by Quendrith Johnson, Los Angeles Correspondent
Well, how many times have we heard it? “Ladies and Gentlemen,” even that phrase grates because it’s loaded from a, take a guess? Male perspective. And this is where Leslie-Ann Coles founder of The Female Eye Festival comes into sharp focus. For the festival’s 15th anniversary, which opened yesterday in Toronto and runs through June 25, Coles may just be telling us what we need to hear right now. Listen up, since no one else seems to be championing story, sans capes, and what women are doing in film right now. What about Patty Jenkins and her big bang box office Wonder Woman, you ask?
“I think it is fantastic and great for all women directors. I just find it interesting that the Bigelow won for The Hurt Locker – which is a film that dealt with war — from a more personal perspective, and now we have a wonderful director with a superhero flick — again it’s an action movie,” Coles explains. “I always think about all the great films that the world has seen over the years that have often fallen under the radar of public and critical acclaim.”
Leslie-Ann Coles, in front of last year’s mural.
“I was always kind of interested in the (mostly male superhero) genre,” how women behind the lens see things differently, Female Eye’s tireless champion adds. “Part of the hoopla is that a women directed this,” Wonder Woman. It’s in the genre “of bastion the old boys club.”
“I was thinking also about public and industry. The general public, I don’t know how much they pay attention to who directed a film. Do they look at the poster and wonder who the director is? I don’t think the general public thinks [for example] ‘it stars Charlize Theron, wow, who is the director?’”
If you ask ‘what about women driving the box office behind a Billion Dollar Beauty & The Beast?’ “I think women buy tickets and they make a lot of decisions — maybe I’m wrong about that. This is all great… There is a film we are showing this year that we are all floored by — we don’t often see a 74 year-old actor out of New York — the title is ‘Can Hilter Happen Here.’”
As far as the full slate for the 15th Female Eye Festival, “there are some other films, documentaries, where I’ve been astonished how the women who create these films survive the front lines to get the story. You’ll be taken aback by their work and their stories.”
The only requirement for participating films is obvious, Coles notes. Films are curated “very much with the caveat that they have to be directed by a woman.”
“There are many film festivals in the world. We have been around for 15 years, but we stand firmly behind the women in the director’s chair. I think it’s important to stand behind that.”
“Somebody asked me the other day, ‘do you think it’s important still?,’” and Coles points to the dismal stats on women at the helm of bigger budget films not just in Hollywood, but around the world.
What women have to say, it turns out, is a very different statement about the age-old entanglement of perpetual seat-filler plot-devices: Sex and Violence, she notes.
A film came out of New York one year that blew the viewer panels away, “Virgin” (2003). “That film was co-executive produced by Robin Wright Penn and starred Elizabeth Moss.” There was a real possibility that no one would distribute this project, so, Female Eye made sure to give it screen time. That director, Deborah Kampmeier, is out of New York.
“There was a rape of lead actress — perpetrator rapes her,” then Moss has to deal with “the man who impregnated her.”
“What struck me is that women tend to treat sex and violence very differently. Nothing is gratuitous. It’s often what [audiences] don’t see with explicit violence or sex.” The director “has come back to us with Split, Houndog — I’m a big fan of her work. She’s really underrated as a director, she is an important director, she created some, creates some great films, there have been so many.”
Karen Black is a past honoree.
“Nancy Savoca (Dogfight, If These Walls Could Talk) is another one; she shot a film in one apartment, one location on a micro budget,” Coles recalls.
As for her personal journey from dancer to actor to filmmaker to Festival Director? (See her bio on http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0171320/)
“I have a documentary; it has taken me eight years to finish it. Documentary about early music journalism from 1965 to 1975 from a classic black and white archive. The photographer shot for Melody Maker magazine the forerunner to Rolling Stone.
“It’s a great story when there were no rock’n’roll photographers.” This doc includes the photo “that redefined Syd Barrett (Pink Floyd) great photograph… he’d locked himself in the bathroom. They went into the bathroom and spent time locked in the bathroom with Syd Barrett — there’s this photograph half in shadow and half in light — a session with Jimi Hendrix two weeks before he died in his manager’s office. Keith Moon (The Who) — stunts that went awry — these guys had incredible access. in the mid 1970’s punk came in and didn’t respect the old guard. The World changed then.”
Now the world has changed again, from mass public shootings, war-mongering around the globe like never before to psychotic drum-banging in world politics, and maybe that’s why movies told from a female perspective are an important counterbalance. In any case, the 15th Female Eye Festival takes place this week. Visit the filmmakers and their bios on display, as well as slate and schedule, at 15th Annual Female Eye Film Festival, June 20th – 25th, 2017 #FeFF2017
SNAPSHOT from FeFF
The FeFF celebrates the 15th Anniversary edition June 2017!
At our milestone 15th anniversary in 2017, FeFF will present an eclectic variety shorts and features in all genres from across North American including a curated shorts program from Ireland entitled, “Irish Women’s Stories” along with a selection of independent films from France, Israel, Germany, Finland, Poland, Russia, Australia, UK and Asia… just to name a few foreign delegations. We are delighted to announce in 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013 the Female Eye ranked one of the world’s “Top 50 Film Festivals Worthy of the Entry Fee” by the renowned Movie Maker Magazine (Santa Monica, California).
Founder / Artistic and Executive Director Leslie – Ann Coles conceived the Female Eye Film Festival in 2001 having observing that women directors were a minority among filmmakers at the international film festivals she attended with her debut film, “In The Refrigerator.” In 2001, the Female Eye Film Festival (FeFF) was established and incorporated as a provincial not-for-profit organization in Toronto, Canada. In 2002, the Female Eye presented 42 films in its inaugural year; 70% of the participants were local Toronto directors. (Read more here...)
[Coles new documentary is MELODY MAKERS
“Always Honest, Not Always Pretty” www.FemaleEyeFilmFestival.com
2017, The Female Eye voted worlds “Top 50 Festivals Worth the Entry Fee” for five consecutive years (2013-2017) by Movie Maker Magazine
“The lack of gender equity in filmmaking [and in other arts] is perhaps a self-sustaining cycle. Movies shape the way that people see the world and by extension, the way that people see women.” – Odessa Kelebay
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