Celebrating female filmmakers from all over the world, the Citizen Jane Film Festival has premiered films such as Lena Dunham’s “Tiny Furniture,” and Tia Lessin’s Academy Award-nominated film “Trouble the Water.” Citizen Jane has also played host to notable filmmakers such as Christine Vachon and Julia Reichert, who came to Columbia to help celebrate women in film. The festival returns to Columbia early next month, Oct. 4–6.
Citizen Jane began in 2004 as a film series that the festival’s director of programming, Kerri Yost, created to give her Stephens College film students access to Hollywood professionals. Citizen Jane has since become an annual weekend of films, after parties and lectures, as well as a summer film academy with Columbia Public Schools. There is also a yearlong film series that hosts female filmmakers at Stephens College for showings and Q&A sessions that are free and open to the public.
Each year, Citizen Jane selects a theme to dictate the mood for that year’s program of events. This year marks Citizen Jane’s sixth year, and appropriately, the selected theme for the ever-growing festival is “Evolution.” Local and regional artists create venue designs and contribute to the overall aesthetic of the weekend.
According to a study entitled “Celluloid Ceiling” by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, women comprised 9 percent of directors in 2012, an increase of 4 percent from 2011.
“Citizen Jane seeks to crack the celluloid ceiling through creating strong networks of female filmmakers and film lovers,” festival director Paula Elias says. During this year’s festival, there will be a Citizen Jane Symposium, designed “for educators and film professionals to look at the challenges women face in the industry and media literacy around the inequity of women behind and in front of the camera,” Elias says.
Planning for the festival is a yearlong process and requires Elias and Yost to cull through hundreds of submitted films. The duo also curates films by attending festivals around the country throughout the year.
“There are so many incredible films made by women, but because of the lack of resources, most of these films will not get wide distribution,” Elias says “So it is difficult to get the chance to see them even in large cities.”
The festival opens on Friday, Oct. 4, with Citizen Jane Film School. This program features panels with filmmakers such as last year’s “State of the Union” address — which discussed the status of female filmmakers in the industry today. The panels are free and open to the public. A Friday evening reception precedes a screening at the Missouri Theatre of director Jillian Schlesinger’s “Maidentrip” — a highly anticipated documentary about 14-year-old sailor Laura Dekker and her solo voyage around the world. After the film, the “Women in Music Showcase” concert takes place at The Bridge in the North Village Arts District. Films are shown over the course of the weekend at Ragtag Cinema and on the Stephens College campus in the Warehouse Theatre, Windsor Auditorium and Charters Lecture Hall. On Saturday, fans are invited to return to The Bridge for what Elias calls “one of the most unique parties in town.”
Filmgoers can expect to experience an intimate environment, Elias says, in which they can interact with filmmakers and watch some of the best films made by women from around the world.
“I hope that people come to the festival expecting great films, wonderful parties and stimulating conversations and that they leave having had a fantastic time and wanting to see more incredible films made by women,” Elias says.
For more information on Citizen Jane Film Festival and to purchase tickets, visit www.citizenjanefilmfestival.com.
Alice Guy Blaché was the first female film director, directing “La Fée aux Choux,” in 1896 with the Gaumont Film Co. in France.
American cartoonist Allison Bechdel created a gender bias test to encourage viewers to consider the portrayal of females in films they watch. The “Bechdel Test” asks: Does the film have at least two named women who talk to each other about something other than a man?