Queen of Hearts Documentary Feature at the Through Women's Eyes Film Festival.

With only 3.6 percent of the top grossing movies in 2018 directed by women, there is an evident lack of female representation in the film industry. For 21 years, the Through Women’s Eyes Film Festival has been giving female directors an opportunity to share their voice through film, and is adding new events to this year’s three-day festival from Friday, March 6, to Sunday, March 8. What began as a humble one-film screening at the Ringling College grew to a partnership with Sarasota Film Festival, and is now an independent event screening 37 films at Burns Court and Hollywood 11 Cinemas. The festival will begin with an opening night party at Burns Court Cinema, followed by an Emerging Filmmakers’ Showcase on March 7 and a Fabulous Filmmakers’ Reception on March 8 to celebrate International Women’s Day and honor the filmmakers in attendance.

Film festival chair and UN Women’s Gulf Coast Chapter member Scott Osborne says her chapter is one of the few Florida organizations that recognize International Women’s Day. Since the festival is a nonprofit, proceeds will go toward the Gulf Coast Chapter, which provides education and awareness for gender equity and women’s issues worldwide. “Representation is so important, so we include directors, producers and actors from around the world,” says Osborne.

More than 300 submissions were received this year, including a mix of short, animated and narrative features. “Many people adore the shorts,” says Osborne. “They can be a powerful snippet of something that moves you.” One film follows a Sarasota family as they experience culture shock moving to the United Kingdom and another, by director Catherine Murphy, titled They Say I’m Your Teacher, is about literacy in the South during the civil rights movement. Documentary short Sensei Fran Kicks Ass details a woman in pursuit of what it means to age. “Fran is a vibrant, wonderful woman,” says Osborne. “I can’t wait to meet her.”

“Women’s voices need to be shown more,” says Osborne. These films not only recognize women in the film industry, but women all over the world facing the challenges the films portray. “I like to make sure that women’s voices are in each film and process, but films are catered for everyone,” says Osborne. The issue and theme of gender equity means including men in the conversation, too. So films like opening night’s Medicating Normal will feature people from all walks of life.

Young female directors will have an equal opportunity to discuss and screen work at the Emerging Filmmakers Showcase on Saturday, March 7. “The voices of the younger filmmakers are so important,” Osborne says. “This way, you are getting an international and a young person’s perspective.”

All films are judged and awarded by the audience, except for the emerging filmmakers, who will be judged by a panel. “We like feedback from the audience,” says Osborne. Audience members and a growing list of sponsors help support the festival’s cause each year, which Osborne says is initiating great change. Within these films, directors are sharing profound stories, tackling significant gender and women’s issues and asking, “How can we all do better?” 

The Through Women's Eyes Film Festival will begin on Friday, March 6, at 6 p.m. and end Sunday, March 8, at 7 p.m. To find the film lineup and purchase tickets, click here 

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