When I decided to attend the Golden Door Film Festival, I had no idea that the filmmakers who would dazzle me with their talent and intensity would be women. And it's no wonder: according to Indiewire, between 2009 and 2013, the six major studios hired 466 directors, only 22 being women. So thank goodness for the indies and the festivals which support them!
Notably, during our interviews, while the women touched upon the subject of financing and the difficulty of obtaining it, those 'touches' seemed mostly parenthetical, comprising just a fraction of our conversations. Rather, the women were much more interested in discussing their journeys, their gratitude for the talent and dedication of the fine professionals who helped them produce their work, and the invaluable education they received both in filmmaking and in human interaction as they lived the process of producing a film from start to finish.
It is my great privilege to introduce you to two outstanding fledgling filmmakers and the powerful movies they made: a four-minute assault on your senses called India - A Tourist's View (Joanna Belbey) which was filmed in Delhi amidst the city-wide rape protests and police brutality of 2012, and a 10-minute in-your-face tragedy about domestic violence and victim marginalization called Jessica's Story (JoAnne Tucker), which won the "Best LGBT Film" award.
Joanna Belbey, a Social Media and Compliance Specialist from New Jersey, purchased a camera and took it with her on vacation, expecting to 'just play with it.' Once there, she was shocked to learn that a 23-year-old woman had been gang-raped with such brutality -- beaten with an iron rod and her intestines ripped out -- that she died. It was the final straw in a long line of hideous crimes against women (kidnapping, rape, assault, trafficking) which had been dramatically increasing since 2001. People took to the streets to protest their government's utter refusal to act.
Filmed in that volatile, highly-charged atmosphere, India is a collage of the glorious and overwhelming colors, sights, sounds and sensations which define that world. "There were very few women on the street," Joanna said, "I had to film and photograph them whenever I could, and then rely on editing to get that balance." And that was hardly her only challenge. She actually saw police going after protestors with batons from her hotel room, and for three days, all the guests were barricaded in because it was just too dangerous to go out. Then, even when she did, "It's pretty shocking when people see a woman with a big video camera -- even more so in India. I got huge reactions, not all of them positive. Lots of people were staring at me, so, to be respectful, but also for my own safety, I took to wearing headscarves and covering my body head to toe, wrist to wrist."
While JoAnne Tucker, a retired choreographer residing in New Mexico, was in no such danger, her inspiration and subject matter are no less disturbing. Having brought her dance company to the female inmates of York Correctional Institution in Niantic, CT, the women she met and the stories they shared haunted her. "I met women who were in such fear for their lives, they killed their abusers."
Like Joanna, she learned on the fly: paring down 26 pages of transcript to four, matching visual images with sound and music, but mostly, perfecting the art of storytelling.
Just as important is the common theme that runs through this film series (three so far, soon to be 10), which is empowerment: women who've been in horrible situations but found a way to get out, get beyond it, then rebuild their lives -- each woman realizing she needs to be the one to change.
One thing JoAnne urgently stressed: "Women in abusive situations are most often murdered when they try to leave. The most vitally important thing is to get professional help to plan how to leave."
Copyright by Pamela S. K. Glasner © 2014, All Rights Reserved