Women held just 20% of behind-the-scenes jobs in the 100 highest-grossing films of 2019.
This disparity inspired the title of the 20% Women’s Film Festival and Showcase, a film festival held annually as part of Loyola’s Women’s Resource Center feminist festival, according to Delaney Harper, head of story. The festival was produced by the Women’s Resource Center in conjunction with its Tulane counterpart, the Newcomb Center.
Harper served as program director for the festival, working alongside Caleigh Flynn, administrative assistant at the College of Music and Media. Featured films for the event were selected by a jury of Loyola and Tulane students and all films considered for the festival had to have had at least one woman in a position of authority in the production of the film.
The festival took place on March 24 and featured films from various genres, including science fiction stories and documentaries. This year’s festival marked the first time the event could be held in person in two years, according to Flynn.
Harper said she has a passion for film and has even worked on several low-budget film sets, in addition to her time working at the Women’s Resource Center.
“When I was growing up, I really loved movies,” Harper said. “I thought the only thing women could do was act in movies.”
Harper said events like the 20% Women’s Film Festival and Showcase are important because they showcase successful women in a variety of behind-the-scenes roles.
The festival judging panel was made up of Women’s Resource Center workers with an interest in filmmaking and Tulane students taking the Film Seminar course at the Newcomb Center. Aidan Smith, who teaches the seminar, said the class deconstructs tropes like the femme fatale. The panel watched and reviewed more than 70 shorts this year for the event, Flynn said.
Finally, the jury selected seven films to be screened at the festival. The 20% Fest featured a variety of film genres, from a sci-fi play about outer space to a short film showing the reality of what goes on behind the doors of a high school girl’s bathroom, which, according to Smith, ” opens viewers’ eyes to the value in short films.
The jurors also voted for their favorite film, which received the jury prize. They also chose Best Student Film, which received the Student Filmmaker Award, according to Harper. Audience members at the event also voted for their favorite film, and that film received the audience award, she said.
This year, the jury prize and the audience prize were won by the film “#Free to be Free”, a mini-documentary on the struggle to pass the Crown Act in Louisiana. Producer Nia Weeks said the proposed order would protect black women from discrimination associated with wearing natural, protective hairstyles in the workplace.
“Telling this story was a labor of love and a gift from the heart of a black man for all of us to see that our efforts to make this world a better place don’t go unnoticed, the depth of our inner and outer beauty is appreciated, and the measure of our worth is insurmountable,” Weeks said in an article about the film.
While the Crown Act passed in New Orleans, it failed to pass through the Louisiana legislature, Weeks said. Weeks said there is still hope the Crown Act will pass statewide in Louisiana, as she is currently sitting before the legislature again under House Bill 41. Weeks urged attendees to call their Louisiana state officials and tell them to pass the bill. .
Harper said she hopes festival-goers go home with a newfound appreciation for the work of women filmmakers.
“I would say women have stories they have the right to tell and they have the right to be heard, so just listen,” she said.