By Brooklyn Draisey
FilmScene will celebrate every day of Women’s History Month with quite a few unique films.
Starting today, FilmScene, 118 E. College St., will present “Women’s March,” a program showcasing films made by women. Every day, every show time, and every screen will show a mix of new releases, classic cinema, and films with local ties, along with discussions and Q & A sessions with filmmakers.
Program director Rebecca Fons, who has been with FilmScene since November 2017, started working on “Women’s March” right away. She said the Harvey Weinstein scandal and the #MeToo movement were hot topics at the time, which made her more determined to shine a light on the wonderful things women are doing in film.
“We want to do something as members of the industry and as an arthouse theater, we want to do something that sort of supports female voices,” she said.
Finding films made by women wasn’t an issue, but narrowing down the list was, Fons said. FilmScene collaborated with Bijou on pitching movie ideas and deciding which ones should be shown. The organizers tried to find movies that would fit in FilmScene’s programs, such as Late Shift at the Grindhouse and the Picture Show. FilmScene also had an advisory committee to help choose films.
“It’s actually amazing when you look at the history of cinema, just how many female directors there are …” Fons said. “It was an abundance of riches, and we had to cut it down.”
Spencer Williams, who works at FilmScene in the box office and is a member of the advisory committee, said organizers focused on filling gaps in the program and making it more diverse and inclusive.
“The conversation that we had were sort of deciding how we can make this lineup more diverse in terms of who was represented …” she said. “We were making sure it wasn’t all white female directors who work in America.”
“Women’s March” has three programs along with new releases: Vanguard, Pioneers, and Homegrown. Vanguard films are contemporary, featuring new voices and emerging filmmakers. Historically significant films directed by pioneers in the industry fall in the Pioneers program. Finally, Homegrown films have local ties, made by Iowa women or women with roots in Iowa.
Bijou offers free movies Tuesday and Saturday nights, and Executive Director Hannah Bonner said the staff were excited about being able to support FilmScene’s program. She said a program such as this could really add to the cultural conversation happening around women in film.
“I think part of the conversation that’s been happening right now has been wanting to see more diverse representations of what it looks like to be a woman …” she said. “And the importance of highlighting these female directors who maybe don’t get as much attention or money as male directors.”
Lauren Rabinovitz, a UI professor of American studies and cinema and a discussion leader for the movie Seven Beauties, said that historically, women haven’t been taken seriously in the film industry, and no one believed they had the ability to be serious artistic directors. She noted positive trends for women filmmakers in recent past, but things can still be better.
“I think it’s changed a little bit, in the past few years, but there are still very few women directors, although there’s a lot of discussion about it now,” she said.