Artists' Television Access

Ms. Films

Sunday, October 23, 2005, 7:00 pm, $6


The Ms. Films Festival of Durham, North Carolina, brings highlights from its 2005 festival on a tour of the Northwest. This independent, grassroots, all-volunteer run film festival promotes the work of women in film by giving audiences the chance to see programs curated by festival director and film curator Niku Arbabi, featuring films not widely seen in a variety of genres, formats, and themes.


Founded in 2001, the Ms. Films Festival has been a unique festival promoting the work of women in film. Each year, Ms. Films hosts a three-day festival whose mission is to showcase the work of independent women mediamakers and to invite women of all ages and experience levels to participate in hands-on and interactive events, giving them to the tools and skills they need to

create their own media, and empowering them to make their voice heard in a largely male-dominated industry.


Ms. Films screenings include submission-based, guest-curated, panel-curated, and additional features. We feature film and videomakers of all ages, backgrounds, and “expertise” from around the U.S. and internationally. The festival also offers workshops, panels, and other interactive, hands-on events as a way to empower women to create their own films by giving them the skills and tools they need and making it as accessible as possible. This very active year for Ms. Films culminated in its fourth and most ambitious annual festival thus far this past February, in Durham, North Carolina. The 2005 Northwest Tour features highlights of the 2005 festival and includes a few of the best films of past years’ festivals.


Niku Arbabi has been organizing Ms. Films since 2001, when the Flicker Film Festival in Chapel Hill, NC held a one-day event called Ms. Films. After the overwhelming success of the first Ms. Films, she restructured it as an independent film festival, relocating to downtown Durham and broadening the scope to create a unique festival which brings people from the community and filmmakers together, giving them the chance to encounter independent film and to try their hand at it.


In 2003, Ms. Films was honored with the Independent Weekly’s Voice in the Wilderness Arts Award, and branched out to include filmmakers and participants from outside of North Carolina. 

The 2004 Festival saw film submissions arriving from yet further a field – short films from Canada, Brazil, and across the U.S. were screened. 2004 also saw a greater interaction between festival participants and filmmakers, as more filmmakers came from out of town locations like Toronto, Virginia, and South Carolina to participate, present their films, and take part in a full two-days of unique discussions and workshops.  In 2004, Ms. Films was invited by various film festivals, conferences, and other venues to present a number of curated screening programs, some with workshops, including the James River Film Festival, the Southern Girls Convention, MeredithCollege’s Women’s Studies Department, UNC-Chapel Hill’s ScreenArts Film & Media Series, and Ladyfest Richmond. 


This year’s festival was by far our most ambitious, and our most successful. It represented a widening of scope and vision as we reflect the growing and changing needs of attendees and as we continue to try to break out of the mold of the majority of film festivals, who keep attendees as viewers instead of active participants. Workshops (many sold out) included Cameraless Filmmaking; Cut and Paste (non-linear editing); the Film of Poetry (translating poetry to video); Women in World Cinema; from Ladies Room to Screening Room (a nuts and bolts guide of production of a short film from conception to completion and beyond by our keynote artist, Kate Bernstein); Kitsch and Horror: A Feminist Re-stitching of Vintage Cinema; Hands-On Animation; DocuFemmes, a panel presented by the Southern Documentary Fund, and several filmmaker discussion sessions open to participants and attendees.


Another essential project of Ms. Films is our Ms. Films DIY Guide to Film & Video, which all festival participants receive and is given out at screenings and workshops for free or for donations, has received much positive attention and has been a great tool in helping to get people started in filmmaking. The guide is a basic tool for anyone wanting to try their hand at filmmaking, and covers a broad range of projects, resources, and contributors. Topics include: Cameraless Filmmaking, Activist Camera/Film in Community, Screenwriting, Basics of Super 8, Animation (various techniques), DIY Drive-In, submitting to film festivals, film book and zine resources, Make Your Own (how to produce a no-budget short film while being unemployed), Basics of Video (exercises for beginners), organizing your own film festival or film night, Girls and Filmmaking, a film terms glossary, the women film pioneers project, and more. The Guide has received many positive reviews, and has influenced many participants to go on to make their own films. It is sold through bookstores and online distributors and available at all of our events. 


Screening Program

*order is subject to change


We Are The Littletons, Penny Lane, 11min, 2004, mini-DV, Kingston, NY

We Are The Littletons presents a tangled web of found objects, intercepted correspondences, reenactments, and total fabrications centered around Eve Portia Littleton Rodriguez, an artist with “movie star good looks” who was mysteriously banished from her postcard-perfect American family. Video artist Penny Lane spent a year in Eve’s former bedroom, poring through the detritus of her life in the Littleton family. The deeper Penny dug into their family history, the more bizarre and compelling the story grew… and the more she came to believe that she and Eve shared a baffling connection.


Who Killed Target 1967, Angie Kwong, 2004, 11min12, Super 8, Vancouver, Canada

Who Killed Target 1967? Is a sci-fi requiem for Jean-Luc Godard’s star actress and muse, Anna Karina. Drawing on the myths of Frankenstein and Narcissus, the film sets out to deconstruct contemporary cinema’s voyeuristic obsession with female beauty. A vengeful female scientist, outraged by Godard’s victimization of Anna Karina, constructs a beautiful female robot to seduce and destroy lovers attracted solely by physical beauty. Conflict arises when the robot begins to outgrow her creator’s intentions.


