I’m forever looking for more women-centric films, especially considering that only 22% of protagonists are women in the top-grossing films. But I don’t want just any female characters; I crave complex, nuanced, and diverse female protagonists in film and television. This is why I’m delighted to attend the Bluestocking Film Series in Portland Maine, running from Thursday, July 14 through Saturday, July 16.
Bluestocking Film Series “is an exclusive showcase for provocative, well-produced films that feature complex female protagonists driving the narrative and leading the action.” All of the narrative short films they screen must have a woman lead and pass the Bechdel-Wallace Test. It’s also the first U.S. film event to receive Sweden’s A-Rating. The team behind Bluestocking “believe that audiences love a good story no matter what the lead character’s gender is.”
I had the wonderful opportunity to speak with Kate Kaminski, Bluestocking Film Series Founder and Artistic Director. We talked about the need for more complex female protagonists, ensuring diversity, women’s representation in film, and what she hopes to accomplish with the film series.
Bitch Flicks: Could you talk about the importance of the Bluestocking Film Series? Why did you start the film series?
Kate Kaminski: I started Bluestocking Film Series because something was missing from festival screens in Maine. What had happened to those festivals I’d been part of (as a filmmaker) that celebrated women? And where were the female-driven films I was craving to see as an audience member? I wondered: what if I created a women in film event with the mission of exclusively screening female-driven films that pass the Bechdel-Wallace Test? If I built it … would they come? Well, I built it and people have shown up, each year in greater numbers.
Bitch Flicks: What does Bluestocking Film Series mean for women’s representation in film? Why do you think we need more complex female protagonists?
Kate Kaminski: Every year, Bluestocking Film Series proves that female characters can be (and do) so much more than what we currently see on-screen. Female characters deserve to be portrayed with as much complexity as their male counterparts but that is rarely allowed — or celebrated — whether in the mainstream or in the indie world. Bluestocking exists to amplify diverse female voices and stories because culture can’t evolve or flourish if those voices and stories are missing from cinema, our most popular art.
Bitch Flicks: Why do you think the Bechdel-Wallace Test (where two named female characters talk to each other about something other than a man) matters?
Kate Kaminski: I’m a believer in the power of the Bechdel-Wallace Test (and its other iterations like the Mako Mori and Lauzen-Silverstein) as a jumping off point for initiating conversation about the ways women and girls are portrayed in film. The Bechdel-Wallace Test obviously doesn’t measure quality — and as we all know, is a low bar — but what it does, is point out how, more often than not, female characters are used in film to simply amplify and support the lead male character’s story. If the female characters in a film are only talking about the male characters, what message does that send to young girls and boys? It erases 50% of the population and makes insignificant the reality that we have lives of our own, rich, inner lives and meaningful, complicated relationships with each other.
Bitch Flicks: What steps do you take to ensure that Bluestocking Film Series is diverse in featuring work by women filmmakers and female protagonists who are women of color, LGBTQIA+, older women, and women with disabilities?
Kate Kaminski: Absolutely every step I take as a curator is about #filminclusion. I look far and wide on my own for films from across the globe that feature diverse female characters who embody something new or surprising. I’m drawn to characters who are not entirely knowable, and who are complex, and whose undeniable needs and wants drive the story. I also query my colleagues in the women in film world about what they’ve seen, who is up and coming, and I even have spies who refer films/filmmakers they’ve seen along the way. Social media for a movement like this is absolutely critical. I’d feel lost without the people I’ve met through social media who, like me, see female-driven films not as a niche, but as rightfully taking their place in the marketplace. In a way, I’m committing Bluestocking to being as far out on the cutting edge of what female characters can be by screening filmmakers who are real risk-takers. We need those creative people to enliven what has become so stale and predictable. Do we want to influence the larger world of film? YES.
A huge thank you to Kate Kaminski for taking the time to speak with me. You can find out more about the schedule, filmmakers and special guests attending, and the panels and films screening at Bluestocking Film Series, as well as purchase tickets.