With the 21st Century well underway, opportunities for women in the film industry have never been greater, a change wrought by pioneering women of the last 100 years.
Those women, current and past, will be celebrated this week during the 5th annual Port Townsend Women and Film Festival.
“I feel so fortunate,” said Janette Force, executive director of the Port Townsend Film Festival, which is organizing the days long celebration. “It is a beautiful time in history to breathe on the spark that all of these women (ignited). It has been a long road.”
When the Women and Film Festival was launched five years ago, the intention was to highlight all of the women in the film industry who not only contribute overall but add a unique talent and perspective to the projects they are involved in, Force said.
“I wanted to show these films made by women and I thought, of course we want to do that and it has taken on a very important meaning in the industry.”
This year, selected movies will be screened April 13 and 14 at the Starlight Room, Rosebud Theater, the Rose and The Joseph F. Wheeler Theatre at Fort Worden.
One of the short films, “Portraits of Empowered Dames,” is meant to inspire the next generation of filmmakers, said director Claudine Marrotte.
The seven-minute film follows professional costumers, makeup artists and editors who are active in the film industry but may be otherwise invisible.
The point is not to exclude men, but to ensure a platform where all ideas receive equal weight, Marrote said.
“I believe creating a diverse balance on set of women and men is the most positive way to create content,” she said. “Always trust and believe in yourself because you inspire more people than you know, and we are all here to lift each other up.”
Similarly, the Women and Film Festival is not exclusive to women, Force said.
“There are films about women, there are films made by women or films that feature a subject that women find of interest. That is important to me.”
The very first festival pass sold five years ago went to a man from Seattle who was curious to learn more about women’s perspectives. “I truly respect that,” Force said.
Much has changed over the past century for women, as Doreen Hynd can attest to. Hynd is the subject of “The Great Balance,” a film by François Laliberté about Hynd’s ongoing contributions as a Tai Chi instructor.
“I go back nearly a century,” said Hynd, 93. “I had such little formal schooling because way back then everybody’s lives were extremely different. We were grateful just to be alive.”
Doreen, originally of Australia, is excited to participate in the film festival because it gets the local community involved in celebrating diversity, she said.
“Everybody is unique. We’ve all got two arms and two legs and two eyes. We’ve got a spirit and soul and that really speaks to who you are.”
Force said the residents of Jefferson County need such mutual acceptance now more than ever.
“That has been the foundation of everything we do. What does this community need and how can we help provide it?”
Force said she is excited about the screening of the film, “Feminists: What Were They Thinking?,” by Johanna Demetrakas. It revisits the subjects of a book published in 1977 capturing moments in the female revolution. The film features interviews with women such as Jane Fonda, Gloria Steinem, Lily Tomlin and Judy Chicago tackling topics ranging from identity to abortion, race, childhood and motherhood.
“They went back and interviewed all of the women that were in this book,” Force said. “It is really great.”
Another short film Force said should not be missed is “Holly Near: Singing for Our Lives,” directed by Jim Brown. Near has created what narrator Gloria Steinem called “the first soundtrack of the women’s movement.”
Near is an example of how women can fulfill their destinies by being true to themselves, Force said.
“I find it so moving. Each choice that she made had an impact on her music career. She has opened at Carnegie Hall. She has lived in a tent in her sister’s yard and this film follows that.”
Force believes young women entering maturity have many more opportunities than generations past, but they need to be empowered to follow their dreams.
“I do think they are not going to feel as limited in their concept of what they can do,” she said. “I am a girl who went to school and couldn’t wear pants. These girls don’t see those limitations. The value of film is it can deliver a fairly concentrated message. And the timelessness of that means girls will see women in film in a different way.”
For more information, and for tickets, go to ptfilmfest.com.