Her.Stories: West Memphis Three, Iranian women’s rights, feminism in Canada and more

Interview with Director Amy Berg and Producer Lorri Davis – West of Memphis
at Women and Hollywood

This is a film I’ve been looking forward to for a long time.  More than 10 years ago I heard about the West Memphis Three through something I read or heard from Henry Rollins, and soon after, saw a fascinating and heartbreaking documentary film about Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jesse Misskelley, all just kids when they were accused, tried, convicted and sentenced (living for years on death row) for the murder of three young boys in West Memphis, Arkansas.  This was a deliberate effort by the criminal justice system to “hang” these young men for the disgusting and abominable murder of three young boys despite evidence pointing to the stepfather of one of the boys as the murderer.  The story of Echols, Baldwin and Misskelley is a story of injustice that was overcome — in part (they are now out of prison but are still fighting (and paying for, quite literally), to be legally absolved of all charges) — through years of tedious and torturous work by legal teams including Echols’ now wife, Lorri Davis; celebrity supporters (among them Henry Rollins, Margaret Cho, Johnny Depp, Eddie Vedder, and Fran Walsh and Peter Jackson who produced this film); and unfathomable dedication.  Berg’s film opens in theaters on December 25.

Khaleeji women filmmakers push boundaries, gently
at Variety Arabia

Festival addresses Iranian women’s rights
at the Daily Targum

Still from the documentary film “Sister” by Brenda Davis

Interview With Filmmaker Brenda Davis on “Sister,” her new documentary film about healthcare for childbearing women in Ethiopia, Cambodia and Haiti (includes VIDEO CLIP)
at Tadias

 

 

For Women’s Sake, the film festival Our Lives…To Live (with a theme of “NO! to gender violence”)
at the Indian Express

No Country for Young Women multimedia project in production on showcase of women in film
at the Virginia Film Office

Heroines of Cinema: An A-Z of Women in Film in 2012
at Indiewire

Top 10 Female Hindi Film Directors to Look Out For!
at Miss Malini

Filmmaker Khadija Al-Salami

“The Scream” raises Yemen women’s voices in Dubai, directed by Khadija al-Salami who was forced to marry at 11 years old
at Middle East Online

 

 

Whistler Film Festival 2012: Director Karen Cho on the Status Quo of feminism in Canada
at Straight.com

Filmmaker Nishtha Jain

Interview: Nishtha Jain, Director, “Gulabi Gang” about gender violence, rights of the poor
at Dear Cinema

 

 

 

Interview with Director Stephanie Assimacopoulo of “Le Train Bleu” (includes VIDEO CLIP)
at Disarray

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CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS: London Feminist Film Festival

(Cross-posted with permission)
The London Feminist Film Festival will take place over a weekend in November 2012. The festival aims to counterbalance the mainstream film industry’s narrow representation of women and its neglect of women’s issues by showing a selection of films made by women filmmakers from around the world. The films will be feminist either in their representation of women and/or their handling of feminist issues.Deadline: 31 August 2012.

General rules:

• Women directors from any country may enter.
• Films should deal with feminist issues and/or be feminist in their representation of women.
• Films can be of any length or genre.
• Non-English language films must be presented in English-subtitled versions.

How to submit:

Click on the button below to pay your submission fee via PayPal or with a credit/debit card. Submission fee is £5 per short film and £10 per mid–full length (30+ minutes) film.

Email submissions.lfff@gmail.com with a link to your film online or to request the postal address for submitting via DVD. Please include the following information in your email:

• Film director’s name, contact details, and short biography
• Title of film
• Year of production
• Country of production
• Film credits (producer, writer, etc)
• Synopsis of film including why you think it is suitable for the festival
• Length of film in minutes
• Where it has been screened before, if applicable
• PayPal payment confirmation number

Successful applicants will be notified by 21 September 2012.

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Website:  http://londonfeministfilmfestival.wordpress.com/
Twitter: @ldnfemfilmfest
Facebook Group: http://www.facebook.com/groups/179100748862559/

INTERVIEW: Kate Kaminski of the Bluestocking Film Series

BIOGRAPHY

Kate Kaminski conceived the biannual Bluestocking Film Series — Films By Women — a screening event for women filmmakers.  She co-owns the DIY production company, Gitgo Productions, with partner Betsy Carson, and collaborates with the St. Lawrence Arts Center to bring women’s films to audiences in Portland, Maine.

