Women’s Stories Weekly

“Ladies Special” Theme at the Muscat International Film Festival





The 7th Annual Muscat International Film Festival in Oman held a specially themed day earlier this week: “Ladies Special,” which featured the Indian actress-filmmaker Nandita Das and Her Highness Basma Al Said (of Oman).  The talk was followed by a screening of the 1995 female-focused film Waiting to Exhale, co-written by Terry McMillan and based on her novel of the same name.

Das spoke of her work as a director as well as her work with the Children’s Society of India and the effort it takes to make children’s films: “We are trying to make quality films for children. It is a struggle because economics interferes with art.” (Hmm, a universal truth of filmmaking?)

Read the entire story at the Times of Oman.

Wellywood Woman Interview w/Director of Alice Walker Documentary

Marian Evans of Wellywood Woman posted her latest podcast on Sunday which features an interview with filmmaker Pratibha Parmar who is working on a feature documentary about her friend Alice Walker, the writer, activist and poet.  The film, Alice Walker: Beauty In Truth, “tells the compelling story of an extraordinary woman’s journey from her birth in a paper-thin shack in cotton fields of Putnam County, Georgia to her recognition as a key writer of the 20th Century” (alicewalkerfilm.com).  It’s a brilliant interview by Marian, and a stimulating discussion between two women who are both motivated to share women’s stories.  Marian (@devt) is a vigorous supporter of the film and you can follow the film on twitter, too, @AliceWalkerFilm.  Check out the conversation and become a fellow supporter by spreading the word.

Listen to the interview at Wellywood Woman.

One Way or Another Conference on Women in LatAm Cinema

Alongside the Toulouse Film Festival in France this week, a conference was held to discuss the participation of women in Latin American cinema.  The One Way or Another Conference focused on the move of women in cinema from acting to directing, writing and producing (and beyond).  Included in the discussion was “the treatment of women’s problems in films, including sexism, gender inequality and violence.”  The conference takes its name from a film directed by the late filmmaker Sarah Gomez; she was the first Cuban woman to shoot a fiction film.

Read the entire story at Prensa Latina.

Two African American Female Directors Book New Films

Gina Prince-Bythewood

Melissa Silverstein of Women and Hollywood blogged earlier this week about director Gina Prince-Blythewood signing on to direct Before I Fall based on a book by Lauren Oliver, and Kasi Lemmons signing on to adapt and direct the Zadie Smith novel On Beauty.  Prince-Bythewood also directed Love & Basketball and The Secret Life of Bees, while Lemmons has directed Eve’s Bayou and Talk To Me.

Kasi Lemmons



This is extremely exciting news not only because two African American women will be directing films, but for personal reasons for me as Zadie Smith is one of my favorite writers and anything that will allow people to be exposed to her work — whether it’s actually sitting down and reading it or watching a film adaptation — is a great thing!  Wow, I can’t WAIT to see these films released.

Read the details over at Women and Hollywood.

Women’s stories this week

The first annual Adrienne Shelly Foundation Woman of Vision Salute was held at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City on November 2 to honor the achievements of filmmaker Nicole Holofcener.  The event included a talk with Holofcener hosted by Catherine Keener. On November 1, the Foundation launched an ebay auction with a host of big names in entertainment (Rosario Dawson, Jon Hamm and others) to help raise money for the work of the Foundation.  The Adrienne Shelly Foundation supports many organizations in their funding of women filmmakers and women in film.  An excerpt from the ASF’s mission statement reads:  “The Adrienne Shelly Foundation supports the artistic achievements of female actors, writers and directors through a series of scholarships and grants…”

The ASF was set up in 2006 by Andy Ostroy in remembrance of his late wife’s work as an actress and filmmaker as a way to support the work of women filmmakers.  Adrienne Shelly was murdered in 2006 while she was writing in her downtown New York office.  Her death affected me greatly, having been a long-time admirer of hers and inspired in many, many ways by the first film I saw her in, Hal Hartley’s 1990 film Trust.  November 1 marks the date of her death.  Adrienne Shelly was 40 years old.

