Portland Film Festival Puts Gender Balance on Screen
The Portland Film Festival has programmed a near equal amount of films from men and women. Established in 2013, the festival says it’s committed to supporting diverse voices and visions. This comes in the wake of other, high-profile festivals this year, like the Festival de Cannes, coming under scrutiny for lacking female directors in their programming.
The 2016 Portland Film Festival, or PDXFF16, will screen 54 narrative and documentary features, as well as 89 short films. Of those 54 features, 32 are by female directors, which is 59-percent, or “near equal,” but obviously favoring women filmmakers. Discounting television, it’s difficult to find this level of representation in Hollywood or even at these kinds of events.
Unlike other film festivals as well, PDXFF has a double feature for its Opening Night and its Closing Night. The double feature is a documentary and a narrative, and for its Closing Night, both of those features are directed by women.
Ovarian Psychos is by Joanna Sokolowski and Kate Trumbull-LaValle. It’s the Closing Night documentary. It focuses on the Ovarian Psychos Cycle Brigade (pictured above), an East Los Angeles collective of bike-powered activists. The brigade supports young women of color by integrating feminist ideals with a kind of urban mentality.
Girl Flu is by Dorie Barton and is the Closing Night narrative. It’s about about a 12-year-old girl (pictured above) as she navigates her transition to womanhood via her first menstruation period in a sweet and funny story.
Other notable films having their world premiere at PDXFF16 are also directed by women. They include the following.
The Farmer and I is from Germany. Director Irja von Bernstorff turns the camera on herself and Sangay, a farmer from Bhutan, a Buddhist country that borders China, near Nepal and India. This documentary follows Sangay and Irja as they produce a TV series for Bhutan about a woman who goes from city life to farm life.
Gozo is from the United Kingdom. Director Miranda Bowen has a young couple who emigrates to the Mediterranean island named Gozo, which is off the coast of Malta, about 200 miles southwest of Sicily, Italy. Living is easy there, until one of them begins to hear strange noises.
The Remnant comes from director Karmia Chan Olutade. She’s a Chinese-Canadian playwright adapting her own stage production into a musical about orphaned child laborers (pictured above) in a drought stricken world fighting to escape a toxic factory and redefine home.
River House Inheritance is the creation of writer-director Sandra Lee who is the Assistant Professor of Film and Digital Media at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. She produced this film with the help of her students. It’s about two sisters competing over a house left for them on the Brazos River, a river that runs through Waco.
Those Left Behind is from American director Maria Finitzo who is a Peabody Award-winning filmmaker. Daphne Zuniga (Spaceballs and Melrose Place) stars as a woman (pictured above) who returns to her childhood home with her teenage son to help her mother recover from surgery but opens up old wounds about a death in the family.
Tierra Caliente is from Mexico. Director Laura Plancarte was born in Mexico City and she creates this docudrama, based on a true story, about a Mexican family caught in the crossfire between the Narco drug cartels and the military. The screenplay was adapted from transcripts of actual recordings the real family made over a period of two years.
In addition to dozens of new, independent films, PDXFF will also screen a curated selection of classics and decades-old crowd pleasers, many with connections to the Oregon area. These selections boast My Own Private Idaho (1991), Stand By Me (1986) and Short Circuit (1989), which are three movies shot in Oregon.
PDXFF will also host two special guests. This year, the festival celebrates two, iconic screenwriters and two of their most accomplished works. One is Chuck Palahniuk. The other is William F. Nolan. Both are scheduled for Q&A after screenings of films adapted from their works. Palahniuk will be on hand following Choke (2008) and Nolan will be present for Logan’s Run (1976).
The 2016 Portland Film Festival runs from Monday, August 29 to Monday, September 5. The fourth annual event will be held at the Laurelhurst Theater. There will also be educational panels and forums, as well as many parties and industry networking opportunities for the week-long experience.