Female Eye Film Festival
Welcome to the 20th anniversary of the Female Eye Film Festival! I’d like to start by congratulating our fearless leader, Leslie Ann Coles, whose inspired vision and foresight gave birth to this “little festival” that could, a festival that celebrates all those exemplary women who sit in the coveted director’s chair, remarkable women from all walks of life, who have important and inspiring stories to tell and share with us.
The last few years have been unprecedented in our shared history, as the pandemic forced us all into lockdown. We wore our sweatpants, gave up lipstick, became far too intimate with Zoom, watched all our movies on TVs for the first time instead of going to the cinema, and swapped the concert hall for our living rooms. We were forced to travel inward, to discover what gave our lives meaning, and in so doing, came to embrace the need to have meaningful artistic expression in our lives.
We live in precarious times. On the heels of the pandemic came the brutal war in Ukraine, which has reminded us that we are social creatures, who need to come together, embrace different cultures, speak to the human experience through different genres, and reveal universal truths. The role of the artist is to engage, at times enrage, and, more importantly, to enlighten. In these dark times of war, we must be careful to not silence the voices of our Russian sisters or get caught up in the reactionary crucible of “cancel culture,” for when we do this, we extinguish the flame that encourages mutual respect, heightened self-awareness, and a greater understanding of the world and our place in it.
The famous Russian dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn reminds us of the need to speak up and take a stand when he writes, “In keeping silent about evil, in burying it so deep within us that no sign of it appears on the surface, we are implanting it, and it will rise up a thousand-fold in the future. When we neither punish nor reproach evildoers, we are not simply protecting their trivial old age, we are thereby ripping the foundations of justice from beneath new generations.”
The Female Eye Film Festival proudly reverses the historic tendency for women to not be seen or have their stories heard. And while the Toronto-born Mary Pickford may have been one exception to the rule, having started United Artists and then becoming a founding member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, how can it possibly be that it took almost half a century for the first woman director to be nominated for an Oscar? That woman was Lina Wertmüller, who was nominated in 1976 for “Seven Beauties.” The first woman to win an Oscar for best director was Kathryn Bigelow, in 2010 for “Hurt Locker.” Chloé Zhao won the Oscar for best director in 2021, for “Nomadland”; Jane Campion for “The Power of the Dog” in 2022.
Clearly, we have come a long way … but we still have a long way to go.
It’s a start.