There are some things I've noticed that I want to share.
First, women's film festivals rock. I know I'm biased. But remember, most people see all their films in a gigantic multiplex of 8 screens or more and very few of those movies have women leads or women directors, so one of the places you get to see women at all is women's film festivals. Of course, at some of these festivals there are films by men about women (like my own) and movies by women about men.
But when you get to see a woman directed movie about women (or girls) it is special. It is no wonder that Sally Potter's Ginger and Rosa has played a numerous women's film festivals through this year. It's a special film by a special director. In fact, it will be the opening film at the International Women's Film Festival in Seoul, South Korea where I am now headed. (More on that coming soon)
This spring I've been to Berlin, Denver, Rochester, Chicago and LA. There were women's film festival in both Denver and Rochester. Women Plus in Denver and the High Falls Film Festival in Rochester. What I got out of both festivals was a clear commitment and dedication to highlighting women's stories and the contribution of women. I got to meet and talk with female directors I would otherwise not met, and even though I spend all my day consumed with all things women and film - I saw films that I did not even know about.
In Rochester, where my first stop off the plane was Susan B. Anthony's house, I hung out with a group of female directors: Drew Denny, Laurie Colbert and Dominique Cardona. We all became fast friends. I sat next to Drew at the screening of her aptly titled The Most Fun I've Ever Have with My Pants On, and saw just how a director feels as her baby unfolds. Little did I know but she was also the star of the film. It was a very ballsy performance and has beautiful cinematography. It was extremely enjoyable and the audience loved it.
Because of my schedule, I didn't get to see Laurie and Dominique's film Margarita until recently but I really liked it too. I knew I would like it because I had very much liked another film they made, Finn's Girl. These are two women who unabashedly tell not only women's stories, but lesbian women's stories, in a very relatable way. This film also talked about the underground economy as their leading character was a nanny with no immigration papers. After she was hurt in a car accident, she was threatened with deportation. And PS she was a lesbian Latina in Canada who was not skinny. When you see a normal looking woman onscreen it takes a second for your eyes to adjust because you so seldom see normal looking women.
What I found interesting about the crowd in Rochester was the fact that there were so many people at the screenings, even late at night. The women in charge of the festival did a great job getting the word out. They were newbies to programming which was even more impressive.
What this tells me is that people are hungry for women's stories and if you do a good job letting people know about the films, and program films they want to see, they will come. These festivals are great opportunities to talk with people who care about these types of films. These are people hungry for women's stories and don't always get a chance to see women's stories and hear from the directors. That's why this work is important. Giving people -- men and women -- diverse stories makes a difference.