Given everything that’s transpired over the past year, there’s never been a better time to be in the women’s film festival business.
Although at the rate things have been progressing in Hollywood, Nikki Corda — founder of the Nevada Women’s Film Festival, which runs Thursday through Sunday at Eclipse Theaters — could find herself out of a job.
“It wouldn’t be unique anymore,” Corda says of her festival, now in its fourth year, if women achieve parity in the movie business. “It would be like having a White Man’s Film Festival.”
Even so, she says, “That doesn’t mean I don’t want things to continue to change for the positive.”
‘Being an activist is suddenly cool again’
In addition to the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements, during the 12 months between festivals, Greta Gerwig was the fifth female director and “Mudbound’s” Rachel Morrison was the first female cinematographer to be nominated for an Oscar; Patty Jenkins’ “Wonder Woman” became the highest-grossing movie directed by a woman; Ava DuVernay became the first black woman to direct a movie (“A Wrinkle in Time”) with a budget of more than $100 million; and Sofia Coppola was just the second woman to win best director at the Cannes Film Festival.
“I do feel like we’re right on time here with our festival,” says Corda, who notes that “being an activist is suddenly cool again.”
Still, equality isn’t exactly hanging out around the corner just waiting to be found.
According to an annual study sponsored by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University, women made up just 18 percent of all directors, writers, editors, cinematographers, producers and executive producers on the 250 highest-grossing films last year at the domestic box office.
Despite having worked in film development at Twentieth Century Fox and Paramount, Corda admits she had been “living under a rock” until she saw the 2011 documentary “Miss Representation,” which chronicled the relative lack of American women in positions of power and influence.
“It really woke me up to the statistics of how few women directors there are, how few women cinematographers and writers even were really being heard,” says Corda, who teaches at Nevada State College but was at the College of Southern Nevada at the time. She was inspired to start the CSN Women’s Film Collective, which morphed into the nonprofit Nevada Women’s Film Collective. When the inaugural 2015 festival was announced, she says, “Overnight, we got, like, 900 submissions.”
This year’s festival opens at 7 p.m. Thursday with a tribute to Diana Eden, the Emmy-nominated Las Vegas-based costume designer and recipient of the festival’s first Nevada Woman of Achievement award, whom Corda calls “a treasure in our community.” (For a complete schedule and ticket information, see nwffest.com.)
The festival’s Vanguard Award will be presented to writer-director Stephanie Rothman. At first glance, honoring a protege of Roger Corman and a pioneer of exploitation cinema whose movies include “It’s a Bikini World” and “The Student Nurses” may seem like an odd choice for a women’s film festival.
“Once we got to know Stephanie’s work and what she did, I realized how important she was for paving the way for women,” Corda says.
“She didn’t even realize she was working in a genre called ‘exploitation.’ ”
Rothman will take part in a conversation at 4 p.m. Saturday, following a 2 p.m. screening of “The Student Nurses.”
A panel discussion titled “Raising Our Voices: Combating Sexual Harassment in the Film Industry” is scheduled for noon Saturday and will be moderated by UNLV film department chairwoman Dr. Heather Addison.
Among the documentary features being screened are director Susan Wolf’s “Mata Hari” (6 p.m. Friday), the festival’s opening film, and “Dolores” (1 p.m. Sunday), executive produced by Carlos Santana, about the life of activist Dolores Huerta, who co-founded the National Farm Workers Association with Cesar Chavez.
‘Giving back to the community’
“Typically we get way more documentaries submitted to us than fiction. … And I’m wondering if maybe documentaries are a form that women naturally embrace,” Corda says. “I know I do.”
“Dolores” was directed by Peter Bratt. And, no, that isn’t a typo. “We have quite a few men directors that we’ve selected to screen this year. We love men,” Corda says, laughing, “and we want them to be a part of this. We’re not in any way against men.”
As for what she hopes attendees get out of this year’s festival, Corda says, “We’re giving back to the community, and I’d love people to take that from the festival — that it’s another way to see great art and great culture and be exposed to films that you would never otherwise get to see, even on Netflix and even on cable.
“And, you know,” she jokes, “that whole feminist thing, too.”
Contact Christopher Lawrence at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-4567. Follow @life_onthecouch on Twitter.