agnès films is named in honor of Agnès Varda, the French filmmaker who has been making women-centered fiction films and documentaries for over 50 years. Varda, in spite of the high quality of her work, remains an obscure figure to mainstream audiences around the world. This is not surprising, since the film industry is not always supportive of women who want to work behind—as opposed to in front of—the camera. According to the 2015 Celluloid Ceiling report, women comprised only 17% of directors, producers, writers, cinematographers, and editors in the 250 top-grossing films of 2014. This is exactly the same percentage as it was in 1998, when Dr. Martha Lauzen began keeping track of women’s presence in film.
In an effort to provide support to emerging and established women and feminist filmmakers, our site aims to do the following:
• Foster a community of women filmmakers, scholars, instructors who teach film and filmmaking, and film lovers who support each other. We hope to be joined by men who are interested in films made by women, as well as male filmmakers, scholars, and filmmaking/film instructors. Our aim is for our community to be diverse in terms of race, class, and sexual orientation.
• Shed light on the work of talented and committed women and feminist filmmakers working today, who, like Varda, don’t have the visibility they merit. We do this in the form of reviews of films made by women and less often films by men featuring women in prominent roles. We also have interviews with women filmmakers and through our featured member section we share narratives of the experiences women undergo as they stand behind the camera. We also discuss the history of women and feminist filmmakers through our critical analyses of past and current films.
• Help women not trained in cinematic techniques be able to tell stories in this powerful medium.
• Create video content that explores women’s experiences behind the camera and engages non-filmmakers in the issue of supporting women’s films and videos.
agnès films is made possible through the generous help and support of Michigan State University’s Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures and the College of Arts and Letters. Although our board and staff come from around the world, we have a number of members of both groups who are faculty, graduate and undergraduate students at Michigan State. Without them and the university’s support our community would not flourish in the way it has over the years.
Thank you for visiting! Our staff welcomes you.
Alexandra Hidalgo, editor-in-chief, cofounder
Award-winning Venezuelan filmmaker Alexandra Hidalgo’s documentaries have been official selections at film festivals in the United States, Indonesia, India, England, Scotland, Australia, Spain, and Canada, and her videos have been featured on IndieWire, NPR, and Raising Films, as well as a number of digital academic publications. She is assistant professor of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures at Michigan State University. Her video book Cámara Retórica: A Feminist Filmmaking Methodology for Rhetoric and Composition was published by Computers and Composition Digital Press this year. Her academic video essays have been published in Enculturation, Kairos, Technoculture, Itineration, Present Tense, and Peitho.
Denah A. Johnston, experimental and fringe film editor
Denah is an experimental filmmaker who received her MFA in Filmmaking from the San Francisco Art Institute and Ph.D. in Media & Communications from European Graduate School. She teaches film history, studies and theory at San Francisco City College and served as Executive Director of Canyon Cinema Foundation for 3 years. Her academic work lies at the constellation-like intersections of film, music, literature, media and culture. Denah’s first book No Future Now: A Nomadology of Resistance and Subversion was published in 2012 by Atropos Press. A recent essay on the innovation and influence of Benjamin Christensen’s Häxan (The Witch) (1922) can be seen in a special edition of the Abraxas Journal The Luminous Screen edited by Jack Sargeant. Denah’s current research focuses on the female filmmakers of Canyon Cinema.
Hannah Countryman, web editor and visual designer
Hannah studies Professional Writing and Experience Architecture at Michigan State University. She has experience in communications and design, and also currently works for the WIDE Research Center as a visual and interaction designer for the Sherlockian.net redesign team. In addition to her interest in design, Hannah is also a photographer.
Jessica is a student at Michigan State University, studying Professional Writing and Documentary Production. She has experience copyediting and producing podcasts and videos for H-Net: Humanities and Social Sciences Online. She is directing Depolarized, a short documentary featuring political activism from both parties at the MSU campus and she is also directing and producing a short film exploring feminist spaces.
Samantha Fegan, assistant editor intern
Samantha Fegan is a junior at Michigan State University, studying Professional Writing, French, and Linguistics. She worked as a copyeditor and contributing writer for ing Magazine and was a copyeditor for the State News. Her academic interests include second language acquisition, translation, and editing and publishing.
Elena Cronick is a senior at Michigan State University majoring in Professional Writing and minoring in Film Studies. She has communications and marketing experience from several internships as a student. She has experience in video production and is interested in fiction filmmaking and screenwriting.
Dawn is an actor and producer. Her favorite Los Angeles Theater credits include Goneril in King Lear opposite Apollo Dukakis, Agnes in The Shadow Box directed by Keith David and the title role in Saint Joan. Dawn’s short film, Harmony, which she produced and starred in, premiered at the HollyShorts Film Festival at the TCL Chinese Cinema in Hollywood. Dawn is currently developing Hells Canyon, a feature film that explores her obsession with complex female characters, transcendent storytelling and wilderness survival. She is a passionate advocate for women filmmakers and is a member of Women in Film Los Angeles and Women in Film & Video New England.
