Saturday was a day of reckoning at the Tribeca Film Festival as voices from the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements brought their message of survival, empowerment and advocacy from Hollywood to New York City. Oscar-winning actresses Julianne Moore and Lupita Nyong’o, Tony Award winner Cynthia Erivo, actresses Jurnee Smollett-Bell and Ashley Judd, former NFL player Wade Davis, activist Tarana Burke—who was also awarded a Disruptive Innovation award at this year’s festival—and more were on hand to talk about the movement’s momentum and what comes next.
Saru Jayaraman, co-founder of the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, was joined onstage by a restaurant worker known simply as “Shanita” to discuss the scourge of sexual harassment and abuse that plagues the restaurant industry. Jayaraman explained that for tip-based workers in particular, the perpetuation of low wages in the industry—which has the highest rates of sexual harassment—is a form of slavery.
“When you are woman ... you must tolerate all kinds of inappropriate customer behavior to feed your family on tips,” she said.
In addition, Nyong’o, Erivo, Mira Sorvino and Amber Tamblyn joined a panel discussion on the types of roles offered to women, as well as the importance of powerful female characters being represented on the stage and screen.
“I’m trying to make people aware that we have a choice in the way we are perceived,” said Erivo. “I see myself differently, and I want that to help other young ladies get the permission to also see themselves differently.”
But perhaps one of the most poignant moments of solidarity and sisterhood occurred between #MeToo founder Burke and actress and activist Judd, who shared a letter she’d written about her experience and awakening as a survivor. Burke, affirming as always, talked about the need for all of us to adjust our thinking when it comes to addressing the needs of survivors of sexual abuse of all kinds:
We’re not speaking enough healing into the world, really, but definitely not into our communities. ... I think that there’s such a huge misconception about the way healing has to work, right? A lot of times, people relate healing to justice—and it can be, for some people. ... But there’s even studies that show that when you talk to survivors the first thing they think about is not—it’s not punitive. It’s not about what to do to the perpetrator, but it’s about what they need to feel whole again. And I think we need to have a more robust conversation about the needs of people in this moment.
It was an inspirational afternoon that concluded with a performance by the 60-woman-strong Resistance Revival Chorus, which notably backed up Kesha at this year’s Grammy awards. Most importantly, it gave the Tribeca audience more to consider as its members contemplate this year’s films and the industry that powers them, as well as the industries serving the festival itself. The #TimesUp and #MeToo movements are growing daily, but beyond the hashtags, we were urged to never forget the very human faces and experiences behind it.