Women Over Fifty Film Festival – WOFFF

The Women Over 50 Film Festival was held on 14 – 17 September, 2017 at The Sallis Benney Theatre in the University of Brighton, and I was honored to be selected for it. My new movie “My Aunt Mame” (trailer here) screened in the Anchor program on 17 Sept 2017.
The festival had its origins in a screening in 2015, arranged by Nuala O’Sullivan and some friends, who programmed a day of films by/about older women. And now having watched the high quality, fascinating WOFFF’s selections, I am even more perplexed about why movies featuring older women are not very widely seen and celebrated.
I really enjoyed Brighton. My hosts were lovely, the cute city is right on the sea and I had nice weather, and it is a manageable size for walking and being new.
The festivals selections were very excellent. Here are some notes I took.

Saturday noon 16 Sept 2017
Hearts On Fire program
Loved the two animated films, both excellent; “Lying Women” (Deborah Kelly, 2016) and “A Woman Apart” (Mary k. Omelina, 2017), this one was a standout for script and the animation. I’d like to see that be even bigger. “Girls Of A Feather” (Dina And Elsalam, 2016) made me want to visit Alexandria, Egypt, and I liked the slow pace.

Saturday 1:45pm 16 Sept 2017
“Brand New Day” (Patricia Beckman Wells, 2017) was frigging amazing, and Patricia herself was so friendly and generous with animation advice. See this movie if you can. “Hear Me Now” (Maria Viola Craig, 2017) was about the survivors of the sanatariums for TB, super sad. I’d like to find out more about the supporting the program, that was shown in the “Girls And Glaciers” (Annette Frahm, 2017) documentary.

Saturday 4:45 16 Sept 2017
“Get Riel” (Will Barnard, 2017) is a short doc that i hope will be expanded about Elsa Perez, a dancer raised in South Africa, and the apartheid that she overcame. I went to her dance workshop later that night — she still has MOVES at what like 80? “Mary Mother” (Sadam Wahidi, 2016) should be required viewing for everyone, i mean it. The lead actor, Zubaida Sahar, was FIERCE. This film takes you inside not only inside an Afghanistan village, but inside a family and a relationship. In my films I am also trying to disentangle people’s preconceived ideas (often negative) from the bodies of the real live people living in them. This script and story were educational for me. I would like to watch this again if i can somehow.

Saturday 6:30 16 Sept 2017
I was a little tired/hungry by this point, so i didn’t see the whole program. I watched “Cherry Colour Buttonholes” (Brenda Miller, 2016). The film only had voices off screen and the visuals were only women’s hands sewing. I so appreciate textiles, sewing and other skills traditionally associated with women’s work. I’m glad to see them celebrated in film.

Sunday 12:00 17 Sept 2017
(This is the program where “My Aunt Mame” was included)
The production values and straight-up star power in this program was very high. Well-known older women actors were in three of the eight films. My movie was different then the others, but it was the first time I saw it on the big screen and i thought it looked great. The audience laughed at all the right places, too! What a relief. Everyone was enchanted by “Oor Wally” (Martin Lennon, 2016) about an older woman who has been a soccer team mascot for years. The most important one for me was “MUM” (Meriem Adib, 2016). The film just plops you into a domestic scene with a child, but the mother-figure is a blow up (sex) doll. Right off the bat you start asking questions and feel a little weird and sad. In the three minutes of the film, you really understand that something is very wrong. Turns out this is about austerity cuts to programs that support sex workers. “MUM” is powerful film, AND Merriem Adib, who made it, was so nice to me at the Q & A! She said “When i go to festivals, I always find a gem or two. I really liked your movie.” YAAAAYYYY!!!!

Sunday 1:45 17 Sept 2017
Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll
Another excellent animation! “Espressivo: A Love Song To Coffee” (Deb Ether, 2017) delighted me visually and also made me want to improve my stop-motion range. I was giggling the whole way through.
A good documentary film in this program was “Rebel Menopause” (Adele Tulli, 2014). The subject, Therese Clerc, is fascinating, and the project the film centered on the Baba Yagas in Paris, France, is brilliant. The production quality was high and it made everybody feel inspired.

Sunday 4:45 17 Sept 2017
Holy cow another smart and well-produced animation!!?? “A Short History of Indians in Canada” ((Nancy Beiman, 2017) looked so very good! And the story of Canada’s history with indigenous people is one of genocide, as we know. So to turn that into a compelling animation is a creative puzzle like the ones I try to solve — how to use animation in the service of justice, while knowing the audience might have strongly held opinions on the topics. “The Hide” (Gaynor Macfarlane, 2017) also tackled a loaded subject – current policies on immigration. I like that she used little (if any?) dialogue. The editing was just right, and it tells a strong and good story. I hope this film gets seen in more places. “Days Of Awe” (Rehana Rose, 2012) is a technical triumph and tells an important family story. It was interesting to linger in a person’s living space while just hearing people close to the person (who is not in her apartment) talk to her over recording devices.

Sunday 6:35 17 Sept 2017
I love Fay Presto! “Fay Presto” (Hanna Aqvilin, 2017) made a 17 minute doc about this groundbreaking magician that was smart and tackled sexism head on. I hadn’t heard about her but now hope to see her tour the US when the tour comes to the USA. OMG i just looked it up and it was LAST WEEK. I’m so disappointed. Dammit. Anyway. “Real Artists” (Cameo Wood, 2017) makes the audience think. It was terrifying and also (embarassingly) gratifying to see a movie about how movies are made. I got to feel smug like “ha ha I don’t care what hollywood or chinese audiences think!” but at the same time I know that this movie could be about any market or group of consumers that want to be fed entertainment.

The awards went to deserving films, and I won a bottle of wine in the raffle.
I am very glad that I went to this festival. I was going to go regardless of if my movie was shown, but considering how strong the program was, I am so glad and proud that my film was included. Well done and THANK YOU, Nuala, Hilary, Pricilla, Helen and Natalie

Dr. Patricia McManus

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