Hot on the heels of the Philadelphia Film Festival, two of Philadelphia’s longest-running ethnic film festivals, whose intersectionality often extends beyond the communities they specifically represent, return in November. With the ongoing discourse about Hollywood misogyny, it’s refreshing to see the independent film community presenting a positive alternative. Here is a roundup of woman-centered films at these two festivals and elsewhere about town.
New shorts and 1930s comedy
The Philadelphia Women’s Film Festival is hosting a special pop-up screening event and competition on Friday, November 3, from 6 to 9pm at Franky Bradley’s. Local filmmakers are invited to bring shorts (running up to 10 minutes) that are by, for, or about women. Entry is free; screen time will be determined by lottery if the number of entries outlasts the scheduled time. The evening’s winner will get a screening at the 2018 Women’s Film Festival in March.
On Thursday, November 9, at 8pm, the Rotunda is hosting a double-feature screening of two 1930s comedies. The first of the two films, Show Girl in Hollywood, is particularly femme-forward, starring flapper comedian Alice White as an unemployed chorus girl who decides to leave Broadway and go to Hollywood to find a job in the “talking pictures.” Admission is free, but arrive early if you want to guarantee your seat.
Join Reelblack Presents on Friday, November 10, at 7:30pm for the Philadelphia premiere of the award-winning dramedy La Vie Magnifique de Charlie. A timely exploration of the power of sisterhood and the beauty of #blackgirlmagic, this film follows a young woman’s struggle to remain carefree after the death of her sister. With nuanced portrayals of its black women characters, the film also tackles mental health and female sexual empowerment. The screening is located at the Bank (3750 Lancaster Avenue, formerly the United Bank Building), and admission is pay-what-you-wish, with a suggested $7 donation at the door.
Spanning two weeks and showcasing more than 30 feature films, the Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival’s 37th edition takes place November 4 through 19 at the Gershman Y and several other venues across town. One standout title is Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story, showing at 7:30pm on Saturday, November 11, at the Gershman Y ($25). In Bombshell, director Alexandra Dean uses four archival interviews conducted in 1990 with 1930s Hollywood icon Lamarr as the basis for a documentary whose mission is to offer voice to the woman beyond her silver-screen glam. (Read more in our WNWN preview.)
Women lost, found, and transformed
The Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival (PAAFF), which I programmed, will be celebrating its 10th anniversary from November 9 through 19 with nearly 100 films, live music, an academic conference, and theater performances.
PAAFF offers several woman-centric films. Discover female luchadores in Los Angeles (Signature Move, a boundary-blasting rom-com on November 11); and a Centerpiece Documentary (Finding Kukan, screening November 12) which discovers the complex identity of Li Ling-Ai, the uncredited female Chinese-American producer whose film won an Academy Award in 1941. The festival is also hosting a free evening of classic Hollywood movies featuring Asian Americans on Wednesday, November 15, at Fleisher Art Memorial from 5 to 10pm, including two films starring Anna May Wong, Hollywood’s first Chinese American starlet, popular in the 1930s and '40s. (Here's more WNWN coverage of PAAFF.)
Later this month, PhilaMOCA will host the exclusive Philadelphia engagement of the 2017 Sundance Film Festival favorite, Bitch. Written and directed by Marianna Palka (who also stars), Bitch is the provocative tale of a distraught housewife whose psychotic break results in her adopting the persona of a vicious dog — offering an unflinching critique of the impact of traditional gender roles in the American family. There are two screenings on Sunday, November 19, and one on Monday, November 20 (admission $12).