Short Term 12
When I contemplate women in film, two thoughts come to mind: women in front of the camera, and women behind the camera. We are all familiar with the stereotypical female characters in movies and TV shows that portray traditional, predictable roles. There’s nothing wrong with that, I suppose, but it isn’t teaching us anything new about what it’s like to actually be a woman. When I fell in love with independent film in the early 2000s, it was for one reason: I had never experienced anything as risky or as honest as filmmaking without rules or boundaries. This was especially true in terms of exploration of female characters. It was refreshing, enlightening and, eventually, life changing.
Local film festivals have proliferated in recent years–every city and town seems to want its own Sundance and my city is no exception: every spring it has a well-respected, week-long independent film festival with celebrity appearances and panels. But well-publicized festivals focusing on women don’t seem to be part of this trend. In the 90s women in the arts, not just film, seemed to finally be given a chance to do their own work and tell their own stories. In the era of ‘Thelma and Louise,’ women taking up a more equitable piece of the pie in filmmaking (as well as in writing books and in the visual arts) seemed inevitable. In the 21st century we seem to be going backward: the percentage of women making films has dropped since 2012 so we’re overdue for a festival like Athena: “a celebration of women and leadership.”
Last weekend, several ‘Bitch Flicks’ writers were lucky enough to attend the Athena Film Festival (AFF) at Barnard College in New York. The festival bills itself as “a celebration of women and leadership,” and it’s a four-day extravaganza of women-centered and women-helmed films. I already wrote about ‘Radical Grace,’ the terrific documentary about nuns fighting for social justice, and here is a whirlwind tour of some of the other highlights of my AFF weekend.