Bentonville Film Fest Women-on-the-Street, Part Three — Betsy Bozdech reports

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BFF_Logo_Transparent2017_Scaled_100At the Bentonville Film Festival, female filmmakers find themselves surrounded by mentors, peers, and filmgoers who celebrate women’s creativity and success in every aspect of the entertainment world. Attracting women at every career level, the annual event encourages diversity and inclusion both in front of and behind the camera, and provides the ideal ambiance for taking a feminist pulse on the industry by collecting comments on topics of importance. AWFJ’s three-part BFF Woman-on-the-Street series does just that. We caught up with 2017 attendees (including festival founder Geena Davis) to gather their thoughts on key issues of concern to women in film. The first and most pressing question was about the current challenges they face in getting their work funded, produced, and recognized. The first question was about the current challenges they face in getting their work funded, produced, and recognized. Then we asked them what woman (or group of women) in history should have her story told on screen, but hasn’t yet. And, finally, we requested their thoughts on which characters they consider role models for young women and girls who are eager to see a wide range of female characters in the media. Read on…

Which female characters are good role models for young women, and why?

“For a long time, I’ve wanted to play Eleanor Roosevelt. And I think the great thing about her is, for me, she was famous for her whole life, so I can’t age out of [it]. … I think people don’t know anywhere near enough about her incredible accomplishments, so I’d love to bring that to the screen.” — Geena Davis

The PowerPuff Girls, believe it or not. They kind of represent good things, and change, and taking their womanhood and power.” — Nancy Cartwright, co-writer, In Search of Fellini

“America Chavez is an amazing character in the Marvel Universe. … She’s a Latina teenage girl. And she’s bixesual, and she identifies as queer, and she’s kind of like hitting all these really interesting marks that you’ve never seen a superhero hit before. … If I could have seen something like that when I was 11 or 12 and sort of just tearing my hair out at the lack of representation. … If I had been able to go and pick up a comic book and see a superhero that looked like me? It would have changed my life.” — Stephanie Beatriz, Brooklyn Nine-Nine

“The reason I loved X-Men, which I didn’t realize until I was older … was because there was Storm, and Jean Grey. There were actually female superheroes!” — Melissa Fumero, Brooklyn Nine-Nine

“On television … we’re seeing really fantastic, very complicated women. I love that [on Big Little Lies] we’re representing very flawed people with problems who are trying to work them out with each other and within the family and community. I think it’s powerful to admit your flaws.” — Meg Ryan

“Ones that are messy and make mistakes and screw up and say sorry and have flaws. Regular people, regular humans. … I am always a champion of the underdog.” — Brooke Purdy, writer, co-director, co-star, Quality Problems

“I always like Thelma and Louise, but I don’t know if they’re really good role models!” — Zeva Oelbaum, co-director, Letters from Baghdad

“I know people automatically go to the superheroes, but I really believe that when you don’t have powers, it shows more character. … For example, when I was young, I used to read Nancy Drew. It was empowering because she would solve these problems that nobody else could. And I also think people like Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter books — of course she had magical powers, but she used her intellect, and it was her love and friendship that really helped Harry be a hero.” — Marie Jamora, writer/director, Flip the Record

“I just love the movie Bridesmaids a lot. And I’m really thrilled with Melissa McCarthy’s whole career. I think Lena Dunham, she can be polarizing, but I still admire what she does, and I personally love it, and I’m really impressed by her. And people might argue, but Saturday Night Live has consistently been a place of great female voices and great diversity — at least now. I’m very happy about that.” — Judy Greer, director, A Happening of Monumental Proportions

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