On June 29th and 30th women filmmakers and their male collaborators took Harvard Square by storm at the 1st year of the Different Faces Different Voices Film Festival, featuring 29 original Flicks4Chicks shorts.
Four screenings at the Brattle Theater showcased a wide variety of under-10 minute films that told stories ranging from the radical rebellion of a transgender pre-teen to a grandmother embarking on a surprisingly unexpected romance.
Twenty awards were given to teams who crafted their stories in one short month, based on situations provided by the festival organizers.
The top awards, each at $2,500.00, emphasized key goals of the festival: Diversity (of both cast and crew) and moving Beyond the Bechdel to portray women having unique personal adventures and conquering their world. The Diversity Award was given to The Letter, produced by Becca Berry of Iugo Entertainment, starring Sydney Viengluang and Katie Chan. The Beyond Bechdel was awarded to Marie Emmanuelle Hartness of Maiema Productions for The Wish, which starred daughter Kira Hartness, Mary Elizabeth Haferd, and Naomi Fuhrer.
Award presenters included Michelle Barbera, Co-Founder of Women in Comedy; Christine Cannavo of Harvard Square Script Writers; James Joyce, Executive Director of Wellesley Media; Joyce Kulhawik of Joyce’s Choices; Florence Mugenyi of Women in Film and Video/New England; Carol Patton, editor of Imagine Magazine; Bob Tremblay, film critic for Metrowest News; and Adam Van Voorhis of Rule Boston Camera.
A cast and crew party held at John Harvard’s Brewery and Ale House included over a hundred guests who arrived from as far away as Los Angeles, Albuquerque New Mexico, Fredericksburg, Virginia, and Ithaca and N.Y., New York.
International submissions included films from London, England and São Paulo, Brazil, in addition to those from across the United States.
The festival was created and administered by Harvard Square Script Writers, a professional screenwriting group, celebrating its 30th anniversary under the direction of Genine Tillotson. Since becoming a non-profit in 2014, the organization has steadily expanded, sponsoring staged and table reads, screenings, an internship program, and workshops on a wide range of topics.
Details about each award-winning film are below:
Best Storyline – Green Fingers
This hilarious tale from a team across the Atlantic (England to be specific) follows the antics of a wacky grandmother and her devoted grand daughter who has come for a visit. The elderly prankster reveals the supposed dark history of her grand daughter’s mother, but is any of what she says the truth? A clever, fast-paced script with a twist, Green Fingers authors Bethany Lamont and Sidney Law won the award for Best Storyline.
Best Dialogue – Culture Club
In this screwball story of an accidental sperm donation, a young woman confronts what it will be like to have a multi-racial child, in a world where discrimination still exists. The ensemble cast, featuring two fantastic friends who help our hero to imagine herself as a successful mother, had the judges laughing out loud AND thinking seriously about true multi-culturism. The Best Dialogue Award went to screenwriter/actor Kristy Thomas for Culture Club.
Best Production Design – Bottled
Two witches inhabit a world of mysterious potions and candle-lit meetings with earnest clients, while fighting their own addiction to magic. With a scant few days to create a dark and alluring environment, this production design team managed to create a fantastic supernatural setting. The Best Production Design Award went to Bottled.
Best Costume Design – Weekend Vampire
It’s time for this vampire to step out of the attic and go party-hopping with a mad texter and an assortment of goth and glam Millennials. The collection of fantastic finery worn by a huge cast made Weekend Vampire the obvious winner for Best Costume Design.
Best Musical Score – Like Me
Sometimes music simply carries the mood of the film, and in this case it certainly did. As a young girl struggles to communicate that her gender identity is just plain wrong, the score accompanies us on her journey to a final act of rebellion. Best Musical Score went to Maxi Artale for Like Me.
Best Cinematography – Tenders and Bottled
More than a few of our films were beautifully shot but two (yes two!) were so outstanding that we had to award a tie in this category. Whether at a remote farm where a disillusioned retired minister raises chickens, or in the den of a witch mother-daughter team, these filmmakers painted beautiful cinematic portraits. We were thrilled to honor the films Tenders and Bottled with the award of Best Cinematography.
Best Special Effects – Culture Club
It’s your worst nightmare – remembering every failed boyfriend you’ve ever had, then finally deciding you might be better off single. In this sequence, we are taken on a seamless tour of one woman’s romantic history, all in the flash of an eye. With deceptively simple effects this team produced a most memorable comic moment. The Best Special Effects award went to Jeremy Thomas for Culture Club.
Best Sound Engineering – Pretty Good Run
You’re trapped in a bathroom. It’s 1978 and you’ve just found out you are pregnant. You scream, you thrash. Later you come to accept your situation and hold your newborn close to your breast, knowing that good-bye could be moments away. The impeccable sound recording and mixing of this heartbreaking study from another era made it the logical choice for this award. We were delighted to present the Best Sound Design award to Pretty Good Run.
