By Sheldon Ridley
Feminists are to celebrate 40 years of activism by showcasing films produced by two independent film making collectives.
The film screening is part of a broader project called Feminist Archives, Feminist Futures which examines how women have promoted women’s history through archives.
Kate Dossett, senior lecturer in U.S. History at Leeds University, who is a leader of the project, said: “The stories we tell about how women have created and preserved archives in the past profoundly shapes how women experience the present and the future.
“The collections in Feminist Archive North, housed in Special Collections at the University of Leeds, hold a treasure trove of materials documenting feminist campaigns since the Women’s Liberation Era including the archives of feminist film which will be shown on the night.”
A selection of work spanning nearly four decades will be on the programme. The content includes animation, archive footage and live filming which explores everyday sexism, domestic violence and gender discrimination in the workplace.
This is alongside a short documentary that celebrates women’s achievements in Yorkshire. Collectively they showcase the ways in which activist filmmakers have sought to bring feminist issues to public attention.
Alison Garthwaite, one of the founders of Vera Media, said: “The films themselves are very varied and highlight a range of feminist issues that are still relevant today.
“We are hoping to show on the night that is very different to Hollywood, something thought provoking to raise questions and also recognise the work and efforts of the women involved in the campaigns.
“Over 600 people have said they are attending on Facebook. Although not all of them will come, it is really great to see that many people showing interest.”
Both organisations have mainly female film crews, bucking the trend of most film production companies.
According to research completed by writer and producer Stephen Follows, women make up only 23 per cent of crew members. This is based on 2,000 of the highest grossing films at the US Box Office between 1994 and 2013.
The research shows that the percentage of female crew members has decreased between 1994 (22.7%) and 2013 (21.8%) with the three most significant creative roles (Writer, Producer and Director) have all seen the percentage of women fall.
Alison Garthwaite, said: “We always had women filling the roles when we made films. This had an impact on content and was representative of how women felt.
“Normally films focus on what men do rather than what women do and the women in the films are usually young and attractive in less skilled roles and don’t ever say anything substantial.
“Rarely do you find women in films not discussing men.”
Terry Wragg, one of the founders and director of Leeds Animation Workshop, said: “All our films have a purpose to raise awareness. We don’t want to just tell people what to think we want to raise questions for people for them to think it doesn’t have to be this way and make a positive change.”
Wendy Cook, Hyde Park Picture House general manager, said: “This event is particularly exciting as it highlights the valuable work of two local organisations who facilitated the work of female filmmakers and producers to use the art of film to facilitate debates around a myriad of issues.
“While we show a number of films within our programme which have been produced and directed by women although there is still a significant gender imbalance within the film industry, one which won’t be resolved overnight but events like this allow us to contemplate on that imbalance and the changing face of contemporary feminism.”
Teaching assistant Alaina Briggs, 22, from Barnsley, is looking forward to the showing. She said: “I’m really excited to see a mixture of animation and archive footage from an era I’m particularly interested in.”
– Never Give Up – Against Violence Against Women in West Yorkshire (Vera Media, 2001)
– Give Us a Smile (Leeds Animation Workshop, 1983)
– Through the Glass Ceiling (Leeds Animation Workshop, 1994)
– Did I Say Hairdressing? I Meant Astrophysics (Leeds Animation Workshop, 1998)
– Yorkshire Women of the Century (Vera Media, 2000)