Since 2001, Rochester has been hosting the High Falls Film Festival, an annual film event that “celebrates the artistry and innovation of women in film — behind the camera, in leading roles on the screen, and at the heart of storylines.”
With all the film festivals across the U.S., some may wonder about the importance of such a festival, focused on films where women hold leading roles in the creation of the films.
Last night’s High Falls Film Festival selections both demonstrated why more women should have the opportunity to make films, at the same time as it explored the reasons why the pool of female film Directors is small.
In the film Divine Order, Director Petra Volpe situates her film in the midst of the social upheaval of the late ’60’s and early ’70’s. She tells the story of a meek and dutiful wife who becomes the somewhat-reluctant crusader for the Swiss women’s suffrage movement of 1971 (yes, that really is 1971!), as well as the town’s lightning rod for anti-suffrage sentiment. It was a beautiful, intelligent and touching film with poignant, revealing moments as well as a fair (and fun) dollop of comedy. I can scarce see a man making Divine Order, and had one chosen to do so, it would have been a very different film, with a much different perspective.
Which leads to the second film, a documentary, Seeing Is Believing – Women Direct, by Cady McClain. Ms. McClain launches her exploration of the status of women directing by asking a series of individuals how many female directors they can name. Sadly, some name only one, a couple of people name two, but most can name none. Which begs the question, “Why is this?!”
Through the shared experiences of film directors Lesli Linka Glatter, Naima Ramos-Chapman, Sarah Gavron and Li Lu, as well as insights from other male and female filmmakers, we come to understand what is lost when women are excluded from the Directors’ chair — the female voice, the many stories they can tell, the perspective they can present, and the audience they can attract. We also have a first-hand look at the many obstacles they have to jump to sit in the Director’s chair, from lack of being selected to direct (despite talent), to lack of funding, experience, mentorship, champions and more. It shed light on a very important issue in the film industry.
There are still four more days during which you can enjoy the High Falls Festival films, coffee chats, discussions with directors, shorts programs and parties, so take a look at the lineup, carefully chosen by the Festival Selection Committee for their excellence and diverse offerings, and come help celebrate women in film!
P.S. As part of the Shorts Program on Saturday at 3 pm, you can see Election Day 2016, a collaborative film created by the Rochester Documentary Group that was chosen for the inaugural Meet the Press Film Festival in Washington, D.C. on November 13. And you can see it HERE first!
by Carol White Llewellyn
This editorial does not necessarily represent the views of RCTV Board, Staff, Members or Producers.