October 14, 2008

Baltimore Women's Film Festival October 23-26

The Baltimore Women's Film Festival is now in its second year. Marisa Cohen, the founder answered some questions about year two of the festival. If you are in the neighborhood head down and check it out from October 23-26. More info: Baltimore Women's Film Festival

Women & Hollywood: What has changed for the festival this year?

Marisa Cohen: This year the festival has doubled in size in that we have programmed over 100 films. Last year's festival had about 45 films. The reason the festival has increased in size so much is that we had so many great submissions of films we felt were vital and important that we literally had to increase the size and scope of the festival. This year we are extremely lucky in that over 30 filmmakers are coming to Baltimore to represent their films. We expect to have lots of great conversation and discussion about women in film. Also we hope to expedite lots of great networking and friendships among female filmmakers.
W&H: What do you hope will come out of this festival?
MC: We hope first and foremost that we can raise lots of money for the breast cancer patients at The Johns Hopkins Avon Foundation Breast Center. The festival donates half of all ticket sale proceeds to the Johns Hopkins Avon Foundation Breast Center.

Also we want to continue the dialogue about the lack of women's industry representation in film and maybe even generate new answers and solutions. However, on the other hand we don't want the films to appeal just to feminists, we want to generate enthusiasm about female filmmakers and showcase films that appeal to everyone. The Baltimore Women's Film Festival also hopes to present a diverse selection of films by different types of filmmakers that will appeal to a wide variety of people.
W&H: Why did you feel it was important to create the Baltimore Women’s Film Festival?
MC: I had worked for film festivals before and was sick and tired of every panel discussion being full of 90% men, and older men at that. I am from Baltimore originally, so I am biased in that way and always thought it would be a great spot for a new festival. The city has an amazing arts scene and a very burgeoning and enthusiastic indie movement. Yes, the country is overloaded with film festivals at this point of course, so we can always ask "do we really need a new film festival?" However, the Baltimore/DC area was a region that can appreciate the important issues regarding the lack of women's representation in Hollywood. I felt strongly that attendees would turn out in the Maryland area to support female filmmakers.
W&H: Do you think that women filmmakers are drawn to different subject matters than male filmmakers?
MC: That is a really interesting question. We have seen a disproportionate amount of female documentary filmmakers. I was just talking to Melissa Houghton, WIFV DC's Executive Director, the other day. She astutely pointed out that is because documentary films are cheaper to make and often women just can't get the funding to make larger budget types of productions. I think that is an excellent point. With a doc films I believe its much easier overall to get up and running without a large team of supporting cast and crew crew.

However, on the other hand, I have to say that from what I have seen and heard women tend to be interested in all topics and genres of films if they can get the funding. Though there are probably likely to be less "Michael Bay-ian" films coming from women! Or maybe I am wrong about that. We just need to provide women with ample funding so we can find out that answer, don't we?
W&H: Will you elaborate further on the statement: “The Baltimore Women’s Film Festival is dedicated to and focused on seeking out cinema created by and for women”
MC: The festival seeks to present a wide variety of films created by female directors, cinematographers, writers and producers. However, technically the festival will screen films by men, we made the decision not to exclude men entirely. For example, we are screening "Patricia Baltimore" directed by a man. However, this gripping and powerful documentary is about a formerly homeless women who is out on the streets of Philadelphia using her experience to help other women who are currently homeless. Obviously a film like this is tremendously relevant to men and women. We want to showcase films regardless of the director's gender if the film is as good as this one is and we can try get it some much deserved recognition. Also the DP of this film is a women, so that is definitely a plus!
W&H: Talk about some of the films you are excited about and why?
MC: I am really excited about "Orgasmic Birth," this documentary film is by Debra Pascali-Bonaro and gives an unprecedented look into natural childbirth and explains it all in a brilliant manner. The film has to goal to "dismantles untruths about labor and birth that women have been told for generations." This is one seriously brave, bold and eye opening film.

A narrative film I am really excited about is "Vanaja" which was produced by an Indian woman named Latha Domalapalli. It is the coming of age story of a 14 year old girl in India, Roger Ebert called it one of the top 5 foreign films from last year. "Vanaja" has won countless awards so far and we are really excited to be presenting the Maryland premiere of the film.

One more film I wanted to point out is Women Behind the Camera, Alexis Krasilovsky's brilliant documentary film about female camerawomen from around the world. It follows the lives of camerawomen in Afghanistan, Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Iran, Mexico, Senegal, the United States and other countries. It took 6 years to make and includes over 50 interviews- that really blew me away. Alexis is making the trip to the festival to discuss her work and I think that her research will raise some very stimulating discussions at the festival.
Support women's films and filmmakers if you are in the Baltimore area next week
Baltimore Women's Film Festival