Sexism and gender disparity are pervasive in the film industry. Hollywood’s diversity problem was justifiably given the spotlight earlier this year, and “#OscarsSoWhite” could have just as well been “#OscarsSoMale.” The numbers cast the inequality in a stark light. In 2014, only 15 percent of films had women directors, 20 percent women writers, according to a study by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego University. On-screen representation isn’t much better, and the gender pay gap in show business is as prevalent as it is everywhere else.
All this is to say that the Women Texas Film Festival, debuting the weekend of Aug. 19 at the Texas Theatre, arrives at an opportune time, when filmmakers and audiences — that’s us — can push for gender equality at the movies. The festival will highlight films made by women, not necessarily Texans, with qualifying movies featuring a woman in “at least one key creative role”: writer, producer, director, cinematographer, editor, composer.
The inaugural program includes six feature films and 31 shorts, separated into thematic blocks of genre films, “video mix tape,” shorts by local filmmakers, and more. A handful of panels will address film production and new technology, namely virtual reality.
The two big standouts of the features lineup, highlighted in a press release, are Girl Asleep, an Australian coming of age story about a teenage girl’s difficult and sometimes surreal journey through the weird forest of adolescence, and Beware the Slenderman, a documentary about the bizarre case of two girls accused of stabbing a friend almost 20 times as an apparent sacrifice to a character created and mythologized on the internet.
“We are thrilled to bring this celebration of female film making to Dallas, which is home to some of the most enthusiastic and discerning film audiences in the entire country,” Justina Walford, the festival’s founder and artistic director, says in a statement. “Rosemary Myers’s richly sardonic GIRL ASLEEP bursts with candy colored images of girlhood while confronting some darker realms of our heroine’s heart. And it is a vision so truly female, created for our eyes. Add to that, a lineup of films that amuse, surprise, provoke and frighten. and film goers will get a taste of the skill and imagination of some very talented women pulling the strings and at the helm of visual storytelling. We look forward to putting the women responsible for these stories on a pedestal here in the heart of Texas.”
The Women Texas Film Festival is Aug. 19-21 at the Texas Theatre. Tickets and more information here. The full press release and film schedule are copied below:
“Dallas, TX (July 26, 2016) – The Women Texas Film Festival today announced the official selections for the debut of the very first full-fledged film festival in the state of Texas to focus solely on the work of female filmmakers. Screening exclusively at the famous Texas Theatre in Dallas (231 W. Jefferson Blvd.) on August 19-21, WTxFF will open with Rosemary Myers’s award-winning Australian comedy, GIRL ASLEEP, and will include 6 feature-length films and 31 short films screening over the course of an exciting three-day weekend in August.
WTxFF Founder and Artistic Director, Justina Walford, said, “We are thrilled to bring this celebration of female film making to Dallas, which is home to some of the most enthusiastic and discerning film audiences in the entire country. Rosemary Myers’s richly sardonic GIRL ASLEEP bursts with candy colored images of girlhood while confronting some darker realms of our heroine’s heart. And it is a vision so truly female, created for our eyes. Add to that, a lineup of films that amuse, surprise, provoke and frighten. and film goers will get a taste of the skill and imagination of some very talented women pulling the strings and at the helm of visual storytelling. We look forward to putting the women responsible for these stories on a pedestal here in the heart of Texas.”
Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the Seattle Film Festival, Myers’s GIRL ASLEEP follows the struggles of Greta, a 14-year-old girl who has just moved to a new town with her family. The experience of trying to make new friends and measure up to the cool girls is
a tough and confusing one, but at least she’s found an ally in Elliott, who makes up for his eccentricities with unabashed enthusiasm and loyalty to her. Of course, just when Greta thinks she is getting on solid footing, her parents decide to throw a surprise disco party for her. It all makes her want to run away to the mysterious forest behind the house she has conjured up in her imagination. There, she could be with the mysterious creatures and Huldra, the fearless warrior. That has to be easier than school. An Oscilloscope Laboratories release, GIRL ASLEEP is set for release September 8.
