girls on film festival: 2015 program preview and interview with festival director karen pickering
The Girls on Film Festival is back again in 2015 after the incredible success of its debut last year. This year’s program features an eclectic mix of universal classics, home-grown gems, foreign language films and unique documentaries that will surely delight even the most casual of film fanatics.
Highlights of this year’s line-up include an invite-only opening night screening of Desperately Seeking Susan, featuring a very 80’s Madonna. Saturday kicks off with a screening of Hayao Miyazaki’s masterpiece Princess Mononoke, followed by documentaries In the Turn and Black Panther Women.
No doubt the hot-ticket item of the festival is the Saturday afternoon Girl Germs session featuring a zine fair and workshop, sweet tunes from The Girl Fridas, a nail bar and motivational speakers, followed by a screening of the roller-derby comedy Whip It. Saturday closes with a Scream Queens double bill of the Iranian vampire-Western A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night and the camp Aussie horror comedy The Loved Ones.
Sunday features a trifecta of Girl Gang flicks set to inspire the younger GOFF go-ers with Matilda, Bend it Like Beckham and Romy + Michelle’s High School Reunion. Finally, the incredible closing night film Thelma & Louise will be followed by an epic after-party kicking on until the early hours.
This week, I had a chat to co-founder and director of the festival, Karen Pickering, about the festival, feminism and kickass women.
How did the idea of GOFF come about?
It came about because of people like me who love movies and love going to film festivals still felt as though everytime we did that the movies were overwhelmingly about men and made by men. So I talked to some of my friends about imagining what it would be like if there was a feminist film festival that only showed films that had women and girls as the main characters and the festival just evolved from there.
What do you think the importance of GOFF is?
I think for women and girls who love pop culture it can be really disheartening to find that the stories that are available are not about you, and not even about other women or girls. There are plenty of amazing movies out there, it’s just putting them all together in the one place and inviting feminists of every persuasion to come together in a really fun and happy space. For girls especially, seeing girls and women on the big screen doing lots of different things and doing things that are exciting and inspiring is important.
Most female-focused films are being pushed into these really small, niche spaces. What is your take on the inequality in mainstream Hollywood movies?
GOFF is showing that really films are being made about women and girls who are kickass characters and who do extraordinary things, but the gender split of representation in film is shocking, it’s only marginally better than the gender split of the people who make films. It’s really clear from the numbers that we have got a big problem with the way women are represented in film. So we wanted to show films where women are front and centre and are the protagonists who drive all the action.
What film on the 2015 GOFF program are you most excited for?
I am pretty excited that we’re showing Matilda, it’s such a terrific movie. Our closing night film is Thelma & Louise, that’s an all-time favourite of mine. It’s a movie that’s amazing to think even got made, but I think it would be even harder to make now. It works so well due to its casting and the female characters at the centre of it. The character trajectory does involve their complex relationships with men, but it doesn’t centre on that, it’s actually a movie about female relationships.
How do you choose the films on the program?
You have to make sure that the titles are going to balance each other out. We wanted to make sure that the program was representative, inclusive and diverse and had films that were from different parts of the world and showed female protagonists who were from various races, sexualities and religions. It’s not enough to say that all of these films are about women, you have to try as much as possible to make sure that they’re about all women.
Why do you think Melbourne needs a feminist film festival as something completely different from traditional film festivals like MIFF?
I go to other film festivals and have always been really frustrated by how women are sidelined within them. I want to see movies about women and girls, and I want to see movies made by women because then it’s a woman telling the story. But they’re not always chosen or selected by other festivals. The success of the GOFF last year suggests that a lot of other people feel the same way. Melbourne has such an incredibly strong, energetic and engaged feminist community that we probably couldn’t have started GOFF anywhere else.
Do you have a favourite feminist film character?
I do love Ripley, like as far as head-bitches in-charge go, she’s one of my favourites. I am also a huge Buffy tragic. Last year we got to show 9 to 5 which is one of my favourite feminist movies and the three main characters would have to be up there with my other feminist film heroes. But feminist heroes are everywhere, even in movies that are essentially not about women. Female characters in films like Pulp Fiction or particular movies that are really masculine and have these huge impacts in our popular culture, you just can’t imagine them without the female characters.
What is the feminist film that changed your life?
One of the movies I saw around the time that I was discovering feminism was The Piano, and that was really effecting and life changing for me. It’s such a complex and powerful film, and I remember being totally floored by it. Honestly, the thing that has pushed me to seek out feminist films is that I have seen so many films that are deeply misogynist. Those films were probably more formative to me than stuff that really stood as super feminist. Thelma & Louise was a movie I saw 20 years ago in a time of my life when I probably didn’t identify as feminist and I couldn’t have loved that movie more.
Melbourne’s first and only feminist film festival will be held at Cretan House in Brunswick East from October 23 – 25. For program information, booking details, and anything else you need to know about the Festival, visit their website.