Female Filmmakers Featured at Blackbird Film Festival

Female Filmmakers Featured at Blackbird Film Festival

04/02/2018 

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 2017 Blackbird Film Festival
Marley, left, at the 2017 Blackbird Film Festival

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:

  • SUNY Cortland’s School of Education is sponsoring a pre-festival screening of “RE:Thinking: A Film About Education in America” at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 19 in Sperry Center, Room 105. The documentary raises questions about our current educational system and offers insight for policy makers, administrators, teachers, parents and the public. Andrea Lachance, dean of the School of Education, will join a panel session that also includes Avery; Deborah Hoard, the film’s director and producer; Luvelle Brown, superintendent of the Ithaca City School District and Chris Sperry, Ithaca College’s staff development director.
  • Officials from the Governor’s Office of Motion Picture and Television Development will speak about tax credit opportunities for filmmakers at 3:30 p.m. on Friday, April 20. Room location will be announced at a later date. Films and television shows shot in New York, including the filming of “Cold Brook” on the SUNY Cortland campus in July 2017, have contributed billions of dollars to the state economy.
  • Screenings begin with a block of premiere shorts at 6:30 p.m. on April 20. A kickoff party will be held at Bru64 on Main St., featuring a performance by SUNY Cortland’s Rock’n Blues Ensemble.
  • A group of selected filmmakers will meet with local participants in the YWCA’s Girls: Empowered, Motivated and Successful (GEMS) program to talk about careers in technology and media. GEMS works to help young girls make smart life choices and become confident leaders.
  • On Sunday, April 22, from 10:30 a.m. to 12 p.m., Blackbird will show a block of films on identity, which focus on topics such as sexual orientation and gender identity. A panel of experts will speak on these issues. The group of panelists is currently being finalized.
  • An award ceremony and dinner begins at 5:30 p.m. on April 22 at Cortland Repertory Theatre on Port Watson St. in Cortland. The ceremony is sponsored by the Cortland County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.

For the latest on the festival, use the hashtag #blackbirdfilmfest and follow the festival on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. And visit the official website at BlackbirdFilmFest.com.


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