With all of the headlines over the past few years about inclusion and gender parity in Hollywood, surely women are riding an unparalleled wave of representation.
I mean, they must be.
What’s that? An annual study showed women directed just 8 percent of the 250 highest-grossing movies of 2018? And that number is actually down from 11 percent in 2017 and 9 percent all the way back in 1998?
This is why there’s still a place for events such as this weekend’s fifth annual Nevada Women’s Film Festival.
“Since our mission is to celebrate the fair representation of women in film, we always look for films that do that. So whether that means a female director or female subject matter or a main character, that’s what we’re looking for,” says Nikki Corda, the festival’s executive director and founder. “But just like any other film festival, we’re looking for good stories. We’re looking for stories that matter, that move people.”
The festival will screen 45 such films, representing 10 countries, Thursday through Sunday at Eclipse Theaters, 814 S. Third Street. (For more information, including tickets and a full schedule, see nwffest.com.)
It isn’t all bad news for women working behind the scenes in Hollywood. That survey, sponsored by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University, reported that women made up 20 percent of the workforce when you combine directors with writers, producers, executive producers, editors and cinematographers.
Those numbers still aren’t great, but that representation is up from 18 percent the previous year.
And these aren’t just blockbusters that women are being excluded from. By basing the study on the top 250 movies of 2018, that covers roughly everything grossing at least $1 million at the box office. That’s a rounding error when it comes to the ticket sales for a Marvel movie.
Corda says 90 percent or more of the submissions to her festival are directed by women. “There may be a few more male directors this year than usual, but the few films that are directed by men are incredible women’s stories.”
Among those, she cites the documentary “Betty — They Say I’m Different” (1 p.m. Sunday), the story of funk pioneer Betty Davis, whose high-profile marriage to Miles Davis is among the least interesting aspects of her career. “She was doing stuff that was wilder than Beyonce before there was a Beyonce,” Corda says. “She really was a trailblazer for African-American women in music.”
Actress Jordana Spiro (“Ozark”) and her co-screenwriter, Angelica Nwandu, will receive the festival’s Vanguard Award for their work on “Night Comes On,” Spiro’s feature directing debut. The movie, a Sundance Film Festival award winner, follows a teenager (Dominique Fishback) fresh out of juvenile detention and her bond with her 10-year-old sister (Tatum Marilyn Hall) who’s mired in the foster care system. Following a screening of the film at 2 p.m. Saturday, Spiro and Nwandu will sit down for a discussion with Danette Tull of the Nevada Film Office.
Susan Anton, the recipient of the festival’s Nevada Woman of Achievement, will talk about her life and career during an opening-night event at 7 p.m. Thursday. “She was such a powerhouse,” Corda says of Anton’s appearance during the festival’s “Sexual Harassment in the Film Industry” panel in 2018. “She’s so impressive. She speaks truth to power.”
Two of the more powerful entries, both international films chronicling women fighting back against civil rights abuses, are grouped at 9:45 p.m. Saturday. “From the Afghan People for Americans” looks at the progress women have made in overcoming centuries of oppression in Afghanistan. “Born as a Girl,” meanwhile, examines the slums of Colombia, where violence against women and sex trafficking of minors is commonplace.
“We’ve seen a lot of that since the very first year of the festival,” Corda says of documentaries that shine a light on the struggles of women around the world.
“First, it shocked me. Now, I’m still shocked, but I’m also just really glad to know that there are women out there telling these stories.”
The annual Celluloid Ceiling report has tracked women’s employment on top-grossing films for the past 21 years. Among the findings for the 250 highest-grossing movies of 2018, women made up:
26 percent of producers (versus 25 percent in 2017)
21 percent of executive producers (versus 19 percent in 2017)
16 percent of writers (versus 11 percent in 2017)
8 percent of directors (versus 11 percent in 2017)
4 percent of cinematographers (versus 4 percent in 2017)
Source: Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, San Diego State University