One of Barbra Streisand’s simplest comments during her April 29 Tribeca Talk struck the hardest: “I love when I see a woman’s name on a movie, and I pray it’s good.” The determined hope of her sentiment came deep into a 70-minute conversation with industry friend (and superfan) Robert Rodriguez, which primarily focused on the multihyphenate’s time behind the camera.
Rodriguez had been making the case that Streisand’s directing career paved the way for Kathryn Bigelow’s historic 2010 Best Director Oscar win for “The Hurt Locker,” the first ever for a woman. Streisand was hesitant to take credit, but after their discussion, it was hard to dispute that she paved the way for women to take control in a notoriously sexist industry, with Rodriguez arguing several times that she was robbed of Best Director nods for smash hits like 1983’s “Yentl” and 1991’s “The Prince of Tides.”
When asked why she decided to become a director, Streisand described disagreements with her “The Way We Were” director Sydney Pollack as a turning point.
“We were close friends, and told each other secrets nobody will ever know about,” she said. “But we also disagreed on some things. There were two scenes cut out that I thought were essential to the plot. That’s when I decided to be a director. I directed because I couldn’t be heard.”
Yet the road to critical respect was hard, with both men and women seeming to take delight in knocking her down, focusing on jabs about fashion versus the themes and tone of her films.
“There were a lot of older people,” Streisand said. “They don’t want to see a woman director. I don’t know how many women wanted to see a woman director…None of [the women who criticized my films] talked about what the movie was trying to say. It was not about what the movie was about — a celebration of women and all they could be.”
Furthering the discussion’s theme of disenfranchised filmmakers, Rodriguez revealed how he felt Streisand gave him, a Hispanic dreamer trying to enter a largely white industry, the confidence to create.
“A lot of you are probably wondering why I’m here,” Rodriguez said, after first greeting Streisand with a kneel and a bow. “In our household, there was no bigger star than Barbra Streisand. My mom loved to talk to her 10 children about two things: God and Barbra Streisand…You inspired me to go into an industry where I felt I didn’t have a voice.”