For the past few years, the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF) has extended programming beyond their annual, almost month-long main festival to focus on a series of female-made films. Thus, SIFF welcomes back their annual mini-fest, Women in Cinema! It’s not only a display and celebration of films from creative and successful women, but it’s a reminder of how pivotal and instrumental their voice is within the industry.
No one is as excited for the mini-fest as Beth Barrett, SIFF’s Director of Programming who helped organize this year’s series.
“It’s so important to put the spotlight on the great films that are directed by women because women filmmakers are still very under-represented in the industry,” says Barrett. “Being able to present these great films to Seattle reminds the audience that although women make up 50% of the population, they are still only 10% of the industry (in terms of the top releases of last year).”
Perhaps one way to increase those numbers is to show audiences how women’s directorial talents are equally compelling and strong. “Women make films in all genres and styles – from commercial to art-house, comedy, drama, documentary – the full spectrum. One of the discussions we had in thinking about this festival was how to best get across the idea that ‘woman’ is not a genre,” reminds Barrett. “There are no themes that emerge from being a female director specifically – it is sometimes a challenge because you want to focus on the fact that these directors are all women to bring a bigger spotlight on these director talents, but yet not approach the films as ‘woman’ films.” That said, there is a special through-line in this year’s films that demonstrate women’s position within the film industry.
“One of the themes in Women in Cinema this year is definitely women taking a stand, or breaking new ground and pushing the envelope, which I think is fitting for a year that has seen so much attention paid to the gender disparity in the film industry.” Furthermore, Barrett hopes that “the audience is seeking films made by women to support these great pieces of filmmaking, much like we support first-time filmmakers and filmmakers from around the world.”
Additionally, Barrett is unquestionably one of the most important leaders shaping the film industry in Seattle with her programming role – but does being a woman impact the way she approaches her work? “I don’t think that being a woman intrinsically affects how I approach my job, or my role in the Seattle film industry,” she says. “Instead, my talents and skills would speak to my work.” However, Barrett recognizes that Washington State seems to be the exception to the rule, so to speak, with so many successful female filmmaking professionals (Lynn Shelton, Lacey Leavitt, Megan Griffiths, to name only a few).
“Working in the Northwest definitely affects how I do my job, however, because one of the reasons Seattle in particular is able to support so many great women in the film industry is that there is a mutual respect between the men and women working here in the Northwest that created a space to empower and boost women to create their art and participate at every level of filmmaking, and that mutual respect brings all of us up.” Washington State plays a crucial part in this mutuality of respect, Barrett notes. “It’s the collaborative nature of the Seattle arts scene, which has a history of supporting women artists, that allowed film to come of age with such great talents, and nurturing that with Women in Cinema is a part of that culture.”
See Washington State and women filmmakers work in tandem at Women in Cinema, from September 17-24. Check out this year’s lineup here and watch the festival’s trailer below. We thank Beth Barrett for her time and insight!
About Beth Barrett, SIFF Director of Programming: Beth has worked for SIFF in the Publications and Programming Departments since 2003. She is responsible for managing all aspects of film programming, the staff of film programmers, and securing films and guests for the Festival. Beth is also instrumental in the programming and management of SIFF Cinema and SIFF’s other year-round programs. An aficionado of short films, she secured SIFF’s status as an Academy Award® qualifying festival in 2008. Beth has been in Seattle for over 20 years and holds an MA in Northern Renaissance Art History.