Last night at the Academy Awards, something odd happened. Brie Larson, who won an Oscar last year for Best Actress for her portrayal of a survivor of sexual assault in The Room, had to present the award of Best Actor to Casey Affleck of all people, a man who’s been called out in recent months for his alleged history of sexually harassing women on set and creating an unsafe workplace. It was awkward. Clearly, more work needs to be done to promote gender equality in film and it seems that the Chicago Feminist Film Festival is up to the task.
Now in its second year, the festival features over 50 short films that have all been directed and/or produced by women, trans, and other gender fluid people to help promote the cause of gender visibility in cinema. “Studies on diversity levels in the film industry illustrate the need to encourage more opportunities for those who have been typically marginalized,” said Michelle Yates, an assistant professor of Humanities, History, and Social Sciences at Columbia College in a press release.
Data agrees with her. In a study published by the University of Southern California, they looked at 1000 of the highest-grossing films between the years of 2007 and 2016 and found that only 4% of them were directed by women. Yates continues in the press release that, “The festival allows us to provide under-represented filmmakers the recognition they have earned.”
The festival kicks off March 1, this Wednesday night, at Columbia with a screening of the fantastic horror anthology, XX. Roxanne Benjamin, the director for one of the film’s segments, will be in attendance and is going to stick around afterwards for a Q&A.
The festival wraps on March 3, this Friday, with the Chicago debut of Woman on Fire, a documentary about New York City’s first openly trans firefighter. Brooke Guinan and James Baker, the subjects of the documentary, as well as Julie Sokolow, the film’s director, will all be in attendance and will answer questions during a post-screening Q&A.
In between XX and Woman on Fire, there will be several programs of short films.
The Chicago Feminist Film Festival takes place at Columbia College’s Film Row Cinema (1104 S. Wabash Ave) March 1 – 3. The full schedule can be found on the festival’s website. Admission is free and open to the public.