Katie is an undergraduate student at Michigan State University studying Professional Writing and Religious Studies. She has worked as an undergraduate researcher in the Digital Humanities and Literary Cognition lab (DHLC), working on a key team for a new fMRI study of literary reading. She has also completed participatory memory research in London and Paris. Currently the managing editor of Exceptions Journal—a creative journal for students with visual disabilities—Katie plans to work as an editor upon graduation. Her interests include publishing, digital humanities, social media, film, and the intersections of feminism and religion.
Shewonda is a Haitian-American filmmaker and a Ph.D. student in Rhetoric and Writing at Michigan State University. Her research touches on cultural and Haitian/African?American rhetorics, representations of black bodies, identity, feminism, and Womanism. As a documentary filmmaker she explores minority experiences/stories in the United States. Shewonda’s first film Fixing The Standard: The Black Women’s Reclamation Of Power explores how black women take risks and learn from their experiences of defining and embodying their own standards of beauty when choosing to embrace their natural hair. Her current projects are a video memoir that tracks her transition from M.A. student to Ph.D. student while learning what it takes to be a filmmaker, and a short film about Haitian-American children passing as African-American in the United States.
Denise Papas Meechan
Denise is a writer/filmmaker whose first short film “Freckles” screened at Cannes Film Festival. The narrative explores the damaging effects cultural beauty standards have on one lonely, very freckled woman. During her previous work in television, Denise has produced, written and directed television shows such as “Fashion Police” and “Behind the Label” for Style and WE Networks, and was awarded an Emmy for her work on the cult hit, “Subway Q&A.”
Ruth received her B.A. in Art History at London’s Courtauld Institute, then her MFA in Fine Art Film at St. Martins School of Art. She has been an experimental/avant-garde filmmaker since the 1980s, making short collage videos and documentaries. Since the late 90s she has taught video production at the University of Westminster and film appreciation, world cinema, and film noir at Regents American College London. She has published two DVD collections: Selected Works 1990-2005 and Radio (with a text by Chris Kraus). She has lived and worked in New York, Tel Aviv, and London and has exhibited nationally and internationally. She is currently completing a PhD by practice at the University of Westminster.
Julie Casper Roth
Julie Casper Roth is an award-winning filmmaker and writer interested in underdogs, paradox and the unseen/ignored. Casper Roth is a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellow in Video, a College Art Association Professional Development Fellow, and a two-time finalist for the Sundance Screenwriters Lab. Her work has been screened nationally and internationally at film festivals and in galleries. Her work moves between experimental, documentary and fictional modes of visual storytelling.
Moira Sullivan is a scholar, lecturer, film critic, promoter, and experimental filmmaker based in San Francisco and Stockholm. She teaches at City College of San Francisco in the Cinema Department and has a PhD in cinema studies from Stockholm University. She did graduate film studies at San Francisco State University and is one of the world’s experts on the work of the avantgarde and ethnographic filmmaker Maya Deren (1917-1961). She has been invited to universities and art schools honoring Deren in Italy, France,Germany, Sweden, and the USA. She contributed to the anthology “Maya Deren and the American Avant-Garde” (2001). Moira has worked professionally as a film critic since 2000, focusing on the work of women in film. She also specializes in Asian and arthouse/experimental film. She is a member of FIPRESCI (Federation of International Film Critics) and an established accredited film critic at film festivals in Cannes, Venice, Stockholm, Udi
Danielle Winston is a writer/director fascinated by what remains unseen in the shadows. Her screenplays feature complicated unusual female characters. Hands of Fate, Winston’s short thriller film-turned-web-series, also inspired a television series and feature screenplay about three women who form a dangerous secret pact. Other current projects include Love In Reverse, a feature screenplay, told backwards that reveals itself like a mystery of human nature. Theatrically, Winston is a produced playwright, whose stage plays have won audience choice awards. She believes the demons we conjure up in our own minds are far more terrifying than anything shown onscreen. Whether writing psychological thrillers or romantic comedy-dramas, her screenplays are interwoven with a dark sneaky sense of humor. Driven by what lurks beneath the surface of characters and their lives, reoccurring elements in Winston’s screenplays include artists and supernatural happenings. Living in New York City provides Winston with an unstoppable source of cinematic inspiration. Usually Manhattan’s backdrop springs to life as a vivid character in her works. She also writes for children, her fantastical picture book series, Betsy Green Bean, is about a witch who has a magical adventure.
Former Editors and Staff Writers
Sabrina Hirsch, assistant editor, graphic designer, 2015–2017
Lindsey Spitzley, video team producer and cinematographer, social media specialist, 2015–2016
Sarah Shaw, video team audio recorder and mixer, social media team, 2015–2016
Savannah Smith, video team director and editor, social media team, 2015–2016
Kim Labick, social media intern, 2015
Shell Little, web editor, graphic designer, 2015–2016
Rebecca Zantjer, reviewer, 2014–2015
LeeAnn Connelly, web editor, 2015
Les Hutchinson, reviewer, 2014–2015
Laura Gonzales, staff writer. 2013-2015
Shannon Roe-Buttler, web editor, 2014
Caitlan Spronk, co-founder and web developer, 2010-2014