At a time when the role of women in film is both the subject of national debate and the inspiration for international movements, organizers of SUNY Cortland’s Blackbird Film Festival decided to take a new approach.
By design, more than half of the roughly 120 scheduled offerings during the festival’s return to campus April 20-22 will be films made by women.
“It’s in a direct response to the #TimesUp and the #MeToo movements,” said Sam Avery, assistant professor of Communication Studies and the executive/artistic director and lead festival programmer. “What we’re doing is a little different but it’s not revolutionary,” Avery said. “But I assume other festivals will start to catch on.”
Although there are many female-only film festivals held around the country each year, , many others are dominated by male filmmakers, and always have been. The Blackbird Film Festival organizers and judges deliberately selected films to ensure that the gender balance of filmmakers mirrored the ratio of men to women in the general population.
“I thought this year, why not try something a little different and split the breakdown of filmmakers 50-50?” Avery said. “Actually, it worked out that we have 53 percent of our films made by women this year. Frankly, I don’t know of another festival that does it that way.”
A “Women in Film” panel will be a highlight of the programming on Saturday, April 21. The panelists are: Sarah Elder, an award-winning documentary filmmaker; Yasmin Mistry, an Emmy-nominated animator and filmmaker; Christina “Kit” Vinsick, a director, producer and writer; Aislinn Clarke, a filmmaker, writer and director; Jennifer Dean, a theater producer; and Danielle Dellaporta, an actress and writer. Kathleen Lawrence and Caroline Kaltefleiter, both SUNY Cortland professors of communication studies, will moderate the panel, which begins at 3:30 p.m. Room location will be determined at a later date.
Visit BlackbirdFilmFest.com for updates and detailed information on each of the panelists. The site also has a complete listing of this year’s selected films, 20 of which were made by SUNY Cortland students.
Alyssa Marley, a senior from Newburgh, N.Y. who is a communication studies major with a concentration in media production, is serving as the festival’s assistant director of digital content and marketing. She is looking forward to sharing her work and getting to meet other female filmmakers.
“It’s very inspiring, especially for a female like me who’s going into the media field after graduation,” Marley said. “I think it’s very empowering to have a majority of female filmmakers. It’s really cool and it’s not unheard of but I believe it can be a catalyst for years to come.”
Blackbird Film Festival has been a champion for independent and student filmmakers since it began in 2015, and has grown every year. This year, more than 1,580 films were submitted for consideration to the festival’s panel of student judges. Fewer than 8 percent of them made the cut.
Programming categories include documentary, love and romance, foreboding, environmental and dramatic action, among others.
Among the highlights of Blackbird 2018: