Feminist Film Festival confronts women’s issues

Natalie Schermer

May 8-10, the Lawrence chapter of V-Day held their Feminist Film Festival in the Wriston Auditorium. The three films selected were “Water” (2005), directed by Deepa Mehta; “Where the Boys Are” (1960), directed by Henry Levin; and “Easy A” (2010), directed by Will Gluck. Scheduled to coincide with Slutwalk, each film was selected to address a specific issue and followed by a discussion to highlight these themes.

“Water,” shown May 8, tells the story of a group of widows in 1938 stricken by poverty in the city of Varanasi, India. Normally, social restrictions on widows forbid them from marrying again — but one of the widows, Kalyani, is courted by a man from the highest caste who doesn’t seem to care about social restrictions. V-Day chose to show this film because the story showcases a man acting as men should, respecting Kalyani despite social rules telling him he shouldn’t. It also involves Gandhi’s campaign for women’s rights.

“Where the Boys Are,” shown May 9, starts out like a typical spring break movie. Four girls drive to Fort Lauderdale, Fla. for their spring vacation and the film follows their adventure, romance and trouble with the college students they meet. V-Day selected this film as a representation of how far feminist ideas have come since the 1960s. While the representations and discussions in the film seem very conservative to viewers today, the topics discussed in the film were quite progressive for its time, openly talking about subjects like sex and rape.

The final film, shown May 10, was “Easy A,” the whole basis for the film festival. Loosely based on “The Scarlet Letter,” main character Olive finds herself in the position of school slut after a white lie takes on a life of its own. Olive’s okay with the attention — it’s not like she’s actually done anything she’s accused of in the film — but begins to reconsider as whispers in the hallway turn into vicious gossip and harmful accusations. “Easy A” confronts some of the same issues Slutwalk is committed to addressing — most notably, slut-shaming. I had seen the film before, but not in the context of a feminist work, and it’s interesting to consider it in that light. Slutwalk is committed to getting rid of the idea of excusing rape because of a woman’s appearance, and reclaiming the word “slut” — women should be able to dress how they want.

“Easy A” does an extremely good job of bringing these issues to a mainstream audience in an appealing, funny but educational way — an obvious choice for the end of the film festival and a good transition into Slutwalk.

V-Day itself is an international activist movement committed to ending violence against women. V-Day chapters around the nation stage performances and benefits to raise money for any number of causes and organizations committed to their cause. The Lawrence chapter of V-Day sponsored a performance of “The Vagina Monologues” last term and the film festival and Slutwalk last week. If you’re interested in joining, meetings are every Wednesday at 9:30 p.m.