The Women Texas Film Festival will show off the work of women filmmakers from around the world, from an HBO documentary to the impossibly weird viral hit Hi Stranger.
The festival is kicking off its second year this week, showing 49 feature and short films made by woman directors, writers, cinematographers, editors, producers and composers. Presented by Studio Movie Grill, the festival is Texas’ only fully-fledged film festival focusing solely on women behind the camera, says artistic director Justina Walford.
Walford says that having women behind the camera, even in one major role, makes a significant difference, if only to see the perspective of talented people who may not always be granted opportunities. Walford remembers seeing Kathryn Bigelow’s Oscar-winning film The Hurt Locker and says she loved seeing “the grit of a female filmmaker re-creating a man’s world.”
In this summer’s Wonder Woman, which was directed by Patty Jenkins and written by several men, Walford says a woman director’s eye made a worthwhile difference for the character’s first big-screen solo film.
“There’s moments where you go ‘That’s Patty Jenkins.’ You know what I mean? Because she grew up knowing what she wanted to see. And they don’t. Guys don’t,” Walford says.
The festival includes five short film programs: Comedy; the weird and experimental Liquid Lunch; the horror and sci-fi themed Dark Minds, Dark Worlds; the character-driven Strong Female Characters and Wonder Women. Walford lists the shorts Mama Kim, Easy Girl and Emmi as favorites.
Eight feature films will also be featured at the festival, several of which focus on LGBT stories. The festival will open with And Then There Was Eve, a psychological thriller about a woman who finds comfort and love in her colleague Eve after her husband disappears. Other selections include the I Am Evidence, the HBO documentary on the treatment of rape survivors, and the festival’s closing film Quality Problems, a film that blends humor with a couple facing breast cancer and Alzheimer’s.
Walford says about a quarter of the films come from Texas, with two from Dallas’ Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts and several from Texas colleges. But there are films from five continents, with submissions from Brazil, Germany, Japan, Singapore and Australia.
There will also be virtual reality short film stations, where viewers can don a headset and experience three films in 360 degrees. The stations will be available in the theater’s lobby throughout the festival.
Walford says she wants mainstream cinema to get to a point where the gender of the filmmaker doesn’t matter, and viewers will simply enjoy a good film. Regardless, representation of women in front of and behind the camera is important to her.
She says a woman-focused film festival is vital, in part because it acts as a meeting ground for female filmmakers to meet, drink, laugh and commiserate, as well as network.
“The only thing I never miss is a female filmmaker panel or a female filmmaker showcase, because it’s so great to meet other women who are with you on the boat,” Walford says.
Walford worked as a filmmaker in Los Angeles, and says she would get frustrated seeing less skilled men get picked up by producers, while she was looked over. After years of assuming she wasn’t good enough, she noticed that there were systems and connections in place that gave her male counterparts a leg up. She hopes that festivals like Women Texas will be able to help young female filmmakers take charge of the industry around them, despite the barriers.
“Knowing that being a woman set me back,” she says, stopping mid-sentence. “I hate that I feel shame saying that, as if it’s an excuse, or it’s whining. But it’s a reality. And the more the older women say it’s a reality, the younger women can take charge.”
Plan your life
The Women Texas Film Festival will run August 16-20 at Studio Movie Grill (10110 Technology Blvd., Dallas). Festival passes are $75, though VIP and student plans are also available, and individual tickets are $11 each. All tickets can be purchased through the festival’s website.