In its sixth season and bigger than ever, Portland’s Bluestocking Film Series is a vibrant, eclectic collection of female-driven films.
It’s also a needed outlet for woman directors, writers and actors who are perpetually underrepresented in Hollywood, as evidenced by the Bechdel Test.
Coined by cartoonist Alison Bechdel, the test calls attention to how women are portrayed in film. In order to pass, a film must feature two female characters who:
1) Have names
2) Talk to each other for more than a few seconds and
3) Talk to each other about something other than a man.
It’s an exceptionally low bar, and most movies don’t clear it. But not at Bluestocking.
“This year, there’s something of a ‘bad girls’ theme, in the sense of women behaving badly and also not being afraid to take risks,” said Kate Kaminski, the festival’s founder and artistic director. “That’s also reflected by the filmmakers themselves who take the risk of putting a female character front and center and not having her comply with the narrow confines that we see in a lot of movies. Bluestocking is pushing forward the idea that women and girls on screen don’t have to be compliant and perfect and nice. Female characters can have flaws and difficulties and courage and be self-motivated.”
In the 22 short films that make up this year’s festival, Kaminski promises that audiences will see just how diverse a female-centered film festival can be.
“We’ve got comedies, dramas, thrillers, road films, sci-fi,” she said. “There’s a lot of serious style going on and great production values. I mean, we always (have that), but this year’s really exceptional.”
In addition to having more films from Maine and around the world, the three-day festival has expanded to two larger screening venues, Maine College of Art and University of Southern Maine.
There will also be an impressive panel of judges and speakers, including Maria Giese, who spearheaded the recent American Civil Liberties Union investigation into Hollywood’s hiring practices; Boston Globe film critic Loren King; and acclaimed actress and director Yolonda Ross (“Treme”), who was kind enough to offer a few words about her involvement with Bluestocking.
“[Kate and I] followed each other online, and I would see their posts and really dig the pro-female stance that they had,” Ross said in an email. “She asked me about doing the panel, and I jumped at the opportunity. It’s a powerful festival. I’m happy to be a part of it, in a gorgeous place that I’ve never visited before. I also have to get up there to get a new Bluestocking T-shirt.”
As someone who sees how Hollywood works from the inside, Ross knows the importance of having a festival like Bluestocking. “Opportunities for women have definitely opened up in the industry. But it is definitely a SLOW process,” she wrote. “Just because there may be more roles does not mean they are always quality roles or as many for women of color … More women writers would create a more diverse portrayal of us.”
Ross said that there also need to be more women producers that can get financing for female-driven films.
“We are still going to men for money, and if you are a female writer/director, that’s a hard sell. And on top of that, being a woman of color where you may have a film featuring people of color as leads, it’s an even bigger uphill battle,” she said. “There’s definitely more work for women now, but there is a lot more work to be done.”
The sixth Bluestocking Film Series takes place from Thursday to Saturday. For the complete schedule and to purchase tickets, check out the Bluestocking website at www.bluestockingfilms.com.
Here’s the trailer for “The Bridge Partner,” one of the shorts being screened at this year’s Bluestocking Film Series
COMING TO LOCAL SCREENS
Wednesday: “Nuts!” Documentaries don’t get much more, well, nuts than this freewheeling look at a Depression-era quack whose goat testicle-based impotence cure and other nonsense scams force the government to enact consumer protection laws. With a video Q&A from director Penny Lane.
Friday: “Hunt For The Wilderpeople.” From writer-director Taika Waititi of the excellent horror comedy “What We Do In The Shadows” comes this offbeat comedy adventure about a city-born New Zealand boy who finds himself stuck in the country — and on the run from authorities — with his cantankerous uncle (Sam Neill).