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Spend International Women’s Day with ladies behind the lens

Meghan Oretsky
March 8, 2017 by Meghan Oretsky Staff

At this year’s Sundance Film Festival, we invited a group of Staff Picked filmmakers to our house for a Share the Screen meetup. The core goal of Share the Screen is to support female filmmakers, so we welcomed such talented ladies as (but not limited to!) Reka Busci, Kati Skelton, Amanda Bonaiuto, Jessica Beshir, and Lily Baldwin. Lily had a lot to say about how Vimeo can continue lifting up and providing resources for women in film. We soaked up her words like sponges, excited to bring this information back to Vimeo HQ and use it to inform future plans for Share the Screen. For this International Women’s Day, Lily was kind enough to curate a channel of filmmakers who have energized, enlightened, and inspired her as a filmmaker, dancer, and human. 

About her Women to Watch channel, she said:

“For me this collection is about saying to women: all this kind of stuff exists and more. Don’t try to fit in. Think outside who’ve you considered yourself to be. Move beyond daring yourself to think ‘like a dude’ and just think all you can think.  Being a woman is a badge of honor for me, but let’s imagine a moment when it isn’t such a thing — something to defend or fight for. I want someone to like my work because they resonate with it, not because I’m a woman. I’d like to propose a world that isn’t cemented in binary oppositions, especially in our increasingly polarized world. Connection is the goal, right?

And yes we live in a world run by men! These people I’ve curated aren’t necessarily making films about what it means to be a woman, but they’ve embraced a distinct perspective and committed to excavating it. I want this collection to inspire women to make what only they can make. Let’s all trust that there’s enough to go around.

It’s been an utter pleasure to collect the work of my friends and heroes, in addition to finding new faces. Vimeo is special in how it creates a niche, almost ‘theatrical’ feeling to the online space for short films. With these selections, I wanted to recognize the box into which female filmmakers are placed and then expand its edges. These are people using moving images from multiple perspectives: interactive street projections, hardcore documentary, performance/video art, revamped genre stuff, odes to the analogue, upping the music video ante, exploring blurry transitions between truth and fiction, using unconventional story tools to re-appropriate what we know, shed light on the taboo — and then some.”

In an industry where women are miserably under- and misrepresented both in front of and behind the lens, we at Vimeo want to help diverse filmmakers thrive in the film industry. We’d love to hear what you need and how we can help; share any thoughts in the comments below. I also encourage you to directly message me with film submissions for Staff Picks or inclusion in Ladies With Lenses.

I asked Lily to comment on a few of the films she showcased in the Women to Watch channel. Here are her thoughts and a few films from me that we felt were perfect for this day of females celebrating fellow females:

Lily: I met Celia Rowlson-Hall about twelve years ago dancing in NYC and she is one of my partners in crime. I’ve loved seeing her push the boundaries with her brilliant use of dance that buoyantly always cuts to the heartbreaking middle of the truth.

Maya Deren
has been a huge inspiration — the way she uses bodies to depict an expansive universe. She cuts on action like fluid magic, using movement as the thread between time and place. I was talking to Celia about making this channel and said, “Babe, who’s your favorite filmmaker?” We both agree that Maya Deren is one of ours.

Meghan: If one short can sum up the fact that our relationship with our body changes and grows over time, it is Celia Bullwinkel’s “Sidewalk.” Each life stage carries its individual struggles and triumphs (through which we should extend compassion to each other, as the ending suggests), but at the end of the day, we recognize that we are owners of incredible machines...

Meghan: Strong. Capable. Resilient. Givers of Life.

Kathryn Ferguson’s tribute to the abilities and inherent beauty of the female form is unwavering in its declaration. We will not stand for society’s criticisms and judgement. We were made exactly as we were meant to be made, and that’s more than okay.

Lily: Lynne Ramsay is unabashedly to the point and I just love that about her. She uses elegant beauty like a cunning knife to reveal dark human things. It was a pleasure to see her in action when I was on the set for her feature film “We Need to Talk About Kevin.” Her work is this wicked good balance of intuition and craft — in particular the way she incorporated flashbacks into “We Need to Talk About Kevin.”

Meghan: Kristine Stolakis’ BAFTA-nominated documentary “Where We Stand” follows a group of Mormons fighting for women’s ordainment in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “Fighting” is almost too strong of a word to use for this incredibly dedicated, composed, and compassionate group of activists, requesting the right to speak up at what is essentially a community meeting.

Lily: I want to honor the women before us who paved our way — especially when they were working with a more rigid patriarchy. (I always feel like it’s key to understand the climate a filmmaker is working in when having opinions.)

Agnes Varda is the under-recognized female force working in the French New Wave (also married to Jacques Demy). Her films really move me — there’s basically no fluff or no bullshit. It’s hard-knock poetry.

Cindy Sherman’s “Paper Dolls”: I got to know Cindy while dancing on tour with David Byrne. What’s so striking about her is how she uses herself as her medium and essentially has defined her practice with her own tools, working alone in a studio. There’s something dancerly about this methodology and self-rigor. I find her work incredibly dark and playful at the same time. There’s an admirable ruthlessness to her malleable identities that’s not only self-reflexive but also a commentary on culture. What if we were all to play a bit more with our presentation—?

Jane Campion’s “Peel”: The first film that made me fall in love with short form. I realized that film could be a portal through the mundane into deeper feelings.

Note from Meghan: Though you may not find any films from these founding mothers of cinema in mainstream theaters, independent art houses and museums often screen their films in recognition of their impact on modern cinematic art.

Lily: I’d also like to give a nod to all the transgender filmmakers out there who at some point have lived as a woman, but no longer identify this way, and bring a unique insight to this space, including my friends Sam Feder and Silas Howard.

More amazing creators and films (in no particular order) to mention that deserve a toast: Mary Harron’s “American Psycho,” Elaine May’s “The Birdcage,” Dorothy Arzner, Sarah Polley, Ava Duvernay, Lina Wertmuller’s “Swept Away,” Lucretia Martel, Lisa Cholodenko’s “Hi Art”, Melina Matsoukas, Kimberly Pierce, Gillian Robespierre, Julie Taymor, Susan Seidelman, Athina Tsangari’s “Attenberg” — and so many more I’m forgetting and don’t yet know about!

To see all of Lily’s picks, check out her Women to Watch channel. Thanks for your hard work, Lily!

And for more incredible short films, check out the Ladies With Lenses channel, which is updated with new videos several times a week.

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