What the Heck is the Bechdel Film Festival?

Akron Film Festival to Celebrate Inclusivity in Industry

by Devon Anderson


To understand the importance of Akron’s first Bechdel Film Fest coming next spring to the Nightlight Cinema, one must understand what the Bechdel Test represents for films and other works of fiction. In 1985, Oberlin graduate and cartoonist Alison Bechdel conceived of what is now known as the Bechdel Test in a comic strip. In order to pass the Bechdel Test, a film must meet three rules: it must have two female characters with names, those two characters must talk to each other and their conversation must center on something other than a man or boy. Sounds easy enough, right? Unfortunately, in Hollywood, it seems to not be so easy. In fact, it may boggle your mind to know that “Alien” is more feminist (in that it passes the Bechdel Test) than “Thelma and Louise” (which fails the Test). It sounds absurd, but it’s true.

Obviously, this shines a pretty bright light on the work that still needs doing in terms of moving toward more equal representation in both film and fiction for women. Fortunately, many people exist who want to do that work. One of them lives right here in our own backyard.

Akron school teacher and director of Crafty Mart Brit Charek has proposed  a film festival in Akron that focuses on films that pass the Bechdel Test. Thankfully, others have shared her vision, and with funding from a successful Kickstarter campaign earlier this spring, as well as a 2017 award from the Akron Knight Arts Challenge Grant and a partnership with both the Nightlight and the Akron Summit County Public Library, Bechdel Film Fest is coming to life. Kicking off on May 28, 2019, on the anniversary of Sojourner Truth’s “Ain’t I A Woman?” speech, this five-day event is a milestone for our area. Though other events like this are held in other cities around the country, until now, Akron has not seen its own celebration of this kind.

The priorities for the Bechdel Film Fest are not only in showcasing equal representation for women on screen, but it will also celebrate those who are often routinely underrepresented in the film industry: female screenwriters and directors, people of color, people with disabilities and the LGBTQ+ community. So, not only will the work of women as a collective be the forefront of the festival, but everyone who attends will hopefully be able to see themselves represented, which is one of the keys to starting a dialogue about the future of equal representation in all forms of media, not just films.

Why Akron? Well, why not? We all already know how inclusive, diverse and beautiful our city is, and the ties to our collective history make it a no-brainer. History (re: men) has not given us an accurate account of what Sojourner Truth said in Akron during the 1851 Women’s Convention, but one thing is certain: we should all be damn thankful to be sharing such hallowed space. Holding the Bechdel Film Fest on the here in Akron will hopefully inspire the next generation of creators to do their part to turn the world right side up again. It seems a lofty goal to ask for equal representation for all in industries that have historically favored men (mainly white, able-bodied men, if we’re honest), but at this point, what could it hurt?

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The Bechdel Film Festival

May 28 – June 30, 2019

The Nightlight Theatre

30 North High Street

For more information, visit bechdelfilmfest.com


Devon Anderson usually writes at her desk while snacking on gummi worms, surrounded by houseplants she collects from the clearance rack at Lowe’s. This piece was not composed at said desk.

(comic by Alison Bechdel)