One of the few good news stories to come out of Hollywood in 2020 is the continuing recognition of the contributions women make to the film industry.
There’s still a lot of work to do to achieve equity, but for the first time, two women have been nominated in the best director category. Hopefully, it’s a sign that things will keep moving in the right direction.
But anyone who has participated in the last 11 years of Denver Film’s Women+Film Festival already knows that stories told by and about women have a breadth and depth more than equal to their male peers.
“It’s so important to support women behind the camera,” said Barbara Bridges, founder of the festival. “In the last 50 years, women have only accounted for 30% of speaking roles, so it’s important to see women on the screen as well. Any kind of work women are doing is important.”
The 12th annual Women+Film Festival will take place April 13-18. Like the Denver Film Festival in October, the films will be streaming on Denver Film’s virtual platform. The platform allows for viewers to stream their selected films on Roku, AppleTV or their computer or mobile device.
The 2020 iteration of the festival looked vastly different than ever before due to COVID-19-related uncertainties and emerging rules. In the end, it became a several-month summer series virtually highlighting some of the participating films for audiences. Getting this year’s festival running was a bit easier now that the organization has experience with its virtual platform — but deciding which films to showcase took a lot of work.
“Selecting films for the festival is an extensive process Barb and I collaborate on,” said Matt Campbell, Denver Film’s artistic director. “It’s really about having a diverse mix of offerings in the program. We have a great balance of types of films, as well as a lot of international films, and stories from different cultures and minority representation.”
The year’s line-up — which includes narrative and documentary, feature-length and short films — highlights a variety of subjects and stories on characters that audiences might be familiar with and those to learn about.
The opening night selection is Mariem Pérez Riera’s documentary, “Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It.” The film follows the legendary entertainer through her roles on the stage, television and silver screen, and gives audiences a personal look at one of the most dynamic performers around as she remembers the racism and sexism she faced on her way to success. The film is only available on the 13th.
The festival-closer is Nicole Riegel’s “Holler,” featuring Pamela Adlon and Jessica Barden. The story follows Barden’s Ruth Avery as she struggles through life in rural Ohio and attempts to escape to college and a better future. But the road out of town may exact a higher cost than she expected. The film is only available on the 18th.
All the other films shown as part of the festival are available for the duration and can be streamed whenever the viewer wants. Highlights include “Playing With Sharks,” “Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir” and “Through the Night.” There is also a nine-film shorts collection from all over the world.
“The way we approach the festival remains the same, no matter what platform or medium we’re using,” Bridges said. “I still hear from people who are excited to take part in the festival — they’re planning watch parties. These are films that can be enjoyed by anyone.”
As is often the case, there will be several conversations with filmmakers and local connections, providing the viewer with both a more personal and larger-scale connection to the works. This adds another layer to the aim of the festival in the first place — to celebrate the power of women both behind and in front of the camera.
“The most interesting films being made are directed by women, and the most interesting stories are coming from women,” Campbell said. “We want to follow what’s current and interesting in the film industry, and we think women-centered stories and female filmmakers are where it’s at.”