Despite recent progress towards gender equality in wake of the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements, women are still grossly underrepresented in the film industry. To help bridge the gap, the Bullock Texas State History Museum’s bi-monthly film screening series, Femme Film Fridays, aims to highlight women in film in order to help close this disparity, as well as to showcase the diverse range of talent and perspective of women in film.
Femme Film Fridays, created in 2016 by Rachel Manning, Bullock’s film programs manager, runs in seasons, with each season curated around a different theme — the series’ inaugural season focused on identity. Manning felt passionate about women filmmakers, and decided the Bullock would be the perfect place to launch a screening series that would represent all kinds of women in film — from writers to filmmakers to actresses.
“There are way more women filmmakers than people realize,” Manning said. “I want (to include in the series) people that maybe you’ve never heard of, or maybe somebody like Ava DuVernay, who’s really popular but maybe you (only) knew her name and hadn’t seen her film.”
Each Femme Film Fridays shows a selected film accompanied by a short film and guest speaker talks. Manning said she tries her best to incorporate local Austin films and filmmakers into the series. B.B. Araya is a filmmaker, writer and director in Austin, and her short films, “Beta,” and series, “We Are,” have been featured in Femme Film Fridays on two separate occasions.
“(My films) aim to capture the normal, everyday life of black and brown women and focus on the internal struggles as human beings as they’re trying to navigate personhood,” Araya said. “Putting the work out and seeing it resonate with someone, and hopefully helping people feel less alone or less other, is very rewarding.”
Manning thought an especially great way to focus on local Austin women filmmakers was through short films. Because short films are typically not seen outside of a festival circuit, Manning is passionate about working them into the series.
Mallory Culbert, a UT Plan II alumna and current film writer, actor and producer, screened a film that she both wrote and starred in, “The Big Spoon,” for the series. Culbert said she considers the Bullock a perfect platform to promote her film, and appreciated the progressive and inspiring nature of Femme Film Fridays for underlining women in cinema, and especially Texas women, who have many interesting and diverse stories to tell.
“Texas’ roots involve many awesome men, (but also) awesome, strong women,” Culbert said. “Texas is an extremely diverse, colorful and vibrant place full of every type of person. So I like the fact that the Bullock (has) this programming that (is) edgy.”
Araya had similar things to say about the Austin film community that Femme Film Fridays intends to shine a light on.
“Austin has a really great community of color, and so we wanted to put everything into one place and showcase it,” Araya said.
Her short film series “We Are” in particular is about the lives of seven women of color in Austin, and the relationships, bonds and struggles they navigate.
“I would say within the Austin community specifically there are so many outlets that both self-identifying women or otherwise are looking for to have a place to go and to relate to,” Manning said. “That I think is the groundwork that I’m trying to do as a programmer, and trying to give the Austin community something that they can latch onto film-wise.”