Best Editing – Pretty Good Run
A film ultimately comes together in the editing room where the strongest performances are selected, sequences are composed and the story finally emerges as a coherent and hopefully dramatic whole. This story, artfully constructed by the same London team (see above), exemplifies the craft. We were excited to present the award for Best Editing to Tommy Reynolds for Pretty Good Run.
Best Comedy – Weekend Vampire
What happens when you combine a satiric look at modern society and elements of traditional horror? You get a fast-talking, oblivious social media maven and her bloodthirsty companion. Selected by our judges from Women in Comedy as Best Comedy – Weekend Vampire.
Best Drama – The Letter
A film that excels in drama is one where human emotion and conflict are at the forefront. The winner of this category explored an age-old story of inter-generational misunderstanding. When a mother finally decides to break free of her ties she discovers that it is not so easy. She must go beyond pen and paper to a face-to-face confrontation with her resentful daughter. This compelling drama and its powerful twist made this film unforgettable. Winner of the Best Drama award was given to The Letter.
Best Actor – Katie Chan
This award was one of the most difficult for the judges. So many of the actors gave 110% in roles that profoundly moved the viewers and, most importantly, went beyond the one dimensional stereotypes women so often play in mainstream media. But this performance was perhaps best described by one of our judges as “profoundly powerful in its subtly.” We were honored to present the award for Best Actor to Katie Chan for The Letter.
Best Supporting Actor – Christin Eve Cato
She jumps into a cab and reminds the driver of another time and place. Her resemblance to another lover triggers a day-long adventure in connection and healing. Her character evolves from terrified to joyful, and we are literally along for the ride. The award for Best Supporting Actress was presented to Christin Eve Cato for City Stars.
Best Rising Star – Brooklyn Robinson
Once in a great while a director has the good fortune to find a child actor so un-self conscious, so spontaneous that she consumes the frame and ultimately owns the film. This young one was given a real challenge in this gender-bending examination of identity. And she rose to the occasion. The winner of the Best Rising Star award went to Brooklyn Robinson from Like Me.
Best Director – Pinky Promise
Women only make up 13 percent of the directors in Hollywood so what exactly are we going to do about that? Let’s start by acknowledging that women have the passion, stamina, and talent to take the creative reins. In this terrific ensemble story about competitive employees who could perhaps be allies – or even more – the director inspired dynamic performances in a witty but thoughtful look at female friendship. We were proud to present the award for Best Director to Catharine Palafis for the film Pinky Promise.
Best Emerging Filmmakers – A Perfect Match and For Sam
These two women represent opposite ends of the spectrum in their ages, but not in their ambition or talent. Neither knew anything about filmmaking when they began this project, but they were determined to tell stories that mattered – about reinvention and acceptance. Both wrote and directed their films and their messages came through loud and clear in the performances they inspired. The Best Emerging Filmmaker awards went to Gwendolyn Mason Callahan for A Perfect Match and Alexandra Henderson for the film For Sam.
Different Faces Different Voices (Diversity) Award – The Letter
At the Different Faces Different Voices Film festival, the mission was to encourage filmmakers to explore untold stories of the human experience. This winning film boldly explored the ideas of identity, and culture. At its core it is a study of a mother and daughter overcoming a cultural and generational divide. Its compelling theme and performances gave voice to issues often ignored in our society – aging, xenophobia (and its terrible consequences) and the importance of emotional intimacy. Asian American stories make up only 1 percent of major Hollywood films, but the judges did not select this short to right an issue of discrimination. It is simply a wonderful tale of reconciliation. The Flicks4Chicks contest was proud to present the Different Faces Different Voices Diversity Award to The Letter.
Best Beyond the Bechdel Test – The Wish
In the original 1985 cartoon by Alison Bechdel, her characters put forth the following requirement for any film worth seeing – the movie had to have at least two women in it who talk to each other about something other than a man. In the Flicks4Chicks contest we asked filmmakers to create cinematic narratives where women characters were taken beyond that minimum standard. We challenged them to show women pursuing their own goals, engaging in exciting adventures, overcoming significant odds, and feeling victorious.
While all the judges were impressed by the films screened over the course of the festival, there was one film, in particular, that truly rose to that thematic challenge. In it, three young girls, who begin their day eating candy and being idle, discover the power that a woman can exert if she is willing to face down her enemies. In this case, the passion of a wish might just alter history. As noted previously, the Beyond the Bechdel Film Award went to The Wish, written and directed by Marie Emmanuelle Hartness.
A slideshow below captures just some of the exciting events from those two memorable days. All photos by Paul Falcone, unless otherwise indicated.