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Dennis Perkins

Dennis Perkins is a freelance writer who lives in Auburn with his lovely wife, the writer Emily L. Stephens, and their cat, Cooper. When not watching all the movies ever made or digging up stories about the Maine film scene, he can be found writing for the AV Club and elsewhere. The rest of the time, he's worrying about the Red Sox.

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Posted: September 17, 2018

A fun, fierce, female-forward night of films at Slab

Written by: Dennis Perkins

“War Paint” is about a narcissist befriending a loner in book club. Photo courtesy of Nat Luurtsema

Fem.Cine.Anarchy – that’s the evocative name given to the annual free pop-up film event taking place Thursday at Portland pizza restaurant Slab. The brainchild of Portland filmmaker, educator and founder of Maine’s own Bluestocking Film Series, Kate Kaminski, and heading into its fourth year, the event is a night of short, woman-directed films from all over the world. Culled mostly from submissions to the similarly female-centric Bluestocking series, the films of Fem.Cine.Anarchy are all, according to Kaminski, equally worthy. But, falling outside Bluestocking’s rigorous criteria for inclusion of women (called the Bechdel Test) for various reasons, the eight shorts that make up this year’s roster are nonetheless exciting, accomplished and, in some cases, outrageous enough to make up a fine, female-forward night out at the movies.

Here’s the trailer:

(That the event’s logo features actress Tura Satana beating the hell out of a guy in a still from Russ Meyer’s 1965 trash classic “Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!” should clue you in on what’s in store.) Plus, taking place on Slab’s patio means there’s pizza and beer to go along with the fun. I spoke with Kaminski about its inception, its mission and this year’s highlights.

So, what is Fem.Cine.Anarchy?

I was inspired by a woman named Barbara Ann O’Leary’s #DirectedbyWomen screenings in Indiana. That and the global viewing parties by Scalarama in England. That’s the idea of these pop-up film events, that anyplace can become a cinema, from a living room to a bar to anything. So, four years ago on a lark – because I don’t have anything else to do (laughs) – I thought, that sounds like fun. I gathered some films and got together with Slab, who are amazing, and just did the event. And it was so low-key and came with so little hassle that I’ve kept it up.

Where do the films come from?

A lot of them are films that were submitted to Bluestocking, but that either didn’t pass the Bechdel Test (while still being made by women) or didn’t have the “strong female protagonist” Bluestocking requires. But every year there are a lot of films that I really like and want people to see, so I started to dip into the entries that were sort of outside the system, just calling filmmakers and asking them. And of course they say, “Sure!” because people always want their films to get to audiences.

Bluestocking has its own specific rules for inclusion, but what is the mission statement of Fem.Cine.Anarchy?

It’s really about pushing the envelope in terms of characterization or situation, which isn’t necessarily politically correct. Bluestocking has a more broad and general audience, whereas, here, all bets are off. The films aren’t rated, and there’s a lot of crazy stuff happening. It’s the idea of presenting something we really haven’t seen before.

“Monday” centers on dance and doesn’t have dialogue. Photo courtesy of Candace Vallantin

So what are this year’s films like?

For example, “Monday,” directed by Candice Vallantin, is a really cool film that centers on dance. The thing is, since there’s not really dialogue, it’s not going to pass the Bechdel Test. (One requirement is that two female characters have a conversation about something other than a man.) Jody Miller’s “Scratch This” came to us through Bluestocking, but wound up here. There’s nothing wrong with a really silly comedy, and I thought, “People really need to see that movie.” (Portland director) Charlotte Warren’s “Jolie Laide” sort of came and went in town, and I always love to have a Maine filmmak and in there. I’m really excited about our opener, “Gringa” (from Claudia Murray), which I really loved and really wanted to have in this year’s Bluestocking. It was on the short list until the very end, but it’s really about a woman and her grandfather, so I’m glad to be able to show it because it’s such an innovative film. It really illuminates the idea that you can’t tell what people are by looking at them, and it’s a nice, soft lesson to show us a faulty way to think about people, to pigeonhole them. Then there are movies like “Sell Your Body” (by Jaanelle Yee) and “War Paint” (by Nat Luurtsema) that really represent what Fem.Cine.Anarchy is. Just a reminder that the word “anarchy” is in there for a reason: This isn’t for kids. Still, it’s free, there’s great pizza and beer, and it’s a great chance to see some amazing, woman-directed films that flew under the radar.

Fem.Cine.Anarchy screens at 7 p.m. Thursday, at Slab, 25 Preble St., Portland. The program features eight short films by women, runs about 89 minutes in total and would probably have an R rating. Admission is free, Slab has great pizza and the screening is outside on Slab’s patio, weather permitting. There’s a rain date of Wednesday, but here’s hoping that won’t be necessary.


Friday-Saturday: “Milford Graves: Full Mantis.” An appropriately free-flowing and discursive documentary about the life and work of legendary avant-garde free jazz drummer and artist Graves.

Starts Friday: “We the Animals.” The first feature from acclaimed documentarian Jeremiah Zagar follows the eventful summer of a trio of young brothers coming of age in their tumultuous family’s upstate New York rural home.

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