It’s no secret that women in film are often marginalized. In the words of Goldie Hawn’s character in “The First Wives Club,” “There are only three ages for women in Hollywood — babe, district attorney, and ‘Driving Miss Daisy.’” Though “First Wives” was made almost 20 years ago, it doesn’t appear that much has changed — at least in mainstream Hollywood.
Things are different in Oakland. Last Friday, The New Parkway Theater, in conjunction with Bay Area Women in Film and Media, hosted a fabulous showcase of short films made by women, celebrating their achievements and dedication to their craft. Read below for highlights.
“Filtered,” by high school students Anna Morris, Mariah Papy, Sydney Torrens, Amy Struthers and Abigail Werner, shows a young girl struggling to connect with her schoolmates. Shots of giggling teenagers gather around as an Instagram feed slowly gives way to scenes of the protagonist finding her own kin of girlfriends. “Filtered” embraces the unique strain of digital media on modern friendship and heralds the young, ever-improving talent in the Bay Area.
Filmmaker Emily Fraser places the spotlight on Mae de la Calzada, the owner of “Lady Parts,” in a documentary about a female-oriented auto shop. Piecing together interview scenes and shots of routine workplace services, Calzada recounts her initial focus on catering to single mothers. “[When] their cars break down, their lives break down,” she says in the film. By far one of the best short films of the evening, “Lady Parts” reconciles the typically masculine world of auto mechanics with the film’s focus on varied female perspectives.
From the heap of quality storytelling BAWIFM curated, no one would guess that Laura Van Zee Taylor’s documentary “The Scenes” and short “Somewhere” are her first productions. With the latter, Taylor marries tight plot construction with a broad range of shots. Wide views of a strangely majestic, glowing suburbia and escapist nightlife limo scenes present an intimate and empowering look at options for motherhood with a resounding “it’s never too late” theme.
Two shorts opted out of linear formats and engaged the audience with dialogue-free visuals. In “I Live in a Photo Booth,” Olya Dubatova’s camera follows Venice street artist Jules Muck as he drags a photobooth by rope along an abandoned beach strip. The gritty, slow motion labor contrasts strikingly with the glamor and effort of Muck’s selfies. An impressive slow pan into an aerial shot on Muck with a blowup doll concludes the thoughtful and (literally) in-your-face commentary about the #selfiegeneration.
Melinda James focuses on one woman chasing a mysterious faceless figure, utilizing black and white tones on a forest setting in “Traverse.” Close-ups on Converse pirouetting in the dirt and medium shots of her slow motion backflips on a lonesome log to the sound of ambient EDM create a sense of a longing urban ballerina. In a post-screening Q&A, James remarked that the inspiration for her experimental piece was “what is on the other side of your body’s joy and shame.”
To add to the innovative storytelling, “The Wright Murders” by Veronica Duport Deliz embeds layers of suspenseful narrative into each other, only revealing the cleverly woven structure of reality at the very end. Tactful perspectives from apartment ceilings, within kitchen cabinets, through door keyholes and from the bottom of a spiral staircase stimulate the audience as they witness the silly and creepy tale of a woman ordered to murder her neighbors. With original music and impressively winding camera movement, Deliz proves herself a filmmaker to watch for here in the Bay Area.
Ultimately, all featured films proved to be a huge success, reminding female audience members that — no matter their field or area of interest — women are a dominant and talented force to be reckoned with, especially when they band together. Finally, in a small, crowded Oakland theater, Goldie Hawn’s statement turned antiquated.
Contact Jennifer Wong at [email protected].