I’m definitely still recovering from my trip to Austin for SXSW, but I wanted to get my thought on the festival on record. I was there for 8 days of the festival and went to 24 screenings, 22 feature length films and 2 collections of shorts. I made it my goal to see as many female directed films as I could, and while I failed to get to the 50% mark that I wanted, 8 of the 22 features were female directed (I’m calling myself caught up on 52 films by women). The 22 features were split right down the middle between narratives and documentaries, and of the 11 narratives, 7 of them passed the Bechdel test. I’m not thrilled with that percentage, but 64% is about average for all films and 36% female directed films is, depressingly, well above average.
Even though I gave each film a quick blurb while watching them, I want to highlight the best ones that I saw. Two narratives really stuck out to me, and they both share a similar story of women attempting to deal with a difficult time in their lives. “Miss Stevens” by Julia Hart is an amazing tale of a teacher who takes three students on a weekend trip. Lily Rabe plays the titular character who is clearly struggling with some emotional distress as she begrudgingly lets the students into her life. What really made the film stand out was how they subverted expectations right when it looked like it was about to fall into the standard teacher student cliché. The left turn from that moment elevates the film to the point that I’m still constantly thinking about it almost a week later.
“Claire in Motion” by Annie Howell and Lisa Robinson was my standout film of the festival. Unfortunately , I have doubts that it will receive much in the way of distribution. Betsy Brandt plays Claire a woman dealing with the sudden disappearance of her husband. She meets Allison played by Anna Hollyman who had a secret relationship, though not necessarily sexual, with her husband. Much like “Miss Stevens”, “Claire in Motion” refuses to fall into a simple cliché, and instead is a really brutal exploration of the mourning process. The camera work is beautiful, and the emotions moved me. I hope that my predictions are incorrect and that this film sees the light of day.
Friday, I will return to the 52 films by women project (finally going to see Heart of a Dog by Laurie Anderson). Next Tuesday, I’ll talk about the documentaries that continue to move me.