Other features in the eclectic and exciting debut WTxFF lineup include: Irene Taylor Brodsky’s documentary BEWARE THE SLENDERMAN, about the internet-created boogeyman that inspired two 12-year-old girls to attempt murder; Christina Kallas’s comedy, 42 SECONDS OF HAPPINESS, about a group of friends working their way in and out of relationship drama while attending a friend’s same-sex wedding; Celia Rowlson-Hall’s experimental masterpiece, MA, which follows a modern-day Virgin Mary’s pilgrimage over the scorched terrain of the American Southwest; Rachel Talalay’s gritty, ON THE FARM, which dramatizes the true-life story of the search for a serial killer who was responsible for the deaths of 50 prostitutes in Vancouver; and Sharie Vance’s documentary, MIZ MARKELY & ME, about the jazz and folk singer/songwriter Lisa Markely – the presentation of which will include a special performance by Markley on the Texas Theatre stage, following the screening.
The shorts programs were similarly curated to not simply showcase the work and skill of women as directors, producers, writers, composers, or cinematographers. Each block offers thematic viewing experiences that highlight the wealth of variety these women have to offer in terms of storytelling.
The “Youth” shorts program, many of which were directed by local up-and-coming female filmmakers, features films that deal with the conflicts and hurdles ever-present in the lives of young women, be it dealing with an unwanted pregnancy, escaping poverty, getting out of a day at work in order to head out to the beach, navigating the dating world, or being a transvestite in the unforgiving religious culture in Pakistan.
The “Video Mix Tape” shorts program takes audience members on a visual ride that ranges from the high comedy of a brother and sister who can’t stop bickering as they attempt to choose a casket for a loved one, and two couples that must do some fast thinking to outsmart a magical board game that has transported them to the Old West, to the emotional lows and heart-wrenching drama of a little boy determining the fate of a piggy bank he has come to love, and a prostitute that must make a hard choice in order to provide for her autistic son.
Walford is especially pleased with the two late night shorts programs which highlight the work of women within the world of genre filmmaking. Walford said, “I have been a longtime fan of horror and genre films, and with some of the best films in that category recently having been directed by women, I felt it very important to shine a light on the next generation of female filmmakers that will thrill us working within horror, thrillers, sci-fi, etc. to provoke, disturb, and excite audiences.”.
“Dark Minds” features a series of films that deal with the horror potential with relationships, whether it be a young woman trying to help an FBI agent rescue her from her longtime abductor, another facing off against some “mean girl” cupcake bakers, a young man who struggles with his desire for women that look like they are adolescents, and a robot that has learned the wrong lessons from “her” owner about how people should treat each other.
“Dark Worlds” offers up stories about a world set after the end of civilization where a woman must rescue her lover, one in which two young brothers question the isolation they have been placed into by their parents following the end of a war, another where a young boy must investigate a series of “video nasties” that may have consumed his father, a woman facing the fear that baby from an unwanted pregnancy may literally devour her life, and three girlfriends that have to transport a celebrity’s body from scandalous tryst hotel room to her home without anyone knowing she’s dead.
The Women Texas Film Festival will also host panels focusing on the experience of women working in various aspects of film production, virtual reality (VR), and tech, as well as in-depth look at one of the documentary features on the schedule, BEWARE THE SLENDERMAN, Panel titles/topics include: “Gaming and VR, The New Frontier Demonstrated”, “I Made That – Female Producers Tell the What, Why, and How of Producing.” “Discussing BEWARE THE SLENDERMAN with Psychiatrists and Pediatric Counselors”, and “A Director, a Writer, a DP, and an Editor Walk into a Bar”.
Film festival passes and tickets are on-sale now, with a special “flash sale” for a VIP Festival Pass for $95 in place until August 1 (Regular cost for VIP passes are $150.), and a special Shorts Programs package available for $25. Tickets are $11. For more information on the Women Texas Film festival go to WomenTxFF.org. To purchase VIP passes, the special Shorts Programs package, or tickets to individual screenings go to: http://prekindle.com/promo/id/24545708304714170.
