networks in many countries, including BBC Four, SVT Sweden, ABC Australia, and Documentary Channel. Harts previous award-winning films include “She Got Game: Behind-the-Scenes of the Women’s Tennis Tour.” Hart is currently starting the festival tour for her exclusive theatrical documentary celebrating Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo.

“Fanny: The Right to Rock” is screening at the 2021 Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Film Festival, which takes place April 29-May 9. The fest is digital this year due to COVID-19. Streaming is geo-blocked to Canada.

W&H: Describe the film for us in your own words.

BJH: The film ultimately celebrates a self-formed, groundbreaking rock and roll band that included Asian American and queer bandmates who happened to be women. As the first band of women to release an LP with a major label (Warner/Reprise, 1970), counting David Bowie as one of their most vocal fans, Fanny has been virtually left out of music history, until now. The film intercuts their fascinating history with their reunion 50 years later to make a new rock album, as well as testimonials from music icons from Bonnie Raitt and Charles Neville to Kathy Valentine and Todd Rundgren.

W&H: What drew you to this story?

BJH: The fact that I had never heard of the band when I discovered them five years ago, and it equally thrilled and upset me to discover such talent that should be a household name. History is written by the victors, so we as women need to think like winners and assure that untold women’s herstories are brought into the light of day.

W&H: What do you want people to think about after they watch the film?

BJH: I hope that people will walk away with a deep respect for the incredible talent of Fanny, buy their music, and share with friends, but most importantly, take action in their own lives to support girls and women, especially queer women and women of color. And for young people of every identity to be inspired to trust their own voice, as Fanny did, and be brave enough to make your voice heard, LOUD and PROUD in this world!

W&H: What was the biggest challenge in making the film?

BJH: The biggest challenge was to make a 90-minute film that would be worthy of their story and groundbreaking contributions to music.

W&H: How did you get your film funded? Share some insights into how you got the film made.

BJH: The first $15,000 came from my friends and executive producers Katherine Buck and Glen Salzman of Cineflix Productions, who helped me rush out to film the band as they reunited to make a new rock album a few years ago. I cut a demo which helped bring Bell Media on board, so the film is a CRAVE Original. Then it was a combination of Canada Media Fund, Rogers Cable Network Fund, Canadian and Quebec tax credits, as well as California Humanities and the FRAMELINE Completion Fund. IDA [International Documentary Association] is our fiscal sponsor.

W&H: What inspired you to become a filmmaker?

BJH: My B.A. is in International Studies, and I thought I’d end up in the Peace Corps or United Nations. But I always had a love of capturing real moments of life on video and through photography, and after meeting filmmaker Terri Wynnyk, I realized that through documentary filmmaking I could explore and celebrate our shared humanity, as well as draw attention to important issues that need to be addressed and resolved in soulful ways in our world.

W&H: What’s the best and worst advice you’ve received?

BJH: The best advice was to follow my gut, not matter what.

The worst advice was listening to a male co-producer who told me to “quiet down” when I tried to make a strong point, and I did — but only for awhile.

W&H: What advice do you have for other women directors?

BJH: Feel the fear and do it anyways. Literally. It is a hard road and there will be a lot of hurdles, but I truly believe the only way to achieve success is by braving failure head on, over and over again, and not giving up. My films are all about resilience and determination, especially in women, which inspires me to keep going to finish the films even when the going gets very tough. And it is absolutely vital that we as women support other women in the industry — to mentor them, cheer them on, and to make stories that help more herstories reach wider audiences.

W&H: Name your favorite woman-directed film and why.

BJH: “Stories We Tell” by Sarah Polley. I love her filmmaking aesthetic, but also how she masterfully blended documentary and fiction elements in her deeply personal film. I’d love to craft a film like this one day.

W&H: How are you adjusting to life during the COVID-19 pandemic? Are you keeping creative, and if so, how?

BJH: I kept working on the film with my editor, Catherine Legault, since I decided to release it in 2021 instead of 2020, which was a gift because I was able to work with animator Kara Blake, who did some great animation on the archival photos that were mostly provided by Linda Wolf. I was also able to work with Fanny guitarist June Millington to create some original guitar riffs in the film as well.

I also took on a contract to direct a web series to support isolated senior citizens during the pandemic, called “We’re All In This Together.” I can film it locally here in Quebec, so I feel grateful to be able to keep working despite the incredible limitations of the pandemic on those in the arts.

W&H: The film industry has a long history of underrepresenting people of color onscreen and behind the scenes and reinforcing — and creating — negative stereotypes. What actions do you think need to be taken to make Hollywood and/or the doc world more inclusive?

BJH: The doc world, funding agencies, broadcasters, etc., need to pay attention to how diverse their filmmakers and story content is from the get go, and [they need to] to put policies in place to support underrepresented people of color and those in the queer community onscreen and behind the scenes. Hollywood needs to hire more diverse leadership, especially at the top where projects are greenlit. As filmmakers, we need to take time to look for diversity in the people we hire across the board. I have always had a passion to tell stories of those in underrepresented communities, and will continue to do so.

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