The annual Women’s Film Festival in Brattleboro, VT is a celebration of movies by and about women; a platform for women to tell their own stories, to not only be the subject of their own lives but to direct them as well.
There have been numerous articles written in the past few years about both the continued lack of women working behind-the-scenes in the film industry and the gross misrepresentation of women in films. In fact, the film business in the United States is often regarded as the most visible industry-wide bastion of discrimination against women. Consider that even with gains in the past several years, in the 92-year history of the Academy Awards, only five women have been nominated as best director and only one woman has ever won and that was 11 years ago.
The Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University released a study recently which examined women in the top films as not just directors but writers, producers, executive producers, editors and cinematographers. Women accounted for 20 percent of all such work in 2019’s top films, up from 16 percent the year before.
Study author Martha Lauzen said in a statement, “While the numbers moved in a positive direction this year, men continue to outnumber women 4 to 1” in important non-acting positions.
The imbalance of men and women in film, behind the scenes and in front, affects not only those working in the film industry but has an adverse effect on viewers’ perceptions of women. When half the population is silenced, and visible mainly through hypersexualized diminutive characters, the message clearly underscored is that women are less valuable and capable than men.
Media is a powerful tool that constantly reinforces dominant cultural beliefs and attitudes. When the central messages about women in film, mainly told and directed by men, express that girls’ and women’s values lie mostly in youth, beauty and sexuality, damaging stereotypes are reinforced which serve to fortify the relentless oppression of women in society.
As filmmaker Kim Cummings stated, “When women work behind-the-scenes, the number of on-screen women increases [this] means more diversity in women depicted. I want my daughter to see herself reflected onscreen, to see roles to aspire to… I want my son to see women as more than eye candy”.
We hope that one day a women’s film festival will be unnecessary, that gender will no longer be a factor in who gets to tell stories and that the film industry will more accurately portray the reality and diversity of all people’s lives. Ending discrimination against women directors is essential to the goal of establishing an equal society with diversity of perspective which is why we support women’s efforts and do our small part in working to level the playing field.
Come join us at the Women’s Film Festival, March 20-29, 2020 – together we can make a difference while enjoying amazing films!