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Dance on Camera Festival boasts sizable number of women-directed films

Dance on Camera Festival boasts sizable number of women-directed films

If you’re looking for something to do this rainy week in New York City, check out the Dance on Camera Festival at the Film Society at Lincoln Center. There are 16 programs over five days and you still have plenty of time to catch many of the great women-directed movies.

The festival offers everything from tap to classical ballet to mime, in films from 17 countries, including documentaries that illuminate the artistry of both legendary choreographers (Jerome Robbins, Merce Cunningham) and current masters (Lucinda Childs, Trey McIntyre), and shorts programs that express the diversity of contemporary dance filmmaking.

“Dance on Camera has always had a pretty sizeable number of women filmmakers,” said Marta Renzi, director of Her Magnum Opus who is also on the Board of Directors of Dance Films Association for the past 10 years. “Perhaps it’s because many (female) dance/choreographers find their way to dance filmmaking - many of them pioneers in this “niche” form.”

Dance Films Association was founded more than a half-century ago by a woman - Susan Braun - partly because she was researching footage of her idol, Isadora Duncan.

Catherine Tambini, director of Perfectly Normal for Me, which screened on Sunday, July 22, said that working as a documentary filmmaker, she has encountered many talented female filmmakers in her career, one of whom, Anne Belle, was her mentor and friend.

“I co-produced with her the Academy Award-nominated Suzanne Farrell: Elusive Muse about George Balanchine’s iconic ballerina -- my first documentary experience,” said Tambini. “I’m thrilled to be included in the Dance on Camera Festival with my film Perfectly Normal For Me.”

In Perfectly Normal For Me, a group of kids from ages five to 15 reveal what it’s like to live with a variety of physical and developmental challenges. “It feels that I’ve come full circle,” said Tambini. “To be shown at Lincoln Center is quite an extraordinary experience. It elevates the film to a new level as the Film Society of Lincoln Center is America's preeminent film presentation organization.”

Tambini says there are inherent pitfalls to being a female and a filmmaker. “I had a producing/directing partner on two of my films and, on many occasions, people assumed I was there just because I was his wife which I am not,” she said. “It’s exciting to be at the dawning of a new era where women are being taken seriously seemingly in a more thoughtful manner. We look at films through a different lens now.”

As we continue to make headway, Tambini said she hopes we will have more breakthroughs in the areas of employment and equality.  “We should be judged by the quality of our work, not by our gender,” she said.

Documentary filmmaker Karen Pearlman said that she feels quite privileged to have “persisted” through to this moment when being a women filmmaker is actually a topic of discussion, activism and energy.

“I have, in fact, turned my own filmmaking attention to this subject, with a series of films about women filmmakers in the 20s,” said Pearlman. “This period excites me because film form was still so open then - so much experimentation. Also, it is a time when women were gaining some ground in the fight for equality. It is great to be a woman filmmaker today because it is possible to get the opportunities to tell screen stories of these earlier women's influence and innovation, stories that have been effaced until now in male-centered film histories.

Pearlman’s film, Woman with an Editing Bench, is screening at the Meet the Artist session at 3pm on July 23. It is a biopic about Russian film editor Elizaveta Svilova, unsung creative collaborator on Dziga Vertov’s classic Man with a Movie Camera (1929).

“Women will get to see powerful women on screen in stories and experiences shaped by powerful women offscreen,” she said.

When asked what can be done to improve how many women enter film festivals, Pearlman said that it’s a cultural question that is not confined to film festivals.

“We could also ask what can be done to get women to apply for more grants, and more high-level jobs,” she said. “Women need to, as we say in Australia, ‘back themselves.’ It is no good fearing rejection and not putting your hand up. Rejection is, of course, part of it. But the more women that go for things, the higher the proportion of successes for women will be. Maybe it is a matter of encouraging women to apply, propose, and make submissions to strengthen opportunities for all women.”

For more information, visit https://www.filmlinc.org/festivals/dance-on-camera-festival. Tickets are $10 FSLC Members & DFA Members $12 Students, Seniors, and Persons with Disabilities $15 General Public.

Catherine Tambini -- Perfectly Normal for Me

Karen Pearlman – Woman with an Editing Bench

Marta Renzi – Her Magnum Opus

Shirley Sun -- Fire and Ashes, Making the Ballet RAkU

Signe Roderik -- Bournonville Legacy: Three Short Films

Maia Wechsler -- If the Dancer Dances

Many of the shorts are also produced by women.

Two of the four production entities in this talk: DFA Global Exchange

Tuesday July 24 at 4:30 are also led by women:  Renata Sheppard of Experimental Film Virginia, Lindsay Gauthier of Co-Lab at San Francisco Dance Film Festival.

© Lisa Iannucci (7/23/18) FF2 Media

Featured photo: Bournonville Legacy: Three Short Films

Middle Photo: Jenifer Ringer in Perfectly Normal for Me (2017)

Bottom Photo: Leeanna Walsman and Richard James Allen in Woman with an Editing Bench (2016) (© Photo by Kieran Fowler)