Saturday, March 26, 2011

WAM! Boston Film Festival Reflection

Today I attended the Women, Action, and Media (WAM!) Boston Film Festival at MIT, and I gotta say, it was a great way to finish off this year's Women's History Month! I had the pleasure of seeing 4 great documentaries. But first, an invigorating panel on the state of women in the film industry, where it was made clear that women are still not being taken seriously in the film industry (big surprise) and they're mostly confined to certain roles such as planning, gathering crew members, and asking for donations while the men take on most of the technical positions. Since I'm considering a possible career, or at least dabbling, in social activism media or documentary film making, this panel was certainly valuable and inspirational!

The first documentary I got to watch was called Beauty Mark, which was about the "race" to physical perfection. "Race" was a play on words because more than half of it focused on the filmmaker and her personal image and weight issues which were rooted in her athleticism. Not a unique situation. To be honest, it didn't quite live up to my expectations: it was very focused on the filmmaker, her history and her family situation, with less than half examining other aspects of the overall obsession with physical perfection. It did, however, feature some prominent experts, such as Eve Ensler, Naomi Wolf, and the guy who wrote the Obesity Myth whose name has slipped my mind. I've seen better documentaries on the subject, most prominently "America The Beautiful," which may have been made by a man, BUT is an amazing examination of America's obsession with beauty. I'm sorry, but as much as I support women in film, I won't go so far as to favor a mediocre film made by a woman over an exceptional one made by a man, but I will give that his gender may have meant the ability to get more funding and access to resources than if he was a woman.

After "Beauty Mark" was a short film called "Weightless," which was about overweight women who scuba dive. I know that sounds kinda lame, but it was pretty cool. This film had the audacity to feature women who, rather than cry about their weight and go to extreme measures to be skinny - felt awesome about themselves and found something awesome to do with their bodies regardless of size. In a Q&A with the filmmaker, it was revealed that the documentary was going to be a longer film about heavy women doing lots of awesome things and feeling great about themselves. While the movie itself wasn't all that exciting, it was certainly inspiring.

The third documentary was a gem from the Media Education Foundation called "The Gloucester 18." It was about the spike in teen pregnancy some years ago in Gloucester, MA, and the truth behind it. The film debunked the myth that there was a pact, clarified that one third of the pregnancies did not make it to term (though it was unclear if they were aborted or miscarried), and revealed some dark details about the girls' lives. It was incredibly eye opening about the issue of teenage pregnancy, highlighting the causes of it and the reasons why some girls get pregnant on purpose. It also shines a light on the realities of teen pregnancy, both in Gloucester and in nearby towns such as Springfield and Lowell. I highly recommend this one, and I was glad to be able to see it since it's one of the MEF movies I'd wanted to see for a while.

We were then given an hour for dinner. However, MIT must have been on spring break because it was next to impossible to find a restaurant or fast food establishment on or near the campus. Most of the places that were open were sit-down places, like Legal Seafoods. Being alone, I just wanted to grab some cheap food, eat, maybe walk around for a bit, and then return to the Stata Center on time for the last film, "Someone Sang for Me."

"Someone Sang For Me" was like Freedom Writers meets Glee - if Will Schuster was a kickass African American woman. It was about a school in Springfield that was suffering major budget cuts, and a woman started an after-school singing program for the students. The kids mostly sang songs they wrote together, which were songs about the struggles they faced growing up in an impoverished area, facing racism and classism. The film highlighted the power of music on kids' lives, and it was a great way to end the festival.

Sadly, because some events and films were run simultaneously, I was only able to catch about half of the presentations of the day. However, I'm happy with the choices I made, and I'm glad I chose to attend the event.

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