Caro: Yeah, I do, because that's not what I do. I don't see myself as a crusading feminist filmmaker. Not at all. I have the luxury of coming from New Zealand and I've had moments in my life where being female is considered to be a tremendous advantage— emotionally, career-wise. Personally, I have nothing to prove. But I'm tremendously curious about human nature. Female life is so incredibly underexplored in cinema, so these stories feel very exotic.
Slate: Was it that element of risk that attracted you to both stories?
Caro: Yes, very much so. When I take on something, there's always an element that I don't think has been done before that I want to explore. With North Country, I was so shocked that these events had happened in such recent history. I was very intrigued by the fact that every person in every industry I've talked to has heard of sexual harassment. And yet, in a cinematic culture that damages and demoralizes female characters with embarrassing regularity, making a film about sexual harassment seemed like a bold act. Nobody's made this film before.
Slate: Michelle Monaghan, one of the actresses in the film, referred to North Country as a "chick flick." Do you see it that way?
Caro: No, I don't. Not at all. It surprises me that she said that. I mean, maybe she said it because of the way the women were on the set—all the shenanigans that went on.
Slate: What shenanigans?
Caro: Well, I have to say, for a movie that's about a subject like sexual harassment, it was the least politically correct set ever. These actresses were sexually harassing everyone.
Slate: You've said before that you would never consider taking on violent material. And yet there are scenes in North Country that are incredibly violent towards women.
Caro: Well, look. Violence that has basis in fact and truth is different for me. If you look at the way something like the rape scene is shot, it doesn't shrink from the emotional and physical horror of it, but it doesn't exploit the woman involved. I have no problem telling a story that involves violence. But I draw the line at exploiting it or in any way sensationalizing it.
Slate: It seems a tough market for female directors. Kimberly Peirce hasn't made a film since Boys Don't Cry. Jane Campion hasn't made a film since 2003's critical disappointment, In the Cut.
Caro: I can't speak for any of them. Jane has elected to take some time off for family. If it's a hard time out there for women directors, well, we shall see what it will be like for me. But I think it's tough for any director.