In “Sunroom,” Agnes must reconcile her attachment to her stuffed animals with her notions of what it means to be a woman.
In “Alma Y Esperanza,” separated by language and culture, a young girl falls under the care of the grandmother she has never met.
In “Knit One,” Sadie’s grief-fueled knitting obsession transforms her suburban world until there is just one thing left to knit.
In “Going Down,” Kat, straddling the line between life and death, simultaneously experiences two versions of reality.
In “Mother’s Day,” an irresponsible 20-something is suddenly burdened with caring for a 6-year-old.
The Bechdel Test is one of those things that make you realize something new and specific about something you thought you understood well. It’s a simple, three-part checklist about works of fiction, so try it with me. Think of your favorite movie and ask:
1. Are there two women in the movie who have names?
2. Do they speak to each other for more than a few seconds?
3. If they do, are they talking about something other than a man?
Your movie failed the test, didn’t it?
While not a measure of artistic value, necessarily (some of the best movies ever flunk spectacularly), the Bechdel Test is more a perspective adjustment, intended to point out that, in an overwhelming majority of fiction, female characters are marginalized. It’s one of those things that, once you see it, you can’t stop seeing it everywhere. One person especially attuned to the unrepresentative roles of women both on and behind camera is local filmmaker, film teacher, and founder of the Bluestocking Film Series, Kate Kaminski. Bluestocking, which celebrates its fifth anniversary at SPACE Gallery on Friday and Saturday with its signature roster of female-centric films from around the world, offers an eclectic, challenging lineup of shorts – which also pass the Bechdel Test with flying colors.
It’s definitely grown. In the last year, not just Bluestocking but the whole idea of what we’re trying to do has gotten traction. It’s in the ether. There’s a bit of agitation going on and it’s good, because it makes me feel like we’re part of something that’s going to create change. It feels great, like we’ve been part of a movement, a shift in thinking and actual presentation of what women can do on screen. One aspect I want to see grow is the prizes. As a filmmaker myself, the idea of being rewarded – I mostly make short films, and no one’s ever going to get anything back for that except the satisfaction. The idea of being able to hand out cash and prizes is exciting! Also, filmmakers are starting to be aware of us and what we’re doing. A lot of our focus is to promote the filmmakers who support that creative risk, helping those filmmakers become the ones who are going to effect change from the inside.
<h#>Do you have any favorites from this year’s lineup?
It’s like “Sophie’s Choice” – I love them all. I will say I’m very excited for Maine filmmaker Carol Capomaccio. The first film she’s ever made, “Going Down,” is a lesbian-themed film, and I’m really excited for her. This is a dream that she had, to make a film, and she made that film. It’s an amazing achievement not only getting it done but premiered at festivals. I’m just psyched for her – it’s going to be huge for her with her hometown crowd cheering her on.
It’s really hard to know because the numbers remain stagnant. The ACLU is currently investigating hiring practices in Hollywood – if there can be teeth attached to that investigation, then there’s a shot. In order for things to change, new people have to come in, and the only way is for women who are agitating the Directors Guild (of America) to get somewhere. Because there are, like, seven directors who are women who get all the jobs. Women are pitted against each other to get this tiny piece of the pie. We all agree we need better movies. Apart from that, it’s really we who have the capability and the filmmakers who can do it, if we audiences can show we’re willing to line up for those films. We hold the power to change what we show on screen if we have the will to demand something more.
THE 5TH ANNUAL Bluestocking Film Series screens in two parts on Friday and Saturday at SPACE Gallery at 7 p.m. Each section runs about two hours, and, while not rated, is appropriate for “high school age and up,” according to Kaminski. Tickets are $12, $10 for SPACE members and students with ID. Check out bluestockingfilms.com for full details.
COMING TO LOCAL SCREENS
NICKELODEON CINEMA, Portland | patriotcinemas.com
Friday: “Trainwreck.” Speaking of complex female protagonists, emerging standup comic Amy Schumer writes and stars in this bawdy romantic comedy about a hard-partying single woman deciding whether to give nice guy Bill Hader a chance. Sure, that sounds like a traditional rom-com, but the smart and uncompromising Schumer promises a smarter take on the genre (and some filthy laughs).
SPACE GALLERY, Portland | space538.org
Tuesday: “Cartel Land.” People don’t like drug dealers (apart from drug customers, I suppose), and this harrowing documentary shows the violent lengths two very different paramilitary groups – one in Mexico, one on the Arizona border – are going to to fight drug cartels.