Spotlight on female filmmakers with FilmScene’s Women’s March

Women’s March

FilmScene — throughout March, 2018

Women take over the FilmScene screens during Women’s March. — photo by Adam Burke

Update: Three women-directed films will be screened starting March 1, as part of the Women’s March series: the French documentary Faces Places, directed by Agnès Varda and JR, and nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature; Jennifer Reeder’s Signature Move, following the romance between a Mexican woman and a Pakistani woman who take up wrestling; and Kelly Richmond Pope’s documentary All The Queen’s Horses, investigating the $50 million embezzlement scheme by Dixon, Illinois horse breeder Rita Crundwell. A full schedule can be found at the FilmScene website.

Since 1987, Congress has designated March of each year as Women’s History Month. This year, the women’s marches in Washington, D.C. and across the world in the wake of Donald Trump’s inauguration boasted a total participation of 2.6 million. Also in 2017, Time’s Person of the Year honored women, by giving its yearly accolade to The Silence Breakers. FilmScene announced Dec. 21 that they are joining in that great tradition in 2018, dedicating the month of March to women filmmakers.

Their press release calls out a few of the well-known greats: Sofia Coppola. Ava DuVernay. Mira Nair. Kathryn Bigelow. Dee Rees. However, the celebration won’t be limited to household names. The programming will feature Homegrown, a series for women filmmakers in Iowa or with Iowa roots; Pioneers, a look back to the earliest women in film; and Vanguard, showcasing “new voices and emerging talents.”

“We knew we wanted to speak loudly and proudly in support of female filmmakers,” Programming Director Rebecca Fons said in the press release, “from the trailblazers who changed the industry to the new voices who are shaping the future.” Fons also highlighted that the program will be intersectional.

Fons is joined in programming this project by an advisory board made up of FilmScene team members, community members and filmmakers. The board includes Laura Bergus (FilmScene Board Chair), Jamie Ellis (United Action For Youth), Liz Gilman (Produce Iowa), Leah Vonderheide (University of Iowa Visiting Assistant Professor); P. Sam Kessie (Filmmaker), Connie White (Balcony Booking); and Spencer Williams (Filmmaker, FilmScene staff). Vonderheide has written on film for Little Village.

The history of women in film has a fascinating trajectory. Alice Guy-Blaché, considered the first female filmmaker, directed over 1,000 films starting in 1896, including what was likely the first narrative film, La Fée aux Choux (The Fairy of the Cabbages). In 1926, the Hollywood major studio system welcomed its first woman, when Dorothy Arzner directed Fashions for Women (released 1927) for Paramount.

This year saw another milestone with Patty Jenkins and Wonder Woman, the first major superhero film directed by a woman. Jenkins was also only the second female director to helm a film with a budget over $100 million, amazing for her second ever feature film (and a significant leap from her $8 million first feature, Monster).

FilmScene is dedicating all of its programming initiatives to the Women’s March project. Expect films by women highlighted for the Picture Show family series, Late Shift at the Grindhouse and all Bijou Film Board partnerships.

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