Image courtesy of K. Kaminski

Her Film:  Your biannual film series is the only one in the world (as far as I know) to require films submitted for consideration to pass the now-famous Bechdel Test.  Can you talk about the importance of the Bechdel Test to you as a festival runner and what impact you see it having within filmmaking?

Kate Kaminski: The Bechdel Test is a crucial piece of the Bluestocking Film Series because as you point out, after the main requirement that the director of a film be a woman, we’re using it as the most basic criteria for entries.

When we set out on this journey a year ago, our motivation was that we really just wanted to see more films that explored women’s lives, our experiences, and our relationships with each other – separate from men. I’m not a big fan of commercial filmmaking in general because I’ve grown utterly bored by the male-centered POV that carries most films you would see at your local multiplex. Of course the Bechdel Test is deceptively simple and doesn’t guarantee a particularly female-positive slant nor does it make a film necessarily feminist.

In some ways, it’s proving to be way harder than I ever imagined it would be. I keep getting submissions from very worthy women directors and the films don’t pass. I can’t figure out if these submitters aren’t reading the “fine print” – though we try to put the Bechdel Test front and center wherever we advertise the BFS – or if they’re just hoping we’ll ignore it. It’s almost disheartening.

Filmmaker Betsy Carson. (Photo credit: Judy Beedle Photography) Image courtesy of K. Kaminski

I suppose I was a bit naïve to think a) that it would be cinch to get loads of woman-directed films that b) passed the Bechdel. That being said, I’m now digging in for the long haul and standing by my commitment to the test as a basic criteria – and, believe me, I’ve met with some pressure to jettison it. I’ve also had some very positive responses from women filmmakers about our using it as a basis for entry.

As far as the Bechdel Test having an impact within filmmaking, I would have to say, from what I see, the answer is…not so much. At least, not yet. Frankly, it’s not enough to make a film that passes the test unless the impetus is to express a deeper understanding of what the test implies about women’s stories and their importance to all of us. It’s my hope that the BFS will generate discussion – and production! – among women filmmakers – and maybe even spark a revolution. I’m all about a cinematic revolt in this country – for all genders, races, and beliefs.

 

HF:  Is the BFS for you part of a larger feminist engagement with the community and with women filmmakers?  How does the series specifically fit within your mission as an artist and/or as a female artist?

KK: It’s definitely about engaging with other women filmmakers. Living in Maine, my filmmaking partner (Betsy Carson) and I sometimes feel lonely and marginalized.

Production still from 20/20. (Photo credit: Judy Beedle Photography) Image courtesy of K. Kaminski

I don’t necessarily see the BFS as a vehicle for showing our own films, though I’m tempted to try to convince Betsy to make one with me specifically for the series. For me, the BFS is much more about going outside our little corner of the world and bringing back to our community woman-directed films that would otherwise never be seen and that also express the rich diversity of our experience as women. It’s not about excluding men – it’s about introducing women’s voices into the mix. Back in the 90’s we had a women’s film festival here and it didn’t last. There was also a Maine Women and Girls Film Festival but I don’t think they’re doing that anymore either. We’ll see how this goes. I choose to believe that we have an audience – that people of all genders are hungry for what we want to show them.

As far as feminism is concerned, I’m increasingly dismayed by the cultural shift away from that as a positive value, so, yes, it’s also about a feminist agenda. I would definitely like to see more women making films that express feminist ideas.

Still from the webseries "Willard Beach." (Photo credit: Judy Beedle Photography) Image courtesy of K. Kaminski

HF:  As you hold the biannual Bluestocking Film Series, what are you finding audiences’ reactions to the films to be?  And what types of audiences are you seeing? (i.e. are they diverse in race, gender, class, age, etc.?)


KK: Well, we’ve only had one screening – last October – so our track record is short. But the audience last October was amazing. Very enthusiastic – very supportive – and we were only half a dozen seats away from completely sold out, so I’d say it was a rousing success, especially when you consider that we didn’t have a budget for advertising, etc.

