Kickstarting the 2016 Women’s Film Fest

By Shanda Glover

Suffragette movie poster with Meryl Streep.The Women’s Center at the University of Idaho is constantly brainstorming new and engaging ways to explore different issues that affect women all around the world.

What better way to open the discussion on women’s issues than through film?

There is no denying that film is still being dominated by a male perspective. Women’s roles are dwindling. Our lines focus on men or our feelings for them. There needs to be stronger female perspectives and society needs to hear our voice and be inspired by the strong stature of women fighting against educational repression, sexual violence, victim shaming, and political restraints. We are so much more than just a love interest or comedic relief.

To show this, the University of Idaho’s Women’s Center proudly introduces the Spring 2016 Women’s Film Series with collaboration from the Kenworthy Theatre. The film series begins tonight, premiering bold, honest, exciting films produced by female directors. In the words of the Women’s Center Director, Lysa Salsbury: “The issues in these films explore voting and what voting signifies for women’s full personhood under the law; transgender issues; and sexual violence–ongoing problems for women around the world.” The films spotlight women’s suffrage, transgender identity, sexual violence, and women’s education.

That being said, the first film of the series, Suffragette, is a gripping film that details the push for women’s suffrage in the United Kingdom in 1911-13. The film will be introduced by Dr. Maggie Rehm, a lecturer in Women’s & Gender Studies at the University of Idaho. Directed by Sarah Gavron and written by Abi Morgan, Suffragette includes the events known by anyone familiar with the history: hunger strikes, bombs dropped in mailboxes, and the blowing up of Lloyd George’s summer home. The film shows the turning point in 1913 when Emily Wilding Davison was trampled to death by King George’s galloping horse on Derby Day after she stepped out in front of him with a “Votes for Women” banner in her hand. She became a martyr. The film is led by  actresses including Carey Mulligan, Meryl Streep, Natalie Press, and Helena Bonham Carter. Tonight at 6:30 p.m., the Kenworthy will have a special screening of the film with complimentary refreshments offered. Don’t miss it!

Next, showing on February 29 at the Kenworthy, is In the Turn, a documentary that follows Crystal, a 10-year-old transgender girl growing up in rural Canada. It will be introduced by Julia Keleher, Director of the UI LGBTQA Office, and Lindsey Peterson-Pope, member of the roller derby team, Palouse River Rollers.  The film is produced and directed by Erica Tremblay. Crystal navigates through the world around her, being bullied by her peers, and ridiculed by teachers. She faces daily insults and endures physical altercations which leave a painful toll on her self-esteem and dismantle her emotional stability. The film documents Crystal’s journey as she and her family struggle against prejudice and ignorance. However, after being denied the right to join a local athletics teams due to her gender, Crystal and her mom discover the Vagine Regime, an international queer collective of roller derby players. Crystal adds her profile to the many transgender, lesbian, and queer roller derby skaters who have found acceptance and empowerment in the Vagine Regime.

The next film in the series, showing on March 28, is India’s Daughter by filmmaker Leslie Udwin. Lipi Turner-Rahman, Coordinator of the Wallis and Marilyn Kimble Northwest History Database at Washington State University will give the introduction for this film. India’s Daughter follows the 2012 gang rape and murder of Jyoti Singh, a 23-year-old medical student in Delhi, India, which caused a nationwide outcry against an entire culture’s systemic dehumanization of women. According to Sheri Linden of the Hollywood Reporter, “Udwin captures an image-conscious country forced to take action after it’s caught with the whole world watching, the brutal effects of antiquated and noxious attitudes toward women exposed.” Udwin’s dramatic reconstruction of events offers unflinching access to her audience and bravely reaches into the minds of men who are taught, at an early age, to view women as their playthings and to lash out with deathly aggression.

Lastly, He Named Me Malala, will be shown on April 25. It will be introduced by Sayantani Dasgupta, a lecturer in English at the University of Idaho. The film is portrait of Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Malala Yousafzai, who was targeted by the Taliban and severely wounded by a gunshot when returning home on her school bus in Pakistan’s Swat Valley.  She is now leading a campaign for girls’ education globally as co-founder of the Malala Fund. Filmmaker Davis Guggenheim shows us how Malala, her father Zia, and her family are committed to fighting for education for all girls worldwide.

This film series is aimed to open discussion with the community and to inspire us to come together to fight for those whose rights to have their voices heard, and their existence respected, have been desecrated. These films remind us of so many different stories of emotional instability, lack of justice and abuse that has tested and will continue to test the spirit of so many women in our country and beyond. Most importantly, we are reminded that we still have so much work ahead of us, but together we must keep going.

Remember to come see Suffragette at the Kenworthy tonight. The film starts at 7:30 p.m., but there will be an informal reception at 6:30 p.m. with refreshments.

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