Tag Archives: film festival

A Soft Spot in my Heart for Independent Film

14766111811_1b259a3065_zFor better or worse, I grew up on television. We had all the cable TV channels and little supervision or limits. So I spent a lot of my younger days watching a whole lot of independent film. Many I watched over and over because they aired 3 times-a-day.

As I’ve gotten older, and now that I’ve actually tried to make some films myself, I have grown a more discerning eye for quality and a much greater respect for the artists that make film.

It seems everyone is a critic these days and not afraid to say how great or terrible a movie is. But once you try to make one yourself, you learn how much hard work, follow-through, and attention to detail it requires just to make an absolutely awful film, let alone a great one worth showing to anyone.

Being a film director is hard work. Being a successful one is considered a long-shot. Trying to become a successful female filmmaker, or female filmmaker of color, might feel even more impossible when you discover the statistics.

  • Most female filmmakers made only one film in the last decade.
  • Female directors face an age limit—they work from 30s-60s. Males work from 20s-80s.
  • 83.3% of women of color made 1 top film from 2007-2016 vs 54.3% of non-Black/non-Asian males.
  • Of 1,114 directors of 1,000 top films in the last decade, 4% were female.
  • The first African-American female directors backed by major film studios didn’t occur until as late as 1989-1991!

From: Inclusion in the Director’s Chair? Gender, Race, & Age of Film Directors Across 1,000 Films from 2007-2016 by Dr. Stacy L. Smith, Dr. Katherine Pieper, & Marc Choueiti. The Media, Diversity, & Social Change Initiative. February 2017. Annenburg Foundation.

lucy-morgan-c-1985-florida-hall-of-fame

Florida Hall of Fame filmmaker Lucy Morgan, c 1985.

When I was asked to work with a new 4-day film festival in my area of the Pacific Northwest, specifically sharing the films of female directors, I couldn’t have been more honored. CASCADIA International Women’s Film Festival launches this April 20-23. Check them out and follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. They’re also mentioned in my most recent WhatcomTalk.com article about the upcoming independent-film-viewing opportunities in my area.

This festival and the others like it will be helping to tip the scales and make the stats above a more distant part of our history.

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Film “Starbuck” Earning Raves

A recent French Canadian film, Starbuck, has been garnering awards, including the People’s Choice Award at the Calgary International Film Festival and the Palm Springs International Film Festival’s audience award for the festival’s best narrative feature. Click on the photo below or here for a subtitled trailer.

The comedy begins with 42-year-old David Wosniak, a grossly in-debt man child, as his girlfriend announces that she is unexpectedly pregnant and he is being sued in a class action lawsuit by 142 of the 533 children born from the sperm he donated 20 years earlier. The children in the suit want to know the identity of their biological father, known only by the pseudonym Starbuck.

David decides to find and spy on some of his children, now in their early 20’s, as they stumble through their hilariously odd lives, getting hopelessly sucked in along the way.

The film takes the premise to the extreme for the sake of comedy, but are the film makers also calling for tighter regulation and ethics considerations with their humor? Although there are currently no international regulations on the number of offspring that can be sired by any one donor, many sperm banks follow a self-imposed (and policed) limit on the number of samples sold to the public. To date, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, who gathers and reports U.S. fertility statistics, does not track the number of offspring born from donor sperm. Sperm banks in the U.S. may or may not collect this information, but they are not required to report it to any agency.

The sperm bank we used in California offers a sibling registry to connect families that have used the same donor, but participation in the registry and reporting of offspring produced is voluntary. When we chose our donor from their list, we did not know how many offspring had been produced from that donor, but only whether or not other children had been conceived. At the time, we thought of the existence of half-siblings as a positive because that meant the sperm we were buying was viable and might give us good results, but it never occurred to us to be nervous about exactly how many half-siblings were out there.

I especially enjoyed this article, by Chris Knight of Canada’s The National Post, which compares the film’s main character to his nick-namesake, the famous bull, Starbuck, who sired more than 200,000 female Holsteins in a 19-year period, and was later cloned to continue the legacy.

Only time will tell whether this film will make it to my hometown for viewing, and whether the issue it raises will spur national and/or international regulation, but earning these awards, and thus expanding the film’s distribution and audience, will certainly up the odds. Let’s hope that talks of an English-language version of the film pan out.