The make up of the audience was young and old, women and men. But as far as racial diversity, you may not know that Maine is one of the “whitest” states in the nation. We are also a very poor state, economically, and not everybody has even the $5 we charged for that premiere screening. Unfortunately, we do have to raise the ticket price going forward, so it comes down to (literally) who can afford to shell out $10-15 for a “special event” like this – not everybody can do that.

Film poster for 20/20. (Poster design: Holly Valero) Image courtesy of K. Kaminski

As we move forward with the series, we’re discussing taking it on the road and traveling around the East coast with it. We’d also like to expand it ultimately to the internet, as an online festival – it kind of goes without saying that the online world offers incredible diversity both in the filmmakers and audience.

 

HF:  I’ve read perspectives on women’s film festivals that are both positive and negative, positive meaning that women’s film festivals provide a forum for women-made films, and negative because these festivals could be considered a type of “ghettoization” of women-made films.  As a filmmaker and festival runner, do you find yourself torn between these perspectives, or do you give credence to the negative perspective at all?

KK: To me, this idea of the ghetto is a patriarchal construct – let’s face it, one person’s ghetto is another person’s community so I’m actually fine with it regardless. And women’s film festivals level the playing field…at least theoretically.

BFS poster. (Poster design: Holly Valero) Image courtesy of K. Kaminski

HF:  The recent documentary film Miss Representation by Jennifer Siebel Newsom on media representations and political involvement of women and girls has helped bring the phrase “You can’t be what you can’t see” to the fore.   Filmmakers whose films are selected for the BFS see their work shown to other women, so how do you see this interaction and engagement between and among women and women artists affecting what they consider to be possible?  In other words, do you see a broader consciousness shift happening to which the BFS may be contributing? 


KK: I think it’s absolutely critical to feel like you’re part of the “guild” of filmmakers, part of the craft and history of the art when you’re making films. And, by its nature, art is inclusive – but if you’re a woman making films about the experience of being female, it can seem like your work is “out of sync” with “what you see” [being made by mostly male filmmakers]. To be a small part of a bigger wave of “possibility” for women in the arts is exciting. I would dearly love to see a consciousness shift and if the BFS can contribute to that, it would be a beautiful thing.

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The film entry deadline for the Spring 2012 Bluestocking Film Series is April 15.  The screening will be held on May 20, 2012.

To learn more about the BFS and to connect with this filmmaker, check out these links:

Website: Bluestocking Film Series

Website: St. Lawrence Arts Center’s BFS page

Facebook: Gitgo Productions

Twitter: @GitGoProd

Webseries: Willard Beach (by Kate Kaminski and Betsy Carson)

Looking for an audience? Deadlines for fests, funds & workshops

JANUARY 4
San Francisco International Women’s Film Festival (WAB Extended deadline)
Click here for submission information.

JANUARY 9
AFI Directing Workshop for Women (Application deadline)
Click here for more information on the DWW.

Dortmund Cologne International Women’s Film Festival (Submission deadline)
Click here for submission information.

JANUARY 15
Seen and Heard Festival (Submission deadline)
Click here for submission information.

JANUARY 31
International Black Women’s Film Festival

(Submission deadlines: earlybird Jan. 31 / regular Mar. 10 / late Mar. 17)
Click here for submission information.

FEBRUARY 1
Through Women’s Eyes Film Festival (WAB Extended deadline for documentaries)
Click here for submission information.

FEBRUARY 2
Through Women’s Eyes Film Festival (WAB Extended deadline for features and shorts)  Click here for submission information.

FEBRUARY 3
International Women’s Film Festival in Seoul (Submission deadline)
Click here for submission information.

FEBRUARY 9
Sundance Institute Documentary Fund (Application deadline)
Click here for more information.

FEBRUARY 24
Mostra Internacional de Films de Dones de Barcelona (Submission deadline for medium-length & feature films)
Click here for submission information.

FEBRUARY 29
Viscera Film Festival (Submission deadline)
Click here for submission information.

MARCH 1
Flying Broom International Women’s Film Festival (Submission deadline)
Click here for submission information.

MARCH 15
Lunafest (Submission deadline)
Click here for submission information.

Reel Sisters of the Diaspora Film Festival & Lecture Series

(Submission deadlines: earlybird Mar. 15 / regular June 11 / late June 20)                             Click here for submission information.

MARCH 16
Native American Public Telecommunications 2012 Public Media Content Fund  (Application deadline)

Click here for more information on how to apply.