1st annual Coven Film Festival highlights work of female filmmakers

A still from Danielle Karagannis' "A Day," which will screen at tomorrow's Coven Film Festival. | Photo: Big Cats Don't Cry Productions
By David-Elijah Nahmod - Published on February 08, 2019.

Tomorrow, a brand-new festival spotlighting female filmmakers will make its debut.

The Coven Film Festival, a one-day event at Japantown's New People Cinema (1746 Post St.), will screen 25 short films made by women from the Bay Area and around the globe, with an emphasis on diversity. 

Cameo Wood, Coven's director and co-founder, says the festival derives its name from its desire to celebrate women and community. 

"We were looking for a simple word that would be uniquely about women breaking the rules as a community," she said. "We felt that using a word like 'coven' would signal that we are circling our wagons and making our films together, in opposition to what the rest of the industry is doing."

Japantown's New People Cinema will host Saturday's festival. | Photo: Coven Film Festival/Facebook

It's historically been difficult for women to become directors, Wood said. Though women account for half the moviegoing public, they directed just four percent of the top 100 highest-grossing feature films released last year. Only a quarter of those films featured a female protagonist. 

The numbers are even worse for queer women and women of color, an imbalance Coven aims to correct with its diverse lineup. The filmmakers featured in tomorrow's festival include women from Native American, Chinese, and Indian backgrounds; LGBTQ+ women; teenagers; and women over age 55.

"We worked very hard to bring [in] excellent films made by underrepresented voices," Wood said.

Cameo Wood, co-founder of the Coven Film Festival. | Photo: Twitter

Many films in the festival come from Bay Area filmmakers. Their ranks include Kat Cole's "Maybe," the story of a young woman whose budding sexuality puts her at odds with her conservative Filipino family. 

Another local title, "Blue," was produced by six teenage girls through Camp Reel Stories, an Oakland-based nonprofit that prepares young women and gender non-conforming youth for careers in film and television.

"Being accepted into the Coven Film Festival is particularly important to both our female filmmakers and Reel Stories," said Esther Pearl, Camp Reel Stories' founder and executive director. "We should be striving to have a film industry that has better representation behind the scenes and on the screen."

'Blue,' made in Oakland, will screen at Saturday's festival. I Photo: Camp Reel Stories 

Coven is a fiscally sponsored nonprofit, and gets its funding from ticket sales, donations and sponsorships. Sponsors for the inaugural edition include New People, Hotel Kabuki, cinefemme, Ving Vodka and Lincoln Street Studios.

In addition to film screenings and Q&As, the event will include a filmmaker networking party on Friday night, and a panel discussion focusing on emerging filmmakers and distribution. The festival will also award prizes for the best Bay Area film, best director, and best international film.

For those interested in checking out Saturday's showings, the films will screen in four 90-minute blocks, starting with PG-rated shorts in the morning and transitioning into more adult fare by evening. Visitors can catch the full day of screenings for $25, or a single screening for $10. A $75 VIP pass includes access to the closing night awards party. 

"We want to be the festival where you discover your next film director," said Wood. "So many of these women are at the precipice of their careers. You will see their names everywhere very soon."

View the full schedule for the Coven Film Festival here, or purchase tickets here

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