Ananke, Kirsten Slungaard, 14min30sec, 2004, mini-dv, St. Paul, MN

Ananke is a Greek word meaning the influence of fate on one’s decisions. At 5:51pm on one fateful day, five people are faced with a choice, not knowing that their decisions in that moment will forever change their lives and others. Energetic and imaginative, the quality of production belies the filmmaker’s age of just 16 years old.


Ann’s Hoard, EllenLake, 7min30, 2003, mini-dv, Berkeley, CA

Confessions of a hoarder. Ann considers herself more of a hoarder than a collector. She buys vases, covered glass dishes, hats, wigs, clothes, and loads of junk jewelry from eBay. She stashes her purchases in her garage, attic, under beds, and in closets. This is an analysis of the compulsion to collect, and hoard, to fill a void, fascinating as it comes from the perspective of one who does it yet says that it all ways her down.


A Little Life, Elizabeth Murray, 5min, 2003, mini-dv, Vancouver, Canada,

Part poetry, part science, A Little Life, is an up-close look at phaenicia sericata, the magnificent green bottle fly.


Chubby Buddy (The Last Castrato), Erika Yeomans, 13min, 2003, super 8, 16mm, mini-dv, NY, NY

An experimental narrative based on the memories of a man who gave up his career and marriage in order to act upon some peculiar impulses.


The Devil Makes Her Own Dessert, Thea Faulds, 2002, 8min, DV, Toronto, Canada
This video explores the changing aesthetics of rock n’ roll as it moves from analog to digital culture. The devil decides she must infuse rebellion back into rock n’ roll in a new form. Her answer is to make a delicious dessert, using cells from Joey Ramone, to re-infect consumers with the rock n’ roll gene.


The F.E.D.S., Jen Drummond, 6:20 min, 2002,  interpolated rotoscoping animation (RotoShop), Austin, TX

Under the fluorescent lights and piped-in muzak of a Texas-sized grocery store, the Food Education Demo Specialists (the F.E.D.S.) struggle to keep their perky attitudes intact. From annoying customer habits to agoraphobic fantasies, each F.E.D.S. gives us an insider’s look into the odd occupation of “slinging samples”. 


In the Red, Lucy Weisman, 4min, 2001, 16mm, NY, NY
A tribute to menstruation in the vein of 1950’s instructional videos, encouraging us to celebrate that special time of the month and giving some practical reasons how and why to.


Liver, Ianthe Jackon, 2:00, 2002, video, Philadelphia, PA
Cycles of life, swapping of organs, finding yourself in pieces, giving of yourself done in beautiful claymation.


Green Swell, Thea Faulds, 1:10 min, 2003, Toronto, Canada
This video follows the unbridled urge of one woman to add the ultimate dash of color by creating a typical and seemingly harmless treat.


The Fair and the Weak Lauren Cook, 2002, 8:20, mini-DV, Iowa City, IA
A collage of 1950s educational films and personal narrative offers questions and some answers about love and its challenges


Dalmar e Rosalia Bel Bechara and Sandro Serpa, 15:00, 2001, 35mm, Brazil (in Portugese with English subtitles) A story of love overcoming impossible odds between two quirky people. 

Supplemental Program:


Don’t Let the System Get You Down… Cheer Up! (Jennifer Nedbalsky, Mary Christmas, 13min)
Part DIY dance video and part herstory lesson, Cheer Up! documents the vibrant movement of radical cheerleading at one of its most exciting moments during the radical pro-choice cheerbloc contingent to the April 25, 2004 March for Women’s Lives in Washington D.C. Cheer Up!, the largest march in US history. The video looks at the growing movement of Radical Cheerleading, its roots and its future and the means by which it organizes.


It Could Happen To You, Elizabeth Henry, 8min35sec, 2004, Englewood, CO, 16mm

The great divorce: What we’re left with. What haunts us. An experimental collage piece using vintage footage that is so well crafted that it flows and creates rhythms and meanings effortlessly, engaging us without our awareness.


Novices,  Heidi Mau and Melissa Thompson, 1995, 5:45, 16mm
Ruminations on childhood experiences with nuns…friendships, influences, scary little nuns, crushes on nuns, when nuns leave.


And Happiness Everywhere, Shannon L. Silva, 7min, 2004, Super 8, 16mm, mini-dv, Iowa City, IA

And Happiness Everywhere is a four-month, intimate journal in which I was able to consider my conflicting emotions about being a newly married, thirty-something woman trying to negotiate between being an artist, being a wife, and potentially, becoming a mother.


Bessie Cohen, Survivor of the 1911 Shirtwaist Fire, Documentary about a Manhattan tragedy. Hope Tucker, 2000, 3:00, VHS


Ladies Room, Kate Bernstein, 14min, 2003, super 16mm and dvcam, Brooklyn, NY
Ladies Room reveals young women in their most intimate environment — the bathroom. From sterile public schools to underground warehouse raves and glitzy hotel rooms, this short film relays an insightful, playful, and provocative story of a group of girls in a variety of situations — always from the perspective and intimacy of the bathroom. Seen through the lens of fiction, documentary, and satire, their range of experiences and emotions — straddling strength and vulnerability — defines growing up female.

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