Female Filmmaker Friday: Claire McCarthy, Director of Ophelia

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"The presumption within a lot of Shakespeare's plays, in particular 'Hamlet', [that women are weak and frail, or strong and insane] we've taken that and turned it on its head."

Claire McCarthy is an Australian writer, director, and producer who has been making films for over a decade.

In 2007, McCarthy’s debut came with feature film Cross Life; a film with several plotlines all surrounding Sydney’s red-light district, Kings Cross. The film was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award. In 2008, she made the autobiographical documentary short Sisters, in which Claire followed her teenage sister Helena as she volunteers at Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta. It was this time in India that inspired her next film, The Waiting City, about a couple’s journey to India to adopt a baby.

In 2018, the film adaptation of Ophelia premiered at Sundance Film Festival. The film is based of the novel by Lisa Klein, and the character from William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. It is the story of Hamlet told from Ophelia’s point-of-view, and with some changes. The shifting of perspective from Hamlet to Ophelia gives the opportunity to dive deeper into the character and show her from a woman’s perspective.

“When the screenplay came to me I was quite delighted by how whimsical it was, but there's an underpinning that has depth to it which will, hopefully, communicate to a younger audience.”

The film is beautifully shot, and McCarthy’s direction gives new life to a story many have heard over and over again. While still tragic, the adaptation adds romance, laughter, as well as tears. It is not to be missed. Be sure to watch an interview, with some of the cast and director Claire McCarthy, below.

Ophelia is open in limited theaters today, June 28, 2019.