Why do we need a Women's Film Festival?

Friday March 1, 2013

The annual Women's Film Festival in Brattleboro 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 year 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. According to recent Directors Guild of America statistics, 95 percent of feature films are directed by men, and just 5 percent by women. Also consider that in the 83-year history of the Academy Awards, only four women have been nominated as best director and only one woman has ever won.

As Martha Coolidge, one of America's most distinguished feature film directors and the first woman president of the Director's Guild of America said, "Thousands of would-be directors enter film school every year with the hope that they could be the "one ... for guys competition is fierce, but for women you are more likely to win the lottery."

And yet, women make up 51 percent of the population and a similar percentage of film school graduates.

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, which 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 value 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 8 to 17. Together we can make a difference while enjoying awesome films.

The Women's Freedom Center is the local organization in Windham County working to end domestic and sexual violence. Follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/womensfreedomcenter and at www.womensfreedomcenter.net. You can reach an advocate 24 hours a day on our crisis line at 802-254-6954


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