Center of Attention

Female Eye Showcases Women Making Movies

The Female Eye Film Fest is back for its 7th annual spotlight on women filmmakers from around the world. BlogTO is proud to sponsor the five-day festival of screenings and industry panels, awards, features, docs, and many shorts - all celebrating the work of women in film and television.

The festival kicks off on Wednesday night with Deborah Kampmeier's Hounddog, set in rural Alabama in the 1950s and starring Dakota Fanning and Robin Wright Penn. The following day, a Maverick Award will be presented to Linda Schuyler, producer and co-creator of the Degrassi franchise. Patricia Rozema (When Night Is Falling, Kit Kittredge: An American Girl) will receive the Honourary Director Award at the closing reception gala.

So why do women get their own film festival? Statistically speaking, female producers and directors make up a small proportion of those working in top behind-the-scene positions in the film industry. I asked Leslie Ann Coles, Female Eye founder and director, how she got into championing films made by women.

How did you get started eight years ago?

I was attending international independent film festivals with my own film and met a few other women directors along the way. I noticed that women were a minority among the directors attending these international events and wondered if this was due to the fact that women were not making films or that their films were not getting programmed.

Do you have to seek out female filmmakers, or do they submit to the festival?

We post an open call. We actively seek features as does every other fem-centric film festival. They are more difficult to find. Our submissions from the international community of women directors increases substantially every year.

You have brought Female Eye films to the United Nations, can you tell me more about this?

Yes, International Women's Day we presented films, directed by women, that reflected the theme designated by the UN. In 2005, it was HIV - Aids and its impact on women and girls. We presented "I Shout Silent" distributed by Women make Movies in NY.

We just produced a program of short films in recognition of IWD March 17th in San Francisco, at Laney College. It was a program of shorts. Great films, many of which had either won or been nominated for Best Short Film Awards at The Female Eye. We will be doing more outreach with the award winning films.

Is the audience primarily female?

Predominantly women, and a wide demographic but we have generated a loyal male following. Our Script Development Program is open to male writers so that helps.

What are your favorite films in this year's selection?

This year, "Hound Dog", dir. by Deborah Kampmeire; "Actually Adieu My Love", Minji Kang amazing first time feature; "CWCW", also debut feature, high concept, very good and "Imagine Hell", avant-garde, dance notation on film and so many terrific shorts like, Ben Voyons Camille; Spolied; The Double; Growing Up Vegas; The Prince of Selkirk Street, and the list truly goes on.

Great documentaries: "Paper Dolls, Australian Pin Ups of World War 2"; "She Should Have Gone to The Moon" (about women astronauts, NATO's best kept secret); "Why We Smoke" and The Greatest Lover, the myth of monogamy.

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I got to preview some of the Female Eye films, including the strange but endearing CWCW (The Cuckoo). Delyth Jones directs this Welsh drama/comedy/suspense story of television writer Jane Jones, on the run from her volatile soap actor husband and failed career. She moves to a small village (with a complete stranger) and opens a reflexology practice. But peace and sanity are never fully within her grasp, and before long Jane's husband arrives in the village as the real-life version of the character he plays on television, the dashing Dr. Gareth.

Good looking and shallow, much like its subject, Center of Attention is a short about the scenester entourage surrounding an art star. In the documentary programme, Nancy Nicol's One Summer In New Paltz, A Cautionary Tale enters the same-sex marriage debate when a small town mayor in New York State starts to perform wedding ceremonies. Leslie Hope follows street kids in a Phnom Penh shelter, telling their stories through self portraits, for What I See When I Close My Eyes.

The Female Eye Film Festival runs from Wednesday, March 25th to Sunday, March 29th, at the Bloor Cinema, Rainbow Market Square and NFB Mediatheque. Tickets available at the door. Still from Center of Attention.


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