Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Women Seek Equity in Film at SIFF

When we focus on starlets like Jennifer Lawrence and Scarlett Johansson, as well as directors such as Kathryn Bigelow, you may believe that women are making a dent in the film industry.

Not so fast.

According to a 2012 study by USC’S Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism, the number of female characters in the top 100 movies of the past five years have decreased substantially. As they state in their study, “out of 4,475 speaking characters on screen, only 28.4 percent are female, [which] translates into a ratio of 2.51 males to every one female on screen.” Female directors are also underrepresented in the industry, with women accounting for “4.1 percent of directors, 12.2 percent of writers and 20 percent of producers.”

According to a recent article by The Week, of 2012’s top 100 movies, only four were directed by women.

In fact, when looking back at Oscar nominations for Best Director, only four women have ever been nominated in the award show’s 85-year history. Of those four, Bigelow has been the only one to win, for 2009’s “The Hurt Locker.”

It stings many to see that even now, in 2014, women are still underrepresented and underappreciated in one of the biggest and most respected industries in the world. Yet, there is an upcoming event from the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF) that will give a voice to those of us who have been so often pushed aside.

Beginning on Jan. 22, SIFF will host Women in Cinema 2014, a five-day event that will showcase nine female-directed films from around the world. Films will star popular actresses such as Taylor Schilling of Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black” and Anna Paquin of “The Piano” and “True Blood” fame.

Director of Programming Beth Barrett explained that the event is currently in its second year of “the return,” after running for seven years in the late ‘90s and early 2000s. Barrett, who brought the event back with the help of SIFF Artistic Director Carl Spence, believes that it is important to “really spotlight women filmmakers and the stories that are being directed by women.”

“[Women in Cinema] celebrates the exceptional contributions of women in the world of cinema, represents a convergence of excellence in filmmaking, and showcases stunning features and documentaries from around the world,” said Barrett.

This year’s event will feature films from the U.S., Canada, Kenya and Argentina.

“Gender equity is really swinging away from women directors, who are such an important part of our culture to hear from,” Barrett said. “[It’s imperative] to support the films that are getting made and give women a platform to find an audience.”

Actress Elaine Stritch is one of the most underappreciated and talented women in the film industry, although she has been an icon on Broadway since her debut in 1944. First time director Chiemi Karasawa made it her mission to showcase Stritch’s life in her documentary “Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me,” which will be showcased in Seattle on the festival’s opening night.

Karasawa worked as a script supervisor for 18 years after graduating from college, and had experience working alongside directors such as Spike Jonze, Jim Jarmusch and Martin Scorsese.

“As script supervisor, you have so much exposure to the director while he’s directing; you’re more well-suited to becoming a director as you have the closest proximity to the director,” said Karasawa.

Karasawa started her own film company in 2005 with Isotope Films and since the company’s induction the group has produced a variety of documentaries, garnering both awards and buzz. “Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me” came about by accident when Karasawa and Stritch met at their hair salon. Karasawa and her cinematographer then spent a year and a half shooting Stritch’s day-to-day life, followed by six months of editing. The film debuted at 2013’s Tribeca Film Festival to rave reviews and Karasawa hopes that the Seattle audience will be inspired by the film, as well as life in general and how we choose to live it.

“[Elaine] is such a unique one-of-a-kind performer…what a role model,” Karasawa said.

“Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me” will open up the festival on Jan. 22 at SIFF Cinema Uptown with Karasawa in attendance; tickets for the film, as well as the other eight films until Jan. 26, will be $11.

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