The Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival does not box itself into one genre of film, one type of media, or one social issue. This year, the festival featured films and events discussing issues ranging from green burials to drug addiction. Feminism was one of the recurring themes in the festival.
Feminist scholars and media producers visited FLEFF to showcase their work and discuss issues surrounding women’s rights.
Dr. Irina Aristarkhova, associate professor at the University of Michigan, conducted her lecture, “Okruzenie: Pussy Riot, Sochi, and Anti-Gay Politics,” at the festival to discuss LGBT and women’s rights in Russia. Photographs and other media on the screen of the theater complemented her lecture. She explained Russia is currently seeing a movement toward tolerance and more liberal ideologies in the younger generations. A new “species” of Russian men exist; men who believe in gender equality. These men, she said, did not exist when she was growing up. She elso touched on a number of misperceptions people have of Pussy Riot. They are not “stupid girls,” she said, most are college educated, artistic women who know exactly what they are doing ... and they are succeeding.
Statistics show only 9 percent of directors of the top 250 in the United States are women. However, at FLEFF more than 25 percent of all guest filmmakers were women.
Lori Joyce, for example, screened her film “Arise”, which explores female environmental activism globally. During an informal workshop at Ithaca College, Joyce revealed she was very active in the 1960’s and often marched to support women’s rights. Though feminists today are not usually seen protesting in the streets, she said, it does not mean they aren’t out there. The feminist movement, like many others, has turned to the interweb.
The Red Kimono presented feminism from a different perspective, a silent, black and white, 1920’s perspective. With a prologue from Ithaca College Professor Cynthia Henderson, the film explored taboo issues like prostitution and murder — not to mention it was written and directed by women. Henderson’s monologue prefacing the film about women in the film industry built the perfect atmosphere in the theater. She was empowering and funny, but most importantly, she gave the audience the context they needed to fully understand the film.
Overall, this year, female filmmakers and media producers were everywhere in the festival, at least five films screened were directed by women. In an industry almost entirely dominated by men, it is nice to see women represented in film festivals like FLEFF.