By Irene Meltzer Richard
September is Woman Director Awareness Month—a fabulous opportunity to fall madly in love with films #DirectedbyWomen! The third annual #DirectedbyWomen Worldwide Film Viewing Party is a global, grassroots, DIY celebration of films by women directors that runs throughout the entire month of September. This global initiative recognizes the accomplishments of women filmmakers worldwide. It is a joyous celebration, and an opportunity to explore, share, and delight in all forms of motion picture creativity—films, TV, web series, and expanded cinema.
Barbara Ann O’Leary’s love of film—particularly the work of women filmmakers—inspired her to launch the#DirectedbyWomen Worldwide Film Viewing Party initiative. As she told agnès films, she had a vision one day in April 2014.
“A Worldwide Film Viewing Party popped into my mind,” Barbara explained. “It was a vision, not an idea. I saw the world bathed in silver light cast by films #DirectedbyWomen screened and streamed around the globe during a concentrated period of time—a time dedicated to joyous celebration! I saw the global film community awakening to, and becoming exhilarated by, the prospect of exploring the work of women directors in an expansive, ever-widening community.”
O’Leary’s vision of building a culture of appreciation for the work of women directors in the motion picture industry has caught on. This year, people in different countries are organizing events specifically designed for the #DirectedByWomen Worldwide Viewing Party.
The celebration also embraces screenings and film events featuring the work of women that organizations and venues have programmed as part of their own yearly schedules. Not only does this acknowledge those who are programming women’s content, but it makes it easier for film lovers to find women-directed films that are screening in the communities where they live, as well as providing an opportunity for others to learn about these filmmakers and be on the lookout for their work.
Emphasizing the importance of sharing experiences, O’Leary encourages everyone to participate in the flow of online conversation using the #DirectedByWomen hashtag. This activity provides people with opportunities to connect with each other and weave together a global community of film lovers who appreciate the work of women directors.
Here are some of the events organized for this year’s edition of the #DirectedByWomen Worldwide Viewing Party:
- For the third consecutive year, Directed by Women Spain is shining a light on work by women filmmakers in a multi-day celebration. Over the course of three days at Cineteca Madrid, the work of 45 women directors will highlight the technical and thematic diversity of Spain’s cinematographic scene. With many of the filmmakers present, there will be informal opportunities, as well as formal opportunities, such as post-screening Q&As and workshops, to meet them and discuss their work.
- The United Kingdom will be overflowing with #DirectedByWomen events in September because Scalarama, a month long “DIY Celebration of Cinema,” now in its sixth year, has again embraced #DirectedbyWomen as one of its initiatives. #DirectedbyWomen Scalarama 2017 screenings are confirmed for Brighton, Bristol, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Hawick, Hove, Hull, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Saffron Walden, Selkirk, and Trowbridge.
- The Clinton Street Theater, in Portland, Oregon, is presenting a new digital restoration of Donna Deitch’s Desert Hearts (1986) in a theatrical run from September 7 through September 10. The theater has also scheduled several #DirectedByWomen screenings as part of its “Resistance Series.” Featured films in that series include Amy Heckerling’s Clueless and Penny Marshall’s A League of Their Own. In its third year of participating in the #DirectedByWomen Worldwide Viewing Party, Clinton Street Theater has an ongoing commitment to screening films by women directors throughout the year.
- There are also a number of #DirectedbyWomen events in North Carolina. In Raleigh, The A/V Geeks are hosting an evening of educational films made by women on September 12. Some of the gems being presented are Emily Benton Frith’s It’s a Cat’s Life (1950) and Joan Micklin Silver’s The Fur Coat Club (1973). On September 16, at ShadowBox Studios in Durham, ALICE FEST is planning an evening of food, fun, and animated films by women. On September 20, the American Studies Graduate Association and AMST 902 at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill are screening Penny Lane’s Our Nixon.
- Throughout the entire month of September, an impressive array of screenings and events will take place in Bloomington on Indiana University’s campus. Several directors will be present in person. O’Leary will facilitate an in-depth onstage interview at Indiana University Cinema with Megan Griffiths, winner of SXSW 2012 Emergent Narrative Director Award and the Audience Award for Narrative Feature. Griffiths is the writer and director of the IFC-distributed film Lucky Them, and most recently, the director of two episodes of the Duplass Brothers’ HBO anthology series Room 104. If you have access to HBO, you can watch Griffiths’ two episodes of Room 104. Episode 7 airs on September 8, and episode 11 airs on October 6.
- In the new IU Libraries Screening Room, Irene Lusztig will discuss feminist filmmaking, feminist histories, strategies, and process in relationship to her film-in-progress, Yours In Sisterhood. The film is a performative documentary project based on letters to Ms. Magazine, 1972-1980, which will have a full-length preview screening. Our own editor-in-chief, Alexandra Hidalgo, is heading to Bloomington with her cinematographer husband and her two sons to present three of her short films that explore some complexities of contemporary motherhood, such as raising bilingual children in a monolingual society and breastfeeding as a working mother. The Black Film Center/Archive will contribute a screening of Sekiya Dorsett’s documentary The Revival: Women and the Word, which chronicles the creation of an international salon-styled tour led and supported by women, while Sonia Lowman’s documentary Teach Us All will be followed by a panel discussion on educational inequality on September 25, the 60th anniversary of the integration of Little Rock High School.
