Saturday, May 14, 2011

Thank You

To all:
Thank You

The 2011 Women’s Film Festival celebrated its 20th Year in March. We raised just over $15,000 for the Women’s Freedom Center while enlightening and entertaining 2,700 film goers. Our venues, Latchis Theater and New England Youth Theatre were wonderful partners and helped the festival to run smoothly, and we would like to thank Darren Goldsmith, Ned Phoenix, Ben & Jerry Stockman for being responsive to our every need.

We are an entirely volunteer-organized event, and some folks, notably Steering Committee and Film Selection Committees work all year-round to make this festival what it is. We would like to acknowledge all of the volunteers, donors and sponsors, who helped make this our best year yet.
We would like to acknowledge and thank our organizing committees: Steering Committee: Marilyn Buhlmann, Kevin Burke, Gail Haines, Lissa Weinmann; Film Selection Committee: Merry Elder, Liz Hanson, Michele Immler, Donna Faith K-Brooks, Diane Laverdi;Fundraising: Ruth Austin, Marilyn Buhlmann, Lisa Jane Clarke, Robbie Paley; Banner: Siri Peterson; Best-in-Festival Coordinators: Mal Herbert & Nita Harrison; Bookkeeper/Finance/Festival Accounts: Jaki Reis & Marilyn Buhlmann; Data Compilation: Pat Halloran & Jaki Reis; Designer (Website, Program, Flyer & other print media) Kevin Burke of Pawblo, LLC & Lynn Zimmerman of Lucky Dog Design; Pass Design: Harry Saxman; Pass Distribution: Sandy Brodsky; Film Submissions: Kam Adhikary, Marilyn Buhlmann, Gail Haines, Guy Wood; Film Trackers: Gail Haines, Jaki Reis, Beth Spicer; Hospitality: Brenda Davis, Sarah Hagedorn, Lerna, Meg Lyons, Beth McKinney; Receptions: Katherine Barrett, Marilyn Chiarello, Brenda Davis, Jerry Ann Jacobs, Sherri Leining, Linda Moyse, Judith Thomas (chair), Women’s Freedom Center Board; Proofreaders: Gail Haines, Eve Ness, Rochelle Garfinkle; Program Ad Sales: Marilyn Buhlmann, Liz Kenton, Quinn Maguire Cartelli; Public Relations, Publicity, Marketing & Special Events ( Print, Radio, TV and Web Media): Robin Antepara, Mellisa Cain, Arlene Distler, Karen Henry, Nina Karp, Liz Kenton, Diane Laverdi, Louise LeGouis, Paige Martin, Linda Moyse, Michel Moyse, Anne Newsmith, Robbie Paley, Lissa Weinmann (Chair); Volunteer Coordinators (box office): Pat Halloran, Liz Kenton, Leigh Pumilia; Show Volunteers: Hannah Aleshnick, Ellice Amanna, Katherine Barratt, Hollis Carlisle, Craig Divis, Alissa Feller, Moriah Floyd, Eka Gabelia, Emma Gardner, Amanda Graff, Lyn Haas, Gail Haines, Pat Halloran, Liz Kenton, Anna Knecht, Lerna, Louise LeGouis, Sherri Leining, Tiffin Mabry, Sue Madrigan, Paige Martin, David Mischke, Susan Pelis, Jeanette Pfeifer, Pamela Reagan, Jaki, Reis, Beth Spicer, Bonnie Stearns, Kathy Urffer, Shea Witzberger, and Ellen Woodbury.

Special Events speakers & panelists and film directors & subjects: Montana Berg, Charlene & Jeffrey Chapman, Susan Edwards, Cynthia Fujikawa, VT Senator Peter Galbraith, Kate Gillespie, Liz Kenton, Dolores Klaich, Mary Murphy, Robynn Murray, Sara Nesson, Toni Ortner, Robin Rieske of Know Media, Ann Stanton of Union Institute & University, Nancy Storrow, and Meredith Wade.

Many businesses and individuals contribute financially to the festival. Our major sponsors this year were: Platinum Sponsors: The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, The Kates Foundation & Latchis Theater/Brattleboro Arts Initiative; Silver Sponsors: Key Bank & Meadowlark Inn; Bronze Sponsor: Brattleboro Savings & Loan; Patrons: Bernstein & Fisk Psychotherapy Associates; Crosby House Bed & Breakfast, Dr. Elizabeth McLarney, Park Place Financial Advisors, Dr. Janet Zinter; Supporters: Brattelboro Area Farmers’ Market, Cheryl Wilfong. A special thank you to Kris McDermet who made a beautiful hooked rug based on the WFF poster of a couple of years ago and donated the proceeds of the sale.

