The Cause of the Month is a little thing I do to increase exposure of a particular charity or organization I think is worthwhile, and I feature a new one every month. I also donate a minimum of $10 in cash or needed supplies to each cause. You can help the causes you find important in a variety of ways: 1) donate, 2) link to my article and/or the charity's own website, or 3) suggest an organization for future month's cause.
Last November, actress and director Adrienne Shelley was murdered. She left behind a two-year-old daughter, an unreleased film, and thousands of fans, including me, who remembered her sincerely wonderful work. Her husband has established a foundation in her honor to award grants and film school scholarships to women filmmakers, which is a cause as near and dear to me as Shelley's work was, so it's become my very first Cause of the Month.
Of course it's Trust from which I remember her best. Hal Hartley's funny/sad story of misfits with Shelley as Maria, a pregnant high-schooler kicked out of home by her family. As typical of a set-up that is, there is nothing typical about Maria's character. She is tough, thoughtful, and without a lick of self-pity, even though she is also often scared and uncertain about where she's going next. Emotional bravery - it's not flashy, but it's the stuff of great film, and Shelley, in Trust exemplified it subtly and beautifully. It is hard to imagine the movie working even half as well, despite its other merits, without her.
From then I kept tabs on her work: as an actor, a writer, and a director. It wasn't always easy, because fame did not seem to interest her much. While she did a string of critically-acclaimed film roles, she also retained close ties to the local New York theater and film communities. More recently, she performed only small roles (Factotum), and focused on her writing and directing work.
The details of her death on November 1, 2006 are outlined on many sites, and not necessary to go over yet again here. The only thing that really matters is that it was far too soon.
In its wake, however, there is good. Her last film, Waitress, which she wrote, directed, and in which she acted, premiered at Sundance to an overwhelmingly positive reception, has won other festival awards, and opens in theaters nationwide May 2.
In addition, Shelley's husband has established a foundation in her name that provides grants and scholarships to young women working in film. From the Adrienne Shelley Foundation:
We know that Adrienne would like us to do everything possible to help young women pursue their filmmaking dreams, and to assist others in making the same leap from acting to writing and directing as Adrienne had done so successfully.
Which seems to be the best possible way to remember her.
Information & Links
- Adrienne Shelley Foundation - Here you can find information on the foundation, as well as a list of currently available grants and application instructions. You can also donate to the foundation online.
- Auction of Aprons Signed by Waitress Stars - To benefit the foundation, CharityFolks is hosting an online auction of five aprons signed by Waitress stars, including Keri Russell and Rosanna Arquette. Bidding ends May 14.