So, I wasn't sure what to expect other than, well, a lot of films.
My husband, David, and I have definitely watched a lot of films already--some features, and many shorts. After the screenings (usually a few shorts followed by a longer film or feature), the directors come on stage and take questions from the audience.
The films at this festival have one specific criteria: directed by a woman. (Screenwriters entering the screenwriting portion of the festival could be male or female, but the protagonist must be female.)
Five hundred films from around the world were submitted; 90 were accepted. Of course, we're not going to watch all 90. (Fifty screenplays were submitted and eight selected.)
But we've enjoyed, been moved by, and discussed many. The website for Female Eye Film Festival has descriptions of the films, but I'd like to particularly point out a short called "Diving Within," directed by Hanan Dirya. It's a short documentary about Sherena, a Muslim from Malaysia, who moves to Ireland with her husband and sons, and her challenges in balancing her faith practice with finding community in a culture so foreign to her. She finds courage, peace and faith not only through her personal religious practices, but through slowly learning to swim in the Irish Sea... year round.
Watch the trailer at the end of this post. Frankly, in our current culture, I think everyone should watch this.
After the screening, I ran into Hanan in the lobby and told her that I found her short to be beautiful and important. I learned that Hanan herself is an immigrant to Ireland from Somalia.
Hanan told me that Sherena insisted, before agreeing to be the subject of Hanan's short, that Hanan go swimming with her. So Hanan went swimming in the Irish Sea. In February.
I'm touched by how hard artists fight to make their work and share it with others. I've been particularly awed by the women I've met here. Now, writing a novel is a challenge. A climb-Kilamanjaro effort, if you will. But for artists like Hanan... who find their subjects (or for others, write a script), AND direct AND produce AND promote? Well, their efforts strike me as build-a-ladder-to-Pluto effort.
So the next time you meet an indie filmmaker, male or female, offer them a delicious beverage of their choosing, and say, "My hat's off to you, oh indie filmmaker."
Acing the Bechdel Test
I'm also happy to report that every film has aced theBechdel test. (In which two female characters talk to each other about something other than... wait for it, wait for it... a man. Sometimes, these female characters even have names! Apply this test to the mega-movie-at-the-mall standard fare and see what you come up with.)
The founder and executive director of the festival shared, during a "meet the directors" panel yesterday that fourteen years ago, when she started the festival and began screening submissions, she was struck by how startling it was to see stories told from so many different female perspectives--old, young, wise, not-so-wise, poor, wealthy. Even as a feminist filmmaker and director, her eyes went wide at all the voices and points of view that she hadn't even realized she was missing.
While I'm a writer, I'm not a filmmaker. I have no desire or aspirations to direct films. (I could kind of see doing some aspects of the production side, since that's much like what I do as director of the Antioch Writers' Workshop.) It's always good, though, to hang out with artists who work in other mediums.
A Few Insights For Artists of All Stripes
So far, here''s what I've realized and/or re-realized from hanging out with and listening to filmmakers:
- Filmmaking is a collaborative art. (I think this is most obvious in the filmmaking arts but is also true in other arts.
- Collaboration means that, to get your work out to the public, you can't have EVERYTHING your way. You have to give some things up. That means in the work itself (not just the usual things artists give up such as sleep and money.)
- So... since you're going to have to give something up, figure out what you WON'T give up. (For me, this would be the core message/voice of whatever I'm creating.)
Coming up: Toronto, Live Read, pitching, etc.