Thursday, March 19, 2009

Go See: Portland Women's Film Festival

The Portland Women's Film Festival (POW Fest) starts tonight! Tellingly, it's only running for the next three evenings, 3/19-3/21, and features a smattering of female-directed fare, but I say: Good show!

Here's one reason why: women, though making great strides in nearly all aspects of filmmaking are seriously lagging behind when it comes to directing. Showcasing women directors highlights their achievements and gives us role models. The lack of women directors may be a consequence of sexism, but it may also be the result of women not wanting to direct. Hear me out: I've been working and studying filmmaking on and off for the past 20 years or so, and I haven't met that many women who want to direct.

That wasn't the case in my grad-school class, which was made up of a majority of women who wanted to direct (and write and produce and sometimes act--we were over-achievers for sure). But in general, on profit-making sets, the majority of women I've encountered were happy to be producing, assistant-directing, casting, script-supervising, editing, and so on (keep listing most every film job here, except for grip, gaffer and cinematographer--still all male-dominated).

You need a killer instinct to direct--sorry to say. You've got to tell everyone what to do or at least oversee it all. Until we get a huge influx of extremely bossy (it's possible to be politely bossy) women in the field, there's going to be a shortage. Feel free to protest my findings--they're very random and personal, but it's my theory and I'm sticking to it for now. In a few years time, this could all change, and I hope so because films will probably get very interesting and we definitely could use more of that. If you are are a woman who is obsessive, creative, energetic, compelling and interested in all aspects of technically driven storytelling, please consider applying for this job: film director.

Meanwhile, back at POW Fest, here's more reasons to be excited: Friday night's show features this year's Oscar-winning short documentary, "Smile Pinki," and the Oscar-nominated short doc, "The Final Inch" by Portland filmmaker Irene Taylor Brodsky, who will be at the fest, in person. I am excited because it's nearly impossible to see short docs in a theater, even Oscar-winning and nominated ones, so this is a treat.

"Smile Pinki" trailer - directed by Megan Mylan. The film is about a five-year-old Indian girl who is the recipient of cleft-lip surgery, provided by Smile Train and the impact this has on her life. Smile Train provides free cleft corrective surgery for children throughout the world.

A news story and discussion with "Smile Pinki" producer, Nandini Rajwade.

Also, Saturday night's feature will be "The Bigamist," directed by one of Hollywood's true mavericks, Ida Lupino. Lupino started out as a really good naturalistic actress, specializing in tough girls and hookers (the only roles offered to her). But she tired of always being told what to do, and while on suspension for turning down a film role, she decided to try directing.

Lupino formed a production company with her husband and hired herself out as a writer/director of low-budget, socially conscious films. This was back in the 50s and Lupino was covering taboo topics such as rape, bigamy, and unwed motherhood. Her constant theme throughout her independent films is how creepy and disrupted our lives can get when we cross paths with the wrong people. Her film, "The Hitch-Hiker" is a classic low-budget psychopathic thriller, featuring a villain who sleeps with one eye open.

"The Bigamist" teaser, featuring Lupino as Phyllis Martin, about to have a life-changing encounter on a tourist bus.

Besides directing hundreds of TV shows throughout the 60s (including "Alfred Hitchock Presents" and "Twilight Zone"), she also helmed one of my favorite films as a kid (I saw it on the "afternoon movie" many, many times), "The Trouble With Angels," starring Hayley Mills and Rosalind Russell. No doubt, being Catholic had something to do with it.

POW Fest, Portland - March 19-21 at The Hollywood Theatre, 7 p.m. Web site with schedule.

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