In celebration of Women’s History Month, Ms. Foundation presented Women Making Films and the Power to Provoke Change at the Ms. Foundation offices on March 14th. The discussion, co-sponsored by POV, America ReFramed, Chicken & Egg Pictures, NALIP and NYWIFT, brought together a powerhouse group of women filmmakers, impact professionals and stakeholders for a frank conversation about unique challenges faced by women directors and film industry professionals. Anchoring the discussion was the film Dance With Me, the story of four children participating in Dancing Dreams, an after-school dance program for children with limited physical ability.
Leading the discussion was former Commissioner of the New York City Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment Cynthia Lopez, who opened the conversation with the observation that “women filmmakers create trends, not just follow them.”
Her panel included Catherine Tambini, an award-winning documentary filmmaker and POV alum whose films include Emmy-nominated The State of Arizona, the Sundance Award winner Farmingville (POV 2004) and the Academy Award-nominated Suzanne Farrell: Elusive Muse. Joining Catherine was Elizabeth Hemmerdinger, who produced the documentary Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival and was named on of the five most essential documentaries of 2013. Rounding out the panel was Laverne Y. Berry, an award-winning entertainment lawyer, who was the executive producer of The Silent Truth and co-executive producer of Chely Wright: Wish Me Away.
Lopez invited the panel to share which, of all their projects, they feel had the most impact. Catherine Tambini spoke about her film Farmingville, and work with Active Voice and POV, as moving the dial on the national immigration conversation. While immigration is on the tip of every politician’s tongue in 2016, in 2004, the issue was just beginning to enter the national dialogue.
Hemmerdinger spoke of her work on the film The Homestretch, which premiere last year on Independent Lens and raised consciousness around homelessness services. Chely Wright: Wish Me Away had an impact on at least one young man who approached Berry at a screening. He – like Chely – was from Kansas, and didn’t think he could come out until he saw her story on film.
Berry also mentioned Larry Flynt: The Right to Be Left Alone, whose director Joan Brooker-Marks was asked at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) how a woman could even consider directing this documentary. Berry elaborated that the film started a conversation in the documentary community about what types of stories women directors are allowed to tell – and which they’re not.
Perhaps even more illuminating than the conversation was the required reading and watching suggestions given by the panel. Dig in below.
Women Comprise 7% of Directors on Top 250 Films (Study) by Brent Lang
When Will the Women of the Documentary World Get Their Due? by Tom Roston in POV’s Doc Soup
Documenting Women: Female directors rule the hot nonfiction film market — except on the big screen by Amy Taubin in Ms. Magazine.
Hollywood’s ‘Biased’ Hiring Practices Against Women Subject of ACLU Inquiry by Maane Khatchatourian in Variety
Feds Officially Probing Hollywood’s Lack Of Female Directors by David Robb in Deadline