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girls on film

Tired of how women are represented in films? You're not alone

A Feminist Film Festival will be held in Dublin next month – the profits will benefit victims of sex trafficking.

IF YOU’RE TIRED of how women are represented on the big screen, or you’re looking for some movies that really show all the varying elements to women’s lives, then the Feminist Film Festival could be for you.

Organised by Karla Healion, it will take place on Saturday 30 and Sunday 31 August at the New Theatre in Dublin’s Temple Bar.

The aim of the festival isn’t just to showcase great feminist films, but also to raise money for a charity called Sasane run by and for victims of sex trafficking in Nepal. All of the profits will go to the charity.

The event is run by Healion, but involves collaboration with others and has a collective approach. A call for submissions of short films has also been put out (details below) to give new filmmakers an opportunity for their work to be shown.

Why set up a festival?

Helion came up with the idea as she says “women are still under represented in the film industry and still misrepresented onscreen in terms of the characters and roles”.

She said it is “really important to create space where we celebrate women’s achievements, and celebrate decent characters and strong characters, interesting characters, not just two dimensional ones.”

Helion said that when it comes to equality between the sexes in Ireland, “it’s really necessary that we create these celebrations of women because we’re not there yet – we’re not there in political life, in corporate life, any socio-cultural spheres”.

Healion is very conscious of the differing levels of equality around the world – which is part of the reason she is raising money to help women in Nepal who have been sex trafficked.

What makes a film feminist?

Dykes_to_Watch_Out_For_(Bechdel_test_origin) A portion of 'The Rule' by Alison Bechdel Wikimedia Commons Wikimedia Commons

“It’s kind of nothing and everything,” said Healion when asked what makes a film suitable for her feminist festival. “It’s up to people’s perspectives – that’s what makes it interesting.”

The mission of the festival, she said, is to help and support women in the industry, so films might be chosen because they have crew members, writers, or directors who are female.

She will also be choosing films that help to counter the mis- or under-representation of women on film.

“This happens a lot,” said Healion. “We just don’t get really interesting, meaty, fleshed-out female characters.” She pointed to the recent furore over the series True Detective, which was criticised for featuring females in limited and stereotypical roles – or as dead victims.

Events with the word ‘feminist’ tend to gather some criticism from those who aren’t fans of the word feminism, or the feminist movement.

Healion is proud of the word:

I respect everyone’s opinion. I very much own the word feminist. I call myself a feminist – I’m not scared of saying that. It’s more mainstream now which is fantastic.

For her, feminism is about equality between men and women; social equality; inclusivity; and intersectionality. “It’s really important for me that we don’t shy away from saying women aren’t equal yet,” she said.

“I think we need to keep fighting and fighting and pushing, until the day until we don’t have to use [the word feminism],” said Healion.

We can talk about it all we like sitting here in our white developed country. We’re nearly there. But when you start thinking about sex trafficking, and thinking about Sub Saharan Africa, and India, and places like this, where the inequality is definitely still rife…

The women she met at the charity Sasane are the inspiration for holding feminist events, as they show that females around the world may go through horrific events, but are survivors.

They have “been through such hell and they are the most positive, amazing, smiling, gorgeous, warm, friendly people ever”, she said of the women in Nepal.

Submissions for short films (5-15 mins) can be sent by YouTube or similar, and accompanied by 100-150 words about why they feel the short should be screened to More information on the festival can be found at the official website and on Facebook.

Read: Caitlin Moran brings feminist tea towels to Dublin>

Read: Calling out sexism online – and getting murder and rape threats for it>

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