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Technology, Community, and Intersectionality at the Feminist Film Festival

A little girl with curly hair crosses a city in Brazil to get straight hair like the women around her. The daughter of Turkish refugees gets to see her homeland for the first time through her granddaughter’s clever use of virtual reality. A filmmaker finds that her body is linked to her work: every time she asserts herself, she grows a new zit.

“The Return” by Nesli Ozalp

At the opening night of the 13th Annual Davis Feminist Film Festival on Thursday, May 10th, transforming bodies and technology’s transformational power were on display. Students and community members gathered in the Veteran’s Memorial Theater for two nights of films from around the world that examined the intersections of identity categories.

The lineup of films left viewers with more questions to think about, “like the best art,” wrote Baltus in her program notes. “But taken together, they are an argument that filmmakers who are underrepresented in mainstream culture provide crucial perspectives on how systems of power, privilege, and oppression play out in everyday lives.”

Feminist Film Festival attendees browse the student art exhibition


The opening night films featured subjects “Beyond the Binary,” exploring women’s lives mediated by technology and the stories of trans activists. Films on May 11th focused on “Nation, Family, and Community,” presenting stories of refugees, immigrants, and resistant communities.

The final night of the festival ended with films by two UC Davis student filmmakers, Yuelei Song and Lena El-Gabalawy, discussing filmmaking as activism. Song’s film, “Gay Lonely Hearts Club,” examines what it means to be LGBTQ+ outside of a romantic relationship. El-Gabalawy’s “Ouroboros” takes up how women of color are confined by body image, sexual expectations, and ideals of beauty.

A still from Lena El-Gabalawy’s film, “Ouroboros”

The festival represents a yearlong project that brings UC Davis and global communities together. In the fall, Baltus and her 11 student interns put a call for films on Film Freeway, a film festival sharing platform. The festival directors requested films created by underrepresented people in the field, films addressing gender and social justice issues, and films that linked global and local concerns. And filmmakers from Brazil to Cameroon responded: the festival received over 950 submissions from filmmakers around the world this year, competing for 22 slots.

Lindsay Baltus, the festival’s program director and a graduate student in English, thinks this outpouring of interest is partly due to the festival’s unique perspective: “We’re one of the few feminist film festivals, although there are lots of women’s festivals out there.” The nonbinary, intersectional focus of the Davis Film Festival means that it can represent a wider range of experiences and stories.

After receiving 950 entries, the festival coordinators screened each one with the help of the Women’s Resources & Research Center advisory board and community volunteers. The volunteers picked 60 highlights, which eleven undergraduate WRRC interns screened as part of a class on feminist film theory. Baltus and her students aimed to craft a program as widely representational as possible, and highlight experimental techniques where possible.

The art exhibition featured works by students exploring global, nonbinary, resistant, and triumphant feminisms

In addition to 22 films from India, Brazil, Cameroon, France, Turkey, the US, and Mexico, the Feminist Film Festival also featured a feminist art show. Student artists from UC Davis showcased poems, paintings, textile art, and drawings portraying aspects of global feminism.

–Samantha Snively, DHI Humanities Correspondent and PhD candidate in English literature

This page was last updated: July 26, 2018



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