THIS YEAR the Portland Oregon Women’s Film Festival (also called the Power of Women Film Festival) celebrates its 11th year of bringing documentaries, short films and feature movies directed by women and non-binary filmmakers to various theaters around the city. Screenings begin March 27 and run through March 31.
The festival is coming off of last year’s hugely successful featuring of Barbara Kopple’s renowned documentaries “Harlan County USA” and “Miss Sharon Jones!” In the former, Kopple risked her life to film the 1976 “Brookside Strike” in which coal miners and their families went on strike against their exploitative and violent employers. “Miss Sharon Jones!” recounts the story of Grammy-nominated soul singer Sharon Jones and her remarkable career, as well as her struggles with bile duct and pancreatic cancer. These masterful films tell stories of human rights, 20th century feminism and fame.
Upcoming showings, beginning on March 28, include “Salomé,” directed by Russian-born actress and filmmaker Alla Nazimova. This 1923 silent movie is a bizarre adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s play by the same name and was cast with entirely gay actors. Short programs will range widely in genre from drama to comedy, shown in 80-minute segments. Another highly anticipated series, titled “System of Supremacy,” features stories of rebellion against white hegemony, patriarchy and heteronormativity.
Unlike previous festivals, this year does not have a guest of honor but instead has an honoree, the late Kathleen Collins. Collins was a filmmaker, writer and skilled orator in the 1980s, and while her work was not given the recognition it deserved while she was alive, it has recently been restored and re-released by her daughter, Nina Collins. Managing director of the festival Nora Colie spoke about the late filmmaker’s significance.
“(Kathleen Collins) is considered one of the first African American women to make a full length feature,” Colie said. “I thought it would be cool to talk about someone who never really ‘made it.’”
Collins’ feature film, “Losing Ground,” will be shown on March 30 at 7 p.m. at the Hollywood Theatre. This film tells the story of a university professor of color and her research into ecstatic experiences. This idea is explored through a religious and philosophical lense in conjunction with her marriage struggles. Her daughter, Nina Collins, will be in attendance, discussing her mother’s films, short stories and screenplays.
The festival will also show films produced by the POWGirls (Portland Oregon Women’s Girls), a workshop group of young girls and non-binary youth aged 15 to 19.
“(We work to) give them a platform on which to feel comfortable and get training,” Colie said.
The POW Film Festival offers a unique opportunity to pay homage to gifted filmmakers of the past and present while supporting young filmmakers of the future. “This is just a really great festival with really great films,” Colie said. “They just happen to be directed by women and non-binary people.”
Written by Caroline Spence.