"The Visionary" Screens At Midwest Film Festival

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Gwydhar answers questions about "The Visionary" at the Midwest Film Festival's Female Filmmaker night.

March 2nd, 2010 was the first Tuesday of the month, and at the Landmark Century Theatre in Chicago that means the Midwest Film Festival. We attended because our film "The Visionary" was screening as part of the inaugural Female Filmmakers shorts program along with ten other short films all directed and produced by filmmakers of the feminine persuasion.

I'd never participated in the Midwest film festival but I was excited to have the opportunity to finally check it out. The evening's official events started out with a Producers Panel of three women in The Industry describing their own experiences working to produce their most recent projects. They were:

  • Barbara Wallace, whose specialty is television and whose most recent project was "State of Romance" that was partly shot here in Chicago. Apparently, one of the biggest difficulties getting people to shoot in Chicago is largely related to the unpredictable weather... not that this is something I know anything about- *ahem pickupshootduringwinterstormwarning koff*. Sorry, tickle in my throat. 
  • Amy Weber, who comes from an advertising background and was promoting her recently released film "Annabelle and Bear". To my private embarrassment I spent a lot of the panel with my envy alarms going off muttering in the back of my mind about "stupid cool kids getting all the attention for their big feature movies and all..." It was a moment of reversion to junior high and I was quite sure, at the time, that I would have no interest in ever seeing that movie thank you very much. Then they played the trailer and the distant strains of the worlds smallest violin playing a sad, sad, song just for me were drowned out with all the rest of my neurons going "OMG I WANNA SEE THIS MOVIE!!!!!" Seriously, guys, it looks that good.
  • Tracy Baim, last but certainly not least, was there promoting her recently premiered "Hannah Free". The film, which I knew nothing about at the time, was doing well and had been well received by the gay and lesbian market. From her description of the film I thought it was quite nice, but probably wasn't aimed at my market, so I might see it if the opportunity came up but really, did I need to go out of my way? Again, once I saw the trailer that voice in my head immediately piped up and said "YES".

The Producer's Panel wrapped up and the evening's main program began. The block of short films was divided into two parts with a break in the middle. During the break (and at the end) the filmmakers got to get up and say a few words about their projects which provided some nice insight into the themes and intentions behind each film. And the films really ran the gamut with: love, horror, artsy, philosophical, animated, music video, dramatic, comedic, and documentary were all dynamically represented.

More after the jump...

The Innaugural Female Filmmaker's Night

One might be tempted to believe that a Female Filmmakers evening would be rife with girly movies, chick flicks, femenist soapboxes, romantic comedies and other works of the cutie-patootie variety, but it turns out that this isn't the case. This isn't to say that they weren't represented at all; the evening's one outright romantic film, a short called "The Miss" by Grace McPhillips managed to be very cutie without the patootie. And "Race You" by Samantha Hart and Jennifer Moody managed to translate the imaginary landscape of a little-girl-all-grown-up into a vibrant video background for the music of the band Elizabeth and the Catapult.

When you get right down to it, the only difference I might've noticed was a very slightly different philosophical texture to each work. Jessica Christopher's psychological thriller "Skin Deep" had all the trimmings of a classic horror film yet dealt with themes of incest; a topic perhaps more compellingly scary to a female audience. Similarily, "Whirlybird" by Danielle
Corches explores the surreal journey of a young girl in her first encounter with a loved ones death without ever playing to sentiment or stereotype as if to say; girls experience death too and that's just the way life is.

In a more light hearted way "Bring It In" by Dina Facklis also dealt with the subject of girls and death in a comedy about a junior high basketball coach trying to help his team through a student's untimely death. But don't get me wrong- this film was anything but a downer- as it had members of the audience howling with laughter. Yes, the belly laughs were flowing freely, but there was some close competition with another sly little short called "Treeless Squirrel" (Anna Patel). This clever little nut, if you'll allow me the pun, masquerades as a social message to plant more trees, but don't be deceived, it is actually comedic entertainment at it's finest. And anyone who thinks that scatalogical humor is limited to the menfolk ought to take a gander at a short film by Holly Todd, Sarah Schooley and Merje Veski entitled... well, "A Short Film". I'd say more, but I wouldn't want to ruin the fun.

Sometimes the laughs carry a message as well, such as Laura Heit's "Look For Me" which explores the pros and cons of being invisible for a day. Sometimes the message stands alone such as Jenni Olson's minimalist "575 Castro Street" paying tribute to the words of Harvey Milk. And sometimes the message is less important than the journey of the character such as "The Egg Timer" by Emily Haddad and the journey of a young woman dealing with her guilt relating to the death of her brother.

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And then there's a film like "The Visionary" which doesn't seem like a girl movie at all until you realize that it's all about relationships and communication.

So the moral of the story is: Don't Be Fooled. If I'd been watching this same series of films without knowing that
they were made by female filmmakers I'm not sure that I ever would have
been able to point to any of them and say "Oh yeah, that's totally a girl film"

The moral of the story is that when it comes to female filmmakers, the emphasis is firmly and deliberately planted on the filmmaker part.

CHICAGO TRIBUNE VIDEO

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  • Congratulations! To me, watching work by a female film maker is always a treat. It's like taking a vacation to a land I've never been to before but always knew it's one of the best places I will visit.

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