Sarah Polley says the stakes are "unbelievably high" in Women Talking, her fourth Oscar-winning film |  CBC News

Sarah Polley says the stakes are “unbelievably high” in Women Talking, her fourth Oscar-winning film | CBC News

Sarah Polley hasn’t made a film in ten years. But her latest — already nominated for a Golden Globe and a likely 2023 Oscar contender — is a real conversation starter.

Women speak centers around a multi-generational group of Mennonite women who, realizing that they and their daughters are regularly drugged and sexually assaulted by men in their colony, meet in secret to take control of their destiny.

It is an adaptation of the 2018 novel by Canadian author Miriam Toews, who drew on a real-life story. Mennonite community in Bolivia.

“I love that the way the whole thing works is that these women, some of whom disagree on very fundamental things, have to come together to find a way forward,” Polley told CBC’s Eli Glasner. day after Women speak premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September.

“In this case, the stakes are incredibly high. They can either stay and forgive and live in a world where they are subjected to constant violence and have no power. They can stay and fight to create a world there and hope they win.” that, though it will certainly mean as much, if not more, violence.

“Or they can go away and create their own world based on their own principles, starting with faith as they interpret it, not as it was interpreted to them.”

Women speak lands in select Canadian theaters on December 23, before a wider release on January 6, 2023.

The cast explored rich, layered characters

Amidst the challenge of working on brutal, sometimes soul-crushing material — “We were prey like animals. Maybe we should react like animals,” is a memorable line — Polley says the cast rallied around and nurtured the supporting cast. Environment.

WATCH | A group of women expects to be sexually assaulted Women speak trailer:

She offered an anecdote from a set during which one of the actors took a 10-minute break to recover from a demanding scene.

“When that person came back, all the actors in the hayloft and in the rehearsal space got out of their positions and made a circle and were there to hold the person,” she said. “They were just sitting there talking about that person, having a memory of that person and then [were] there to say hello.

“That was the experience of the movie. There was just a constant feeling of, ‘How can we serve each other?'” Polley said.

The film stars Claire Foy, Jessie Buckley, Rooney Mara, Sheila McCarthy, Judith Ivey, Frances McDormand and Ben Whishaw. Before filming, the actors explored every possible pairing of the characters and perfected their dynamic, Polley said.

From left, Michelle McLeod, Shirley McCarthy, Liv McNeil, Jessie Buckley, Claire Foy, Kate Hallett, Rooney Mara and Judith Ivey in Women Talking. The film is an adaptation of the 2018 novel by author Miriam Toews, directed by Sarah Polley. (TIFF)

Some characters are related by blood; some have an adversarial relationship; others are gentle and tender with each other; some completely disagree, while others are wholeheartedly on the same page.

“Having the richness of all those layers that play into each character, with so many people in the same room, allowed for so many surprises and moments that we didn’t expect or moments of relationship that weren’t scripted,” Polley said.

While Women speak mostly set in one room, the women discuss everything from their relationships to their faith and their visions for a safer world, as well as their responsibilities to their daughters and sons, who are so often subjected to violent forms of masculinity.

“It was amazing because [the cast] — brought that kind of collective spirit and that collaborative spirit to every minute of it,” Polley added. “They all shared a green room. You know, no one was ever quite on their own.”

Awards season is upon us

(L-R) Claire Foy, Sarah Polley, Jessie Buckley and Rooney Mara attend the premiere of Women Talking during the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival at the Princess of Wales Theatre.  They are four white women dressed in formal attire, linking arms as they pose for the camera against a black-and-white step-and-repeat background with logos for TIFF, The City of Toronto, Telefilm Canada and other sponsors.
From left, Foy, Polley, Buckley and Mara attend the premiere of Women Talking during the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival at the Princess of Wales Theatre. (Getty Images)

Toronto-born director whose previous films include Take this waltz and Away From Hershe was nominated for an Oscar in 2012 for her autobiographical documentary The stories we tell.

It was recently nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Original Screenplay Women speak. With all the Oscar buzz surrounding her latest, is she ready for a potentially trophy-laden awards season?

After the TIFF screening, “If nothing else ever happened to the film — I mean it, honestly, from the bottom of my heart — I would be so excited about what we got to do,” Polley said.

“It’s been so much more than I hoped it would be in terms of people’s reception of the film and their willingness to engage in the conversation and share something of themselves.”

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