Friday, January 6, 2017


The idea that women directors are an increasingly important part of mainstream film and television has gained so much traction over the past five years that rarely a week goes by without some mention of the enormous accomplishments of women creatives taking place at film festivals, awards ceremonies, and at studios. The concept of genre parity, or gender equality, has been the subject of many debates at these film festivals, surrounding the Oscars, and regarding hiring practices for mainstream media, particularly regarding the statistic that the number of women directing film and TV is a shockingly low 16%, according to the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University. Entire organizations such as Women in Film, The DGA Women’s Steering Committee, and The Geena Davis Institute on Gender and Media, as well as publications like Women in Hollywood, focus entirely on the role and function of women in the film industry. And there are smaller organizations as well, such as the Alliance of Women Directors, Film Fatales, and Cinefemme (to name only a few) that are wholeheartedly dedicated to promoting women directors. 

Despite their best efforts, these movements don’t provide half the promotion or educational value that the Focus on Female Directors event at the Egyptian Theatre does. On January 18, 2017, the 12th annual lineup of short films directed by women will screen to a hungry audience that is consistently blown away by the quality of programming curated by Kim Adelman, Andrew Crane, and Andrea Richards.

The shorts in the Focus on Female Directors program are always part of a well-rounded lineup: animation, documentary, Oscar-winner, and pioneer are just a few of the basic categories that the curators want to fill each year. “There’s such a wide variety of shorts being shown that there’s something for everyone to enjoy,” says curator Kim Adelman, who also moderates an onstage Q&A session with the present directors at the end of the screening. This year, directors Eileen O’Meara (“Panic Attack”), Christina Beck (“Hooker # 2), Alexis O. Korycinski (“Bambina”), Ellie Wen (“Single Mother, Only Daughter”), Alicja Jasina (“Once Upon A Line”) and Uttera Singh (“Fanny Pack” ) will all be in attendance and onstage with Adelman. They’ll also be on hand at the lobby reception after the screening. “The general vibe is so welcoming and encouraging,” says Adelman, “that audience members tend to stick around until the Cinematheque has to lock the doors for the night.”

Unprecedentedly, the Focus on Female Directors 2017 lineup features two alumnae from previous years: Christina Beck, whose short “So Into You” was part of the very first Focus on Female Directors event in 2006, and Alexis O. Korycinksi, whose work “Haircut” was part of the 2015 lineup. The only other director to have ever appeared in more than one Focus on Female Directors lineup is Academy Award-winning animator Torill Kove. Kove’s "The Danish Poet” screened in 2007, and her short “Me and My Moulton” screened in 2014. Also exceptional regarding the 2017 lineup is that several of the films star their directors: “Fanny Pack”, “Hooker #2”, and of course, “Meshes of the Afternoon”.

“Meshes of the Afternoon” is the only vintage short being shown in the lineup. This surreal and eerily beautiful short film stands out as one of the most important pieces of independent cinema of the 20th century. Director Maya Deren’s unsettling study of identity, dreams, and space/time is essential viewing for anyone interested in the contributions of women directors to the art of cinema.
“We have always tried to include in every year’s program a historical short to celebrate the work of female directors who have gone before,” explains Adelman. “In the past, we’ve shown silent one-reelers which really make you appreciate the long history of female directors. We’ve shown work by Lois Weber, Mabel Normand, and Cleo Madison. We also like to show films that are part of the National Film Registry.” “Meshes” was added to the National Film Registry in 1990. “Not only do we think the audience will enjoy seeing this experimental film for its historical value,” adds Adelman, “but the fact that it is so local — shot in a bungalow above Sunset Boulevard — should provide an added thrill.”

Luckily, several of the filmmakers are sharing their Los Angeles premieres with Cinematheque audiences that evening: Christina Beck’s “Hooker #2”, Elnura Osmonalieva’s “Seide” (shot in Kyrgyzstan), Amy Nicholson’s documentary short “PICKLE” (which is part of the prestigious NYT Op Docs program), and Alexis O. Korycinksi’s “Bambina” (the director is fresh off of recent TV directing gigs). And though it’s not an LA premiere, Alicia Jasina’s animated “Once Upon A Line” won the student Academy Award and is currently shortlisted for the Oscar for animated short.
The point of the Focus on Female Directors series at the American Cinematheque is not to point out the lack of women directors, as so many outlets and organizations do, but to highlight some of the best new recent short work by women directors, making them an expected part of official American Cinematheque programming each year and consistently providing an audience for women’s outstanding work. Adelman makes a point of asking all female directors in the audience to stand up and be applauded before the screening begins each year, because the event is not only about these short film directors, it’s about honoring all female directors.

The programmers and filmmakers take center stage after the panel. Left to right: Co-programmers Andrea Richards and Kim Adelman, Alicja Jasina, Christina Beck, Eileen O'Meara, Alexis O. Krycinski, Uttera Singh

Audience members can win a “director empowerment kit”, which includes how-to books written by Adelman and Richards, and the chance to win a film permit from It’s easy to see that the Focus on Female Directors event is for filmmakers as well as film lovers in the audience. It’s an opportunity for filmmakers to come together to enjoy and support their collective artistic achievements in an enthusiastic atmosphere.

Heidi Honeycutt is the programmer of the “Rack Focus” series at the American Cinematheque, including the women directors’ genre film festival Etheria Film Night (@EtheriaFN). When she’s not doing that, she’s writing for film magazines, watching pre-code talkies, or – wait, that’s all she does.