Tuesday 28 March 2017

Feminist Film Festival Dublin: We must create spaces that celebrate and support women

Othered Voices - Dublin Feminist Film Festival
Othered Voices - Dublin Feminist Film Festival
The women of Nollywood will be celebrated at this year's festival

Sasha Brady

It's 2016 and sexism, sadly, is still the norm in the movie industry. Just look at the 'sexy young chick' and 'middle-aged goofball' dichotomy of any Adam Sandler movie (and the endless iterations to this prototype) or the online backlash targeted at the all-female Ghostbusters reboot this year.

But a revolution is taking place. At home movements like Waking the Feminists has highlighted the poor representation of women in Irish theatre and events like the Feminist Film Festival (FFFD) is celebrating women, both in front of, and behind the camera.

Now in its third year, this female-focused film festival is commitment to encouraging diversity in the industry.

"Until gender parity is a reality we must create spaces that celebrate and support women," FFFD founder, Karla Healion, told Independent.ie

"All too often men are the creators, or the innovators (the auteurs or visionaries) and women are the consumers, or the things to be looked at, rather than cultural producers and informers.

"This needs to change. We don’t even have full control over our bodies for pete’s sake! Let alone equality of a more nuanced cultural significance."

Of the many influences on how we view gender, media and art are the most pervasive.

Read more: ‘I’ve seen shameful treatment of women over pay, weight and age' – Love/Hate’s Tom Vaughan-Lawlor

Campaign Director Lian Bell with actors, writers, academics, and business and community leaders gather on the Rosie Hackett Bridge before the final major public event at the AbbeyTheatre in the #WakingTheFeminists yearlong campaign for gender equality in Irish theatre. Photo: Kyran O'Brien
Campaign Director Lian Bell with actors, writers, academics, and business and community leaders gather on the Rosie Hackett Bridge before the final major public event at the AbbeyTheatre in the #WakingTheFeminists yearlong campaign for gender equality in Irish theatre. Photo: Kyran O'Brien

"Visibility is hugely important and media have a responsibility to represent people that we can aspire to. Film can entertain us and educate us, inspire and reflect us," says Karla.

In 1985 cartoonist Alice Bechdel generated a test to highlight gender bias. The Bechdel test rated films based on the criteria of containing at least two female characters who talked to each other and discussed something other than men. While the test isn't perfect, it did paint a picture of the inherent sexism in the indiustry. The number of films that passed the test was embarrassingly low.

According to the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media men outnumber women three-to-one in family films, and women are almost four times as likely as men to be shown in ‘sexy’ attire or partially clad. Women are also underrepresented behind the camera.

"Across over 1,500 content creators, only 7 percent of directors, 13 percent of writers, and 20 percent of producers are women. We also know that in the twenty year period, 1993-2013, only 13 percent of Irish-produced screenplays were penned by female writers," said Karla.

The women of Nollywood will be celebrated at this year's festival
The women of Nollywood will be celebrated at this year's festival

"If women are not part of our cultural storytelling, both on-screen and off-screen, those voices are missing. Organisations like Women in Film and Television Ireland work to counter that by aiming to bring about gender equality in the film and television industry. We hope to be helping that fight a little bit in what we do."

This year's screenings are more than a tally of female characters and the conversations between them. They're giving a voice to the socially-conscious creators.

The 'Othered Voices' theme highlights female-directed films but as Karla points out "we have films with LGBTQ characters, films about women of colour, and a more diverse range of representations."

One of the highlights of the festival is the Irish premiere of Amaka's Kin on Sunday. The documentary tells the story of the late Nigerian Amazon Filmmaker and TV mogul, Amaka Igwe.

It will be followed by a panel discussion (included with the price of your screening ticket) with Nicky Gogan (Emmy-winning writer, director, producer. Pyjama Girls, Black Ice, Lost in France), Margo Harkin (IFTA Award Winner, Prix Europe nominee, director/producer. Mother Ireland, Hush-a-Bye Baby, Bloody Sunday: A Derry Dairy), Dr. Anne O Brien (Media Production Co-coordinator NUIM, expert in gender inequality in media) and Dr. Sarah Arnold (Lecturer in Gender & Production Studies at Maynooth University).

It will be chaired by Dr. Maria Pramaggiore, (Head of Maynooth University Dept of Media Studies, expert in media and gender).

FFFD takes place between Friday, November 18 and Sunday, November 20 at the New Theatre in Temple Bar.

Check out the programme of events here.

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