MPC conference screens 12 films by and about women.
Thursday, March 1, 2007
In the scene, it appears the brother of a rape victim is going to use his loaded gun to kill his sister’s perpetrator. Then the film, In the Morning, takes a tragic turn. The brother turns the gun on his sister. It’s called an honor killing: A family member kills the rape victim to save the family’s honor. It’s just a film. But it really happens.
In the Morning is the most shocking of the dozen films to be shown Saturday, March 3, at Monterey Peninsula College’s 12th Annual Women’s Multicultural Conference. But the five-minute film’s message—awareness of women’s issues—points to the big picture of the free conference/film festival.
“I was brought up like a 19th-Century girl with a gender separation for everything.”
For 11 years, the conference has hosted a traditional lecture setup with a variety of speakers on topics pertinent to the history, struggles, advances and triumphs of women. But after all of its successes—as many as 900 conference-goers a year and a nominal registration fee—program directors decided to ditch the proven curriculum in favor of the film festival.
MPC’s Women’s Studies Program professors Yesenia Calderon and Elisabeth Arruda are the brains behind the new format.
“We really wanted to reach out to the younger crowd, and we thought a film festival would be an interesting way to do it,” Calderon says.
“We were there at the conference last year,” Arruda adds, “and while there was a great turnout, we thought, ‘Where are all the students?’ This generation is all about multimedia. So a film festival seemed like a great way to give the crowd we’ve already got something new, and draw in an entirely new crowd too.”
All 12 films are about women and produced by women. The process of collecting films to screen started last fall when Arruda and Calderon turned filmmaking into a competition. The only criteria: The film must send a message about women.
Two of Arruda’s Introduction to Women’s Studies students, Marie Wright and Mallory Wray, turned their final class assignment, a public education project, into films. Both students’ projects will be shown Saturday.
Wray’s film, Women and the Media, is a three-minute look into the media’s portrayal of women in a negative light and the effect the portrayals have on an audience. “It’s not quite a music video, but it’s about the sexualization of her generation and how she feels about it,” Arruda says.
Wright’s one-minute film, Barbie, is about rape. The characters are Barbie dolls. Wright says the film was supposed to be satirical in an attempt to illustrate the absurdity of the notion that any rape victim was “asking for it.”
“Every one of the films inspires courage in women,” Arruda says.
Another film, Ash Sunday, depicts a series of animated drawings of a woman trapped in a box, trying to escape. The five-minute film focuses on a hand-drawn woman risking everything in search of freedom.
At the conclusion of all the films, filmmakers will host a panel discussion with the audience. Additionally, tables hosted by a variety of community outreach organizations will hand out information.
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“I’m completely impressed by the films,” says Phyllis Peet, the director of MPC’s Women’s Studies Program for the past 20 years.
Peet says the conference—open to men and women—is an opportunity to show the struggles unique to women.
“We’ve come a long way since I was a young girl, or since my mother was a young girl,” she says. “But we’ve an awful long way to go.
“When I first started to learn women’s history,” she says, “I learned that the messages my parents gave me while I was growing up wasn’t because they hated me. I was brought up like a 19th-century girl with a gender separation for everything. I did the housework. I didn’t drive. I grew up feeling like my mom and dad either hated me or hated girls. But now I get it. It was the message they were getting about girls that was wrong.”
Peet spent a lifetime running the other way. Now she spends the majority of her time teaching men and women about women in her MPC classes, and working to get the word out about women’s issues.
“I want men and women to have the opportunity to be able to get together, to talk, to share, to network,” Peet says. “This year, that’s going to happen through a film festival.”
THE FILM FESTIVAL Runs 11am-4pm, Saturday, March 3, at MPC, 980 Fremont St., Monterey. Free. 646-4276.