The 2016 Women Texas Film Festival official selections:
OPENING NIGHT SELECTION
Director: Rosemary Myers
Country: Australia, Running Time: 77min
In this vibrant portrayal of Australian adolescence, Greta Driscoll’s bubble of obscure loserdom is burst when her parents throw her a surprise 15th birthday party and invite the whole school! Perfectly content being a wallflower, suddenly Greta’s flung far from her comfort zone into a distant, parallel place — a strange world that’s a little frightening and a lot weird, but only there can she find herself. Equal measures Wes Anderson and Lewis Carroll, GIRL ASLEEP is an enchanting journey into the absurd — and sometimes scary — depths of the teenage mind.
Screening will be preceded by:
THE LETTER E
Director: Mira Lippold-Johnson
Country: USA, Running Time: 14min
Eleanor is a 14-year-old girl who loves the letter E. She eats eggs, edamame, and English muffins. She studies economics and ecology. She has three best friends named Emily, Emily, and Emily. And she has a boyfriend named Ed. Everything is perfect until she finds out Ed’s name isn’t Ed.
BEWARE THE SLENDERMAN
Director: Irene Taylor Brodsky
Country: Running Time: 114min
BEWARE THE SLENDERMAN tells the story of the internet’s elusive Boogeyman and two 12-year-old girls who would kill for him. Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier lured their best friend into the woods, stabbed her 19 times, then set out on an odyssey to meet the tall and faceless man known online as Slenderman. Shot over 18 months with heartbreaking access to the families of the would-be murderers, the film plunges deep down the rabbit hole of their crime, a Boogeyman and our society’s most impressionable consumers of media. The entrance to the internet can quickly lead us to its dark basement, within just a matter of clicks. How much do we hold children responsible for what they find there?
42 SECONDS OF HAPPINESS
Director: Christina Kallas
Country: USA, Running Time: 95min
A circle of thirty-something friends reunite for a weekend away to celebrate the same sex wedding of a member of their group. Yet, despite their best efforts to behave themselves, a series of surprise plans, unexpected arrivals and exposed secrets lead to an explosion of drama that, coupled with the flammable combination of hurt feelings, unresolved tensions, and lots of wine cannot be contained.
Screening will be preceded by:
ONE FOR THE ROAD
Director: Mark Blitch
Country: USA, Running Time: 7:13min
A bickering brother and sister hit the road to reconnect after drifting apart over the years.
(Producer: Danielle Wheeler)
Director: Celia Rowlson-Hall Country: USA, Running Time: 80min
MA is a striking modern-day vision of Mother Mary’s pilgrimage through the eyes of Ma (played by Celia Rowlson-Hall), a woman who must venture across the scorched landscape of the American Southwest to fulfill her destiny.
Screening will be preceded by:
GARDENING AT NIGHT
Director: Shayna Connelly
Country: USA, Running Time: 12min
The period between knowing death is near and death’s arrival forms an unbearable state of regret, sadness and anticipation for Samantha. She is powerless to help Anne, who on the eve of her death, has not come to terms with her fate and remains angry and afraid. Waiting expands time to the point that it loses meaning. The world shrinks to encompass only her and her phone, which will ring soon with the news. That night she can no longer bear the stillness and despite the darkness, Samantha tries to put her neglected garden in order.
MIZ MARKLEY & ME
Director: Sharie Vance
Country: USA, Running Time: 44min
Inspirational for subjects and audience alike, this funny, poignant, and musical film is the story of two late-bloomers, with all the doubt and angst you might imagine, finding encouragement and validation from each other’s journey.
Screening will be preceded by:
THE PUPPET LADY
Director: Kate Gondwe
Country: USA, Running Time: 8:05min
THE PUPPET LADY is a short documentary profiling Lillie Solomon. Solomon is a professional in millinery, puppetry, costuming, theater and number of other works of art. She explains her career and shares her thoughts on the creative mind and the feeling and being of an artist.
ON THE FARM
Director: Rachel Talalay
Country: Canada, Running Time: 88min
Based on a true story, a powerful study of the dysfunction and disorder in the police and criminal justice systems that allowed a wily psychopath to murder nearly 50 marginalized women from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.
