The only thing that might have made Los Angeles’ Inaugural Rom Com Festival more entertaining is if guests would have arrived to each screening dressed in a terry cloth robes, UGG fur-lined slippers, and sporting cucumber face masks. The fun of the pajama party was reserved only for the late-night screening of How Stella Got Her Groove Back, but it might have been even better to make PJs the overall dress code, just to liven up the celebratory nature of the fest. Even without the kitschy attire throughout, the entire event still felt like a warm and cozy sleepover for those love-struck romantics that are willing to excuse the trappings of formulaic narratives in favor of a good cry and a great giggle.
The lobby at the Downtown Independent Theater was bubbly and bedazzled with pink and purple balloons, sign slogans that encouraged to “Write About Love” and vendors offering comforting sweet treats like mochi and chocolate eclairs. And of course, there was Rosé. Sparking Rosé to be exact. A perfect setting with the appropriate accoutrements to celebrate a genre of film where a few brilliant women have made amazing contributions and given the world some classic moments that exist forever in the common consciousness. Many of these films help to comfort and relieve the universal sadness that comes along with the messy business of falling in love.
The Romantic Comedy Film genre is quite possibly the most beloved of all, and certainly one of the most lucrative. While Rom Coms never seem to break box office records, they score well over time, as lovers love to revisit these gems especially when wrapped in a blanket, wearing a face mask, wine within reach, in the comfort of their own homes.
It’s oddly fitting to explore the “chick flick” genre in 2019 as Hollywood struggles to recover from the recent spate of controversies regarding gender disparity in the film industry. Hollywood is fighting to reinvent itself by adapting to the changing tide where women are demanding equal creative footing. Even referring to Romantic Comedies as “Chick Flicks” is indicative of the sexist nature of the industry. The term is loaded with subtext that suggests that these films are “less than” in their merit because they appeal to a female demographic.
Festival founder Miraya Berke recognized this unfortunate reality when she selected the films and the guest speakers for the festival. Berke set out to change the perception of “Chick Flicks” and finally get us all to admit how much we love these films. An entrepreneur in her own right, Berke is the founder of Pop Productions event boutique studio and the co-founder of Dessert Goals, a NYC and LA based dessert festival. Her love for romantic comedies led her to create this fun new festival that shows promise of growth in the years to come. Berke made it clear in her panel discussions that she wanted to celebrate female voices by inviting a powerful group of women to come out and share their thoughts on the selected films.
The schedule kicked off with the 1940 classic His Girl Friday and culminated in a 20th Anniversary screening of the beloved and quirky 10 Things I Hate About You. In the interim were screenings of brand new RomComs: One Bedroom, In Reality, Two in the Bush, Tracks, and Summer Night. Audiences were loud and enthusiastic for each screening, but especially for those beloved classics that helped generations of women, including myself, through the pains of middle school and high school.
Perhaps the most brilliantly fun part of the weekend was the Q & A that followed the screening of Never Been Kissed and featured Rachel Bloom, the co-creator and star of the subversive comedy My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. Bloom is exceptionally engaging and witty. Her sense of humor is intoxicating and her reflections on the film hit home with an audience who hung on her every word as she expressed the importance of having films like this to cling to during the difficult years of adolescence, even if the narratives are flawed and clumsy. Bloom has been a force in Hollywood of late, creating a character in My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend who struggles with mental illness in a sardonic and hilarious way. Her voice is inspirational and as she continues to create and walk through new creative doors hopefully many more will swing open for women in the wake.
Writers Karen McCullah and Kristen Smith came out to discuss their classic 10 Things I Hate About You on Sunday night as the festival drew to a close. Their journey as writers on a film like this is as fascinating as it is unique. There is a no doubt that the ability to draw characters that live in the emotional space that Rom Com characters live is uniquely feminine.
Winners of the festival were announced and populated with female filmmakers including Erin Brown Thomas for Rekindled (Jury Prize Best Short Film) and Ann Lupo or In Reality (Jury Prize Best Feature Film).
The festival concluded with a lively wrap party on Sunday night. It is clear that this new and exciting festival is a place for women to create and shine. Long live the “Chick Flick” and the Rom Com Festival.
© Angela Stern (6/24/19) FF2 Media
Featured image: Liv (Kate Hudson, left) and Emma (Anne Hathaway) delight in catching the bouquet at a friend's wedding in Bride Wars.
Top photo: How Stella Got Her Groove Back (Credit: Photo by D Stevens/20th Century Fox/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock)
Photo credits: Rom Com Festival