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Bright Lights Series Highlights Women Filmmakers

The Bright Lights Film Series returns this month with another schedule of gripping, thought-provoking narratives and documentaries. And for the first time this semester, more than half of those will be made by women.

Eleven of the 21 films in the Fall 2017 Bright Lights lineup are directed by, or co-directed by, female filmmakers, earning them a “W” in the series’ cutting-edge rating system. Those numbers don’t count the as-yet-unknown number of female directors in two events featured in the series: the Black Maria Film Festival and Silversonic, an annual music video showcase.

There has been a lot of discussion in recent years about the need to support women directors, but the problem of underrepresentation of women in the film industry spreads throughout the “ecosystem,” said Anna Feder, director of programming for Visual and Media Arts. There need to be conversations about getting more female critics writing about films and making sure women-made films are getting shown on screens.

“I’m really hoping to start this conversation locally, and to encourage my peers in film exhibition to join me in making the commitment to equity,” Feder said. “We need women’s stories too.”

Other ratings in the Bright Lights system include F (feminist films), POC (produced by/featuring people of color), SJ (dealing with social justice themes), I (international), LGBTQ (dealing with LGBTQ issues), D (dealing with disability issues), and EC (made by a member of the Emerson community). Each film is free and open to the public, and is followed by an engaging, relevant discussion with a filmmaker, actor, subject, or Emerson faculty member.

The first woman-directed film of the semester (September 21) is Risk, a documentary by Laura Poitras, Academy Award-winning director of CITIZENFOUR. Risk, filmed over six years, is a character study of embattled, controversial WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and the state of the movement he inspired. Institute for Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies Assistant Professor Russell Newman will lead a post-screening talk.  

Whose Streets?, presented on October 5, is a documentary about the movement for justice that rose up following the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, directed by Sabaah Folayan, who will discuss the film afterward.

On October 17, alumnae producers Natalia Anderson ’06 and Kristen Murtha ’08 will be on hand to talk about their comedy, Band Aid, directed by Zoe Lister-Jones and featuring a strongly female crew. In the film, a married couple tries to work through their problems by turning all their fights into songs for their band.

Another alumna, Ramona Diaz ’83, will present her documentary, Motherland, on November 28. Motherland takes the viewer to the Philippines, into the heart of the world’s busiest maternity hospital.

Stumped director Robin Berghaus will visit the Bright Family Screening Room on December 5, along with filmmaker Will Lautzenheiser, the documentary’s subject. Lautzenheiser was the recipient of an experimental double arm transplant after losing all four limbs to an infection.

Emersonian films are also well represented this fall. Alumnae were behind both Band Aid and Motherland. On September 26, Visual and Media Arts Assistant Professor Paul Turano will present his documentary, Wander Wonder Wilderness, a project that explores the urban wilds of Greater Boston. The screening will be sponsored by the Boston Literary District.

The series opens September 19 with Jordan Peele’s Get Out, followed by a discussion led by Institute for Liberal Arts Assistant Professor Erika Williams. A young African American man meets his white girlfriend’s parents at their secluded woodland estate, and runs into a nightmare.

All films are shown in the Emerson Paramount Center’s Bright Family Screening Room at 7:00 pm. For a complete list of films and descriptions, visit the Bright Lights Film Series web page.

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