Screening will be preceded by:
Director: Paul D. Hart
Country: USA, Running Time: 12:30min
A female USMC combat vet struggles to navigate her disintegrating life after returning from being wounded in the war in Afghanistan. As her PTSD worsens, her options begin to run out until she is forced into making a life & death decision.
(Producer: Virginia Newcomb, UPM: Hilary Craft
SHORTS PROGRAM #1: YOUTH (TRT: 83min)
A PERFECT COCKTAIL
Director: Kat Albert
Country: USA, Running Time: 8:40min
April is hot mess with daddy issues. Maybe she just needs the right man and the perfect
cocktail to get it all right. What connects with people is the depth of these characters and the heartfelt emotions the actors bring to their parts.
BALL IS LIFE
Director: Terry Bluez
Country: USA, Running Time: 7:40min
BALL IS LIFE is the story of a young female basketball star on the verge of earning a
Division I scholarship under the intense coaching of her overbearing father. But when her hoop dreams are jeopardized by an unplanned pregnancy, she must decide which is more important, Ball or Life?
(Producer: Megan StCin)
Director: Paloma Hernandez
Country: USA, Running Time: 10:50min
A remorseful thief returns stolen goods to their rightful owners unaware of the chaos it will ensue.
Director: Augustine Frizzell
Country: USA, Running Time: 10:50min
Two teens girls scheme their way out of work to spend a day at the beach. Things don’t go as planned.
Director: Lizette Barrera
Country: USA, Running Time: 9min
A wayward teen revisits her hometown to reconnect with her cousin.
PIECE OF NAAN
Director: Rijaa Nadeem
Country: Pakistan, Running Time: 11:15min
Living as an outcast within the conservative religious society of Pakistan, Rafi is a transvestite who earns a living through begging and selling his body. He meets Nadia who grew up in the upper class of society however is forced into prostitution by her indebted father. Even though they are from completely different walks of life, They learn to bond amidst a common difficult situation.
Director: Paxton Farrar
Country: USA, Running Time: 19:58min
Inspired by the night skies of the high desert, a teenage girl struggles to escape poverty and rural isolation to become an astronomer.
(Associate Producer: Katherine Paige, Director of Photography: Maria Rusche)
Director: Paige Snider
Country: USA, Running Time: 4:32min
This comical short follows the sexual misadventures of a young woman as she navigates the dating world and discovers that self acceptance is the key to success.
SHORTS PROGRAM #2: VIDEO MIX TAPE (TRT: 91min)
THE GRAVEYARD SHIFT
Director: Lara Arikan
Country: USA, Running Time: 2:13min
It’s long past midnight when the tired and jumpy waitress decides to go and investigate the ominous noise she hears right outside the roadside coffee shop she’s working at. She discovers that a she is being attacked by a Zombie! The zombie lazily wobbles inside the shop and corners the poor waitress behind the counter. How will she save her self? What will it take?
100 LEVELS OF JUST IN TIME
Director: America Young
Country: USA, Running Time: 13:13min
When a simple game night turns into a Wild West showdown, two couples must work together to escape the most dangerous game of all time.
Director: Brooke Honcharik
Country: USA, Running Time: 15:07min
Jane and Peter have known each other since the 4th grade. Over the past 10 years, they have shared lunches and swapped spit but never exchanged feelings. When the pair decides to secretly spend the night in an antique shop, they determine the future of their relationship by being forced to face their past.
THE SIBLING CODE
Director: Roberta Marie Munroe
Country: USA, Running Time: 6:57min
Sheryl and Austin, a pair of dysfunctional, but loving, siblings meet up at a funeral home to plan a funeral. Sheryl finds comfort in order and wants a beautiful mahogany casket, with satin as soft as butter and a monogram that would make Martha Stewart proud. Austin, is a free-spirited hipster who spends his time creating You Tube videos of neighborhood animals and believes the ashes should be released into the wind. But when the Funeral Director dares to call into question the siblings’ choices, things get ugly. It is one thing for Austin and Sheryl to take each other down, but neither take kindly to the Funeral Director butting into their affairs. That’s the sibling code.
