Feminist Media Festival celebrates diversity

In an industry dominated by male producers and directors, the Feminist Media Festival aims to inspire and encourage works by female filmmakers.

The Women of Cinematic Arts hosted the first ever event at the School of Cinematic Arts on Sunday to demonstrate the value of women’s voices in the entertainment industry, showcasing a number of short films produced by students.

Female industry professionals Iram Parveen Bilal, Liz Manashil, Pier Nirandara, Shirit Bradley and Carlyn LaHorgue served as judges at the festival. These women are currently employed at a number of institutions within the film industry such as ICM Partners, Legendary, Warner Bros. and Miramax. Films were judged in three categories: narrative, non-narrative and intersectionality. In addition to recognition for their work, filmmakers also received gift cards to Samy’s Camera.

The club hopes that the event worked to create change in an industry that many say desperately needs it.

“The organization has existed since 2005, but a majority of our events center around discussing the issue without promoting physical change,” said Sarah Jones, the president of Women of Cinematic Arts.  “We decided to create the festival to support new voices and create an inclusive community to physically make a difference.”

The night opened with screening of the selected submissions in the Ray Stark Theater. In order to qualify for the festival, films had to have been created by teams that were at least 50 percent female. Additionally, each film was required to pass the Bechdel test, in which two female characters must appear on-screen talking about a topic other than a man.

A wide variety of genres of short films were screened. In the narrative category, “Prudence” used whimsical flashbacks to tell the story of an old war veteran finally getting rewarded for her service to her country after being discharged because of a lesbian relationship. “Drill” presented a visual metaphor for women’s struggles through a comedic race between a man and a woman.

“Relentless” explored a young girl’s journey after she chose to pursue a career in boxing instead of attending college. Tayanna Todd, a junior double majoring in Spanish and film and television production, explained her inspiration for the project.

“For me, it’s about telling stories I’m passionate about,” Todd said. “I want to encourage the audience to pursue their passions despite obstacles, just like I’ve been inspired to pursue filmmaking to tell stories.”

Short films like “A Period Piece” and “Whipped” delved into comedy, drawing chuckles from the audience. Others, like “Treasure” and “Sweet Dreams,” used impressive and original animation, and the documentary “Meri Gehrai” took spectators on a journey to India to investigate the status of transgender rights.

Angie Sabaduquia, a junior majoring in cinema and media studies, worked on “A Period Piece.” At the beginning of the year, she formed a creative team from several Women of Cinematic Arts mixers.

Jennifer Smart, a junior majoring in critical studies, said she enjoyed viewing the short films throughout the festival.

“I thought all the films were amazing, and I really enjoyed ‘Prudence’ because I felt like it took on a subject matter that you don’t often see represented on screen,” Smart said. “It covered diversity across the board.”

“Prudence” took home the top prize in the narrative category was and “Relentless” won an honorable mention. The non-narrative prize went to “Treasure,” with an honorable mention for “Sweet Dreams.” Finally, “Seahorse” won the intersectionality award for exploring a diverse combination of issues and genres.

Aneesha Madhok, a junior majoring in theater and one of the student filmmakers, said that events like the Feminist Media Festival could have a profound impact.

“I love feminist media, and I wish there were more films made by women so that men growing up can realize that women can make successful films and understand a woman’s perspective so the world is not dictated only by the man’s perspective,” Madhok said. “Films are a powerful social media to influence perspectives.”

This year’s Feminist Media Festival ended on a high note, allowing student filmmakers to understand the value of having their own personal narrative to create and tell memorable stories.