- Jennifer Dean and Eric Rice are in the midst of organizing their 3rd annual “#DirectedByWomen Short and Fun” program. On September 24, the shorts program will take place again in New York City at Ryan’s Daughter, but for the first time, the program will also screen at San Francisco’s CMTC Theatre. Dean and Rice are curating the events, which are being produced in association with Custom Made Theatre’s executive director Leah Abrams, and their artistic director Brian Katz. With NYC and SF Bay Area locals in attendance to participate in a post-screenings Q&A, these events offer a great chance to network. Dean and Rice are also working on a documentary celebrating the history of female filmmakers and exploring the challenges they face.
This is just a sampling of the many events taking place around the world, and the entire Calendar of Events can be viewed on the #DirectedByWomen website. The calendar includes events specifically created as part of the Worldwide Film Viewing Party, as well as screenings and film events featuring the work of women that have been programmed by many notable organizations and venues. It’s available in several viewing formats—as a list, a map, and in photo view. There’s also an option to “Add Events” to the calendar.
In order to participate in the #DirectedbyWomen Worldwide Film Viewing Party, there are some criteria: Activities must focus on films by women directors, respect intellectual property rights, and be celebratory in nature. #DirectedbyWomen’s definition of women is inclusive of anyone who identifies as a woman. The Viewing Party is a mixed-gender community open to everyone who wants to explore, celebrate, and enjoy films by women directors.
House parties and family movie nights, as well as solo celebrations, are fantastic ways to join in the #DirectedbyWomen Worldwide Film Viewing Party festivities. You can line up your own selections and watch on any of the streaming services available to you, such as Amazon, Fandor, Festival Scope, iTunes, MUBI, Netflix, Google Play, YouTube, and Vimeo. But why not spend at least one night during September at the online Femme Filmmakers Festival, organized by Robin Write, an English screenwriter, movie blogger, and film and TV writer.
The Femme Filmmakers Festival is a 10-day online event running from Friday, September 1, until Sunday, September 10. The festival will be showcasing 20 features and 30 shorts—all directed by women and all available to stream online. A day-by-day schedule is available, and streaming platforms for each film will be added soon. Write will publish a preview of each day’s films and plans to interview some women filmmakers. Join the discussion about the films you’ve watched in the comments section, on Write out of L.A., and on its Facebook page. Be sure to use the #FemmeFilmFest hashtag on Twitter as well.
Another important aspect of the #DirectedbyWomen Worldwide Film Viewing Party is shining a spotlight on film venues and film festivals around the world that are programming the work of women directors. This September, there are many exciting events scheduled, including a WOMEN Media Arts and Film Festival in Australia, a buzzworthy array of films directed by women at the 42nd annual Toronto Film Festival, and a mid-career retrospective of Kelly Reichardt’s work at the Museum of Modern Art.
- September 8-17, the Film Society of Lincoln Center is presenting “Jane Campion’s Own Stories” to mark the eagerly awaited U.S. premiere of Campion’s feminist murder-mystery series, “Top of the Lake: China Girl” (airing on Sundance TV in September). The Film Society’s series is a retrospective survey of Campion’s rich and revelatory body of work, with the director in person for select screenings. If you have access to SundanceTV, mark your calendar for the return of “Top of the Lake: China Girl” series on September 10. Three of Season 2’s six episodes are directed by creator Jane Campion.
- IFP Week’s Screen Forward Conference will be happening September 17-21, and will feature a number of women working in the film and television industries. On Sunday, September 17, at noon, Paola Mendoza will talk about Artists + Activism, and at 2:00 pm, women filmmakers—including Dee Rees (Mudbound)—will discuss “Why Can’t Women Filmmakers Have It All?” Both events are part of the Filmmaker Magazine talks.
Two prominent organizations in the Zimbabwe film industry—International Images Film Festival for Women (IIFF), the flagship event of Women Filmmakers of Zimbabwe (WFOZ), and the Zimbabwe International Film & Festival Trust (ZIFFT)—are pleased to announce a joint festival where IIFF will present its 16th edition of the festival in collaboration with the 19th edition of the Zimbabwe International Film Festival (ZIFF).
With the inclusion in its calendar of screenings and film events featuring the works of women directors that organizations and venues have programmed as part of their own yearly schedules, as well as events specially organized for the celebration, #DirectedByWomen strives to give a comprehensive picture of the marvelous variety of work being created by women. It also demonstrates that their work is available to be seen, although it often requires a bit of sleuthing to discover it.
You can help make September Woman Director Awareness Month! This is the time to explore and uplift films #DirectedbyWomen. Together we can build a culture of appreciation and inclusivity within the film and entertainment media world. There are so many ways you can contribute to #DirectedByWomen’s continuing mission to increase appreciation for women’s voices in filmmaking. Whose films do you relish? Share them with the world! The heart of the Worldwide Film Viewing Party is the sharing that happens via social media, so be sure to make a joyful noise when you post by using the hashtag #DirectedByWomen!