SIX LETTER WORD
Director: Lisanne Sartor
Country: USA, Running Time: 16:30min
An unlikely mom is forced to confront her young son’s autism after an unexpected encounter with one of her johns.
SOMEONE GOOD WILL FIND YOU
Director: Leelila Strogov
Country: USA, Running Time: 8:40min
Inspired by a short story from award-winning Israeli author Etgar Keret, SOMEONE GOOD WILL FIND YOU is the story of a boy who learns an unintended lesson when his immigrant father attempts to teach him the value of money by giving him a piggy bank. The story transforms a modern-day Israeli fable into a dramatic story about a Chinese family adapting to Western life in New York City.
Director: Susanne Boeing
Country: Germany, Running Time: 26min
Walter is waiting at the last station of his journey through life. His family and friends all know what is best for him. But in the end they have to understand that his ending belongs only to him.
YOU (by Pearl and the Beard)
Director: Brandon Herman
Country: USA, Running Time: 3:40min
Proposing marriage at a fancy restaurant seems like a good idea, but things can get crazy pretty quickly!
LATE NIGHT SHORTS PROGRAM #1: DARK MINDS (TRT: 65min)
Director: Izzy Lee
Country: USA, Running Time: 10:03min
“How far would you go to help a friend?” Jackson gets in over his head when Liz asks for a favor in this horror comedy.
Director: Rodolfo Cervant
Country: USA, Running Time: 10:40min
A woman bullied by a clique of bake sale mean girls takes action. (Producer: Sierra Robinson, Producer and Cinematographer: Nicole Pence)
Director: Lauren Ouellette
Country: USA, Running Time: 10:12min
An isolated teenage girl finds herself torn between reality and delusion when a determined FBI agent tries to free her from her long term abductor.
NOT TOO YOUNG
Director: Alec Kubas-Meyer
Country: USA, Running Time: 12min
A young hebephile, whose only human contact comes from an anonymous online chatroom, struggles with his attraction to early adolescents but is determined not to offend. He turns to an escort service, called “Not Too Young,” which gives him the chance to fulfill his desires with a woman who only appears to be underage.
(Cinematographer and Composer: Montana Jaro)
Director: Andrea Wolanin
Country: USA, Running Time: 20:22min
PENTA is the name of a bio-mechanical companion for the discerning connoisseur… In just over twelve hours, the perfect girl will be standing in your home.” Based upon an Italian folk tale, Penta questions femininity, humanity and the system of abuse. Our titular heroine is a robot created to do nothing more than be the perfect woman – but what does that mean? As she acclimates to the world around her, her changes startle her owner and spur a chain of grim events.
LATE NIGHT SHORTS PROGRAM #2: DARK WORLDS (TRT: 79min)
Director: Jackie Perez
Country: USA, Running Time: 12:57min
A woman with a perfect life learns she’s carrying a baby she didn’t expect. With no one to turn to for help, she carries to term and really comes to understand the saying “your life is over when you have kids.”
Director: Mindy Bledsoe
Country: USA, Running Time: 10min
Three women have to transport a celebrity’s body, without anyone knowing she’s dead.
THE LOTUS GUN
Director: Amanda Milius
Country: USA, Running Time: 25min
The year is 2077, in a post-civilization world, where there are no laws or weapons, Nora and her best friend and lover, Daph, live an idyllic life in a rugged landscape. When a stranger arrives and Daph disappears, Nora has to go to extreme measures to get back what is hers.
Director: Prano Bailey-Bond
Country: UK, Running Time: 15:09min
It’s 1982. 12-year old Doug’s Father has mysteriously vanished. With his Mother distraught, Doug takes the case into his own hands, leading him to discover his Dad’s secret collection of illicit video nasties. Convinced that these videos will help him find his Dad, Doug embarks on a desperate quest, infiltrating the strange world of video nasties in an attempt to reunite his family through a patchwork of horror.
Director: Diana Rodriguez
Country: USA, Running Time: 15:53min
Two young brothers living with their parents in isolation begin to question their new world after war, corruption and greed nearly decimate the entire human race.”