After years of working as an actress, she went on to write and direct, most famously the huge success Waitress, starring Keri Russell, Cheryl Hines, Andy Griffith, Jeremy Sisto and Nathan Fillion. (Cheryl Hines later directed Serious Moonlight written by Adrienne Shelly.)  Andy Ostroy wrote an article in the Huffington Post earlier this week in honor of the five year anniversary of Adrienne Shelly’s death.  Also, take a look at a video below of Shelly talking about her inspiration for the film Waitress.

“The War We Are Living,” the fourth film in the five-part PBS documentary series Women, War and Peace aired on Tuesday.  This film focused on Afro-Colombian women in a resource-rich area of Colombia whose land was under threat from internal and foreign corporations and miners.  Colombia’s history of paramilitary groups fighting with guerrilla groups devastated the country and residual effects are still being felt.  Many people within the community of Toma were threatened by terrorist groups in order to force them to leave so the land could be taken over.  These groups also killed many community members in an attempt to scare them away from their communities.

Two women, Clemencia Carabali and Francia Marquez, were strong and vociferous leaders in the community who opposed the terrorism.  They helped to organize their fellow community members to oppose the government’s deferral of responsibility when it came to revoking mining rights given to Hector Sarria under the false pretenses of there not being any Afro-Colombian community in the area (Toma) with whom he should confer to receive the community’s approval.  By saying on paper that there was no Black community in Toma, the government helped to make these Afro-Colombian communities invisible and allowed people with no authority to mine in the area.  Under Colombian law, Afro-Colombians have legal protections.  But the community stood up and said “No,” and the government was forced to back down.

If you missed this episode, you can watch it online at PBS.  The fifth and final film (“War Redefined”)  in the Women, War and Peace series will air on Tuesday, November 8.  You can tweet along during the show by labeling your tweets with #wwplive and follow the series on twitter @WomenWarPeace and Abigail Disney, Executive Producer of the series @AbigailDisney.

Wellywood Woman: For women who make movies.                                                      And for the people who love them.

Marian Evans, author of the blog, Wellywood Woman, penned a gorgeous piece last week about the Mumbai International Film Festival and the seeming increase in support for women filmmakers.  She explores this topic with a journalist as well as explores the films and lives of various women filmmakers to try to find some answers as to why.  In 2010, the Mumbai International Film Festival (MAMI for short) had an all-female jury headed by renowned filmmaker, Jane Campion, and the 2011 festival had a large number of films made by women.

Read Marian’s article, “Going Global via MAMI” and follow her on twitter @devt and on Facebook at Development the Movie.

It was announced recently that there will not be a Birds Eye View Film Festival in 2012.  Last year, the UK Film Council closed and as a result, BEV is unable to continue with its plans for a 2012 festival.  From the BEV website: “Over the past few years, the UK Film Council supported the Birds Eye View Film Festival through their Film Festivals Fund and Diversity Grant in Aid. Since the closure of the Film Council, funds have transferred to the BFI. As yet, there is no provision for either Festivals or Diversity, leaving BEV with a 90% drop in public funds.”

This is a huge loss, but I have no doubt that BEV will be back in 2013.  There is a great informative FAQ-type page on the BEV website you can read here which talks about their plans and how the public can help.  This story isn’t getting nearly enough attention, if you ask me, especially because this is just one of the effects of the closure of the UK Film Council which was predicted.  The closure was a move opposed by many in the industry, including Mike Leigh, one of England’s leading filmmakers (and admired around the world) whose films have depended on the Council.  You can read some mentions in the press below and follow BEV on twitter @BirdsEyeViewFF.

“We can’t run our film festival next year — but we’ll be back” (2 Nov 2011, The Guardian)

“Birds Eye View Festival 2012 cancelled due to funding cuts” (27 Oct 2011, Screen Daily)