by Noor Hindi
It was 1985 when cartoonist Alison Bechdel coined the phrase “the Bechdel Test.”
For a film to pass the Bechdel Test, a movie must feature two female characters who have names and talk to each other about something other than men.
This may sound simple. But the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film found that, of 4,370 speaking named characters from the top-grossing films in 2015, only 31.4% were women and 26.3% were from underrepresented racial/ethnic groups.
To address the lack of representation for women in film, The Bechdel Film Fest is coming to Akron, all thanks to Brit Charek. Since 2017, Brit has been organizing this festival, with the help of a grant from the Knight Foundation.
Bechdel Film Fest will take place between May 29 and June 2. The five-day series of events will feature films that showcase stories about women, people of color and the LGBTQ+ community.
“I’m excited to have an actual film festival on this scale here in Akron,” Brit says. “The fact that we’ve got so much representation from so many different women from all over the world and we’re able to bring some film makers here to Akron is huge.”
Some of the films are shorts. Others are documentaries. Bechdel Film Fest will take place at the Nightlight Cinema and Akron-Summit County Public Library, plus several other venues.
The featured films include:
A Visible Truth
Run time: 13:23
Director: Ash Warren
A Visible Truth explores Ami’s journey as a transgender person living in The United States. The film starts with us watching Ami apply lipstick, then later take it off for work. At work, Ami faces microaggressions from coworkers. What makes this movie beautiful is its honest depiction of the day-to-day challenges trans people face: violence committed against them, family not being supportive of who they are, the fear of what might happen when they come out, and the frustrations of navigating medical institutions while trans.
In the end, it’s the strong friendships Ami has that save them, with them declaring to their family, “What I did is not a joke and it’s not a phase and it’s who I am. If you can’t accept that I am a transgender superhero, then maybe I’m better off without you.” The final scene, which I won’t reveal, is poignant and empowering.
The filmmaker, Ash Warren, says they’re excited to come to Akron for the festival.
“The reason I chose to do this for my first project is I think it’s important to give people a realistic perspective of what being trans is like,” they say. “We wanted to make something that felt like it was from us, in the way we view things, from the perspective of actual trans people.”
The One Who Gave You a Name
Run time: 8:38
Director: Carmen Callahan
In the director’s own words, The One Who Gave You a Name is a short film about “mother-daughter relationships within the Black community and the effect it has on Black women.” It’s beautifully filmed and captures intimate shots of empowered black women. Amongst a backdrop of greenery and flowers, the film jumps into what appears to be a poem that comments on beauty standards, sexuality, colorism and the frustrations of navigating these intersections.
By the end of the film, the narrators say, “I wish I loved myself better. I wish my femininity, sexuality, and Blackness could be accepted at the same time.” As the characters reclaim their identities on screen, viewers feel emboldened.
Roll Red Roll
Run time: 1:19:55
Director: Nancy Schwartzman
Roll Red Roll is a documentary about the 2012 sexual assault case involving two high school football players and a young woman in Steubenville, Ohio. The documentary features texts, videos and social media posts revealed after the case unfolded.
The film is highly emotional and shows viewers the consequences of rape culture and the effects of victim shaming. It also reveals the impact of social media and how it can be leveraged to shame and humiliate victims in the aftermath of an event, as well as to help organize and rally a community to address sexual assault and encourage survivors to speak out.
Viewers should be advised that this film can be triggering, as it details the night of the incident, with interviews from local residents and students in Steubenville.
Bechdel Film Fest is from May 29 – June 2. For more information, including film screening times and locations, visitbechdelfilmfest.com.
Comic by Alison Bechdel. Image used with permission from Bechdel Film Festival.
Noor Hindi is The Devil Strip’s senior reporter. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.