Our community partners this year, who helped in many ways to promote the festival and bring audiences to the movies were: AIDS Project of Southern Vermont, Austine School for the Deaf, Brattleboro Retreat PTSD program personnel, Center for Digital Art, Union Institute & University & the Vermont Commission on Women who sponsored a listening forum where area women could speak out about issues that affect them here in Southern Vermont.
We also are grateful to the businesses that provided goods and services for our receptions, our special events and hospitality services for our visiting filmmakers and directors: Amy’s Bakery Arts Café, Back Side Café, Brattleboro Food Coop, Coffee Country, Elliot Street Café, Experienced Goods, Fireworks Restaurant, Flat Street Brew Pub, Front Porch Café, Grafton Village Cheese Company, Hannaford Supermarket, Landmark College Food Service, Latchis Hotel, Meadowlark Inn, New England House, Ninety Nine Restaurant, North Country Natural, Pepsi Bottling Group, Price Chopper, Putney Diner, Putney Food Coop, The Tavern Restaurant, Thai Bamboo, Three Stones Restaurant, Twilight Tea Lounge, and Vermont Country Deli.

We live in an incredibly generous community! Thank you everyone. We apologize for anyone who we left off this list. And we look forward to having additional volunteers for 2012. Please visit our webite and click on the volunteer link.

Thank you,
Marilyn Buhlmann & the Women’s Film Festival Steering Committee

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Power and Social Norms

A while ago, I wrote a blog post about female soldiers. It touched on issues of power, accountability and how power distorts accountability. I want to follow up with some more comments about power and social norms.

It is no secret that some segments of society have more power than others. Whites, males and the wealthy have more power than do minorities and women.

There are many aspects of power, and a full discussion is obviously beyond the scope of this blog. But one important aspect of power is the ability to create the assumptive framework that undergirds a culture. This is the ability to establish values and priorities, i.e., to say what is of greater or lesser importance and to assign high prestige to some roles and to devalue others.

We often tend to treat this assumptive framework as a given, often forgetting that it is biased in favor of the powerful and against those with less power.

Here's an example. In most cultures, men hold more power over women, and so define the culture's values. Values and norms are androcentric. Margaret Mead did a cross-cultural study of what activities were generally done by males and what activities were generally done by females. She found wide variation among cultures in terms of what men tended to do and what women tended to do. But one thing was consistent: What men did was more highly valued than what women did.

Take this to our own culture, and you can see why force is more highly regarded than nurturance, why football is more prestigious than cooking, and, more generally, why masculinity is seen as better than femininity. In college, in fact, I read a book by a major Spanish philospher in which he shamelessly said that women were not fully human.

These days, people may not say overtly that women are inferior. Or at least not publicly. But this tendency to devalue women has other means of expression. Women may be seen as "other". Or women may be seen as deviant. These views, of course, presuppose that the definitive human being is male.

Moreover, gender differences, legitimate or not, are interpreted so that men appear superior.

For example, if a woman is less practical than a man, she is seen as frivolous and irresponsibile. If a woman is more practical than a man, then she fails to understand male idealism

No, that issue of not understanding male idealism is not a parody. I actually read it somewhere, and it was written in all seriousness!

On the surface, these attitudes appear to be changing. But scratch the surface, and those old assumptions become visible, even in the supposedly enlightened West. It is certainly true in more traditional and conservative cultures.

I saw the film "Bhutto" last weekend. It's a documentary about the late Benazir Bhutto, the former Prime Minister of Pakistan. The film was very rich on many levels, but one scene really stood out in the context of this topic. The army asked her husband to be Prime Minister instead of her, because they did not want to salute a woman.

Many of the films of the Festival are about women achieving goals in such hostile, devaluing cultural contexts. This is what makes the Women's Film Festival so special.
So what is the take-away point of all this? It is that cultural values about gender are not value-free. They are not definitive. They came from somewhere. And that somewhere is male power -which accrues from male forcefulness and violence - and the resulting male entitlement to define women in ways that serve their own interests.
This means that these assumptions are not to be taken as axiomatic or definitive! They are to be confronted, with their assumptions and implications questioned.

Final Weekend

The Women's Film Festival in Brattleboro, VT is entering its final weekend.

Marilyn Buhlmann, who heads the Festival's steering committee, reports a record turnout, with as many passes sold during the first two days than in entire previous festivals.

The closing weekend promises to be full of great films and special events.

Special events include visits by:

Robyn Murray, Iraq vet and subject of "Poster Girl", along with Sara Nesson, who directed this Academy Award nominated film.

Mary Murphy, the director of the new Harper Lee documentary.

Montana Berg, a Canadian Academy Award nominated producer.

A special family event.

The world premier of a controversial film about Marilyn Monroe.

For full descriptions of films and special events, plus other information, including venues and ticket prices, visit the Women's Film Festival website, at