Last year, women filled only a third of all speaking parts in the top 100 grossing films in the United States. Local filmmaker and Bluestocking Film Series founder Kate Kaminski wants that to change.
Kaminski started the festival, which features films with female protagonists, in 2011, after realizing that she was looking to submit her own work to “a festival that didn’t exist.” Now in its sixth year, the July event will feature over 20 short films by filmmakers from all around the world.
Kaminski’s goal is to showcase films in which women are more than supportive wives or one-dimensional girlfriend characters. These works put women at the center of a film’s narrative, and tell stories from a female vantage point. The festival requires films to pass a standard often called the Bechdel-Wallace test: it must feature at least two named women talking to each other about something other than a man. “The bottom line is, I’d like to see rich, cinematic stories about diverse female characters who are portrayed with the same complexity and allowed the same strengths and flaws as male characters,” says Kaminski. “There are screenwriters out there writing these roles for women right now—I personally know some of them—but the question is how to change a system that is inherently, deliberately, and stubbornly sexist so that these stories can see the light of day on screen.”
Bluestocking Film Series director of development Kari Wagner-Peck echoes this sentiment. “Six years ago the thought of the equity of women in films was in its beginning phases,” she says. She lauds Kaminski for leading the charge in bringing the strength of the feminine voice to the forefront. “What was really astounding was that she knew that this issue was important to filmmaking—not just to women, but for men to see it too—and that she started it in Portland, Maine.”
This year’s film festival, which takes its name from an influential group of women in eighteenth-century England, will be held July 14-16, with screenings at Maine College of
Art and the University of Southern Maine’s Portland campus. The films will range in length from six to 24 minutes. One category this year is “Road Movies,” comprised of films shot entirely on iPhones. The festival will open with a panel discussion about the state of women
on screen and strategies for continuing to push for more female representation. Panel guests will include American Civil Liberties Union of Maine Executive Director Alison Beyea, filmmaker Maria Giese, and actor-writer- director Yolonda Ross. Loren King of The Boston Globe will moderate.
Most of the films in the series have been made by people from elsewhere, but the festival encourages participation from Maine filmmakers. Portland filmmaker Carol Capomaccio’s first short film Going Down?,
her interpretation of a near-death experience, made its Maine debut at Bluestocking in 2014. “Bluestocking inspired me to go for it,” says Capomaccio. “It helped me realize a lifelong dream. Kaminski has created a space for all women, not just young women, to bring their dreams to life. Kate and Bluestocking made me feel safe enough to do it, that what I had to offer was good enough.”
This year the festival has changed its venue from SPACE Gallery to larger venues at Maine College of Art and the University of Southern Maine. “SPACE is great. We love SPACE, but we had to grow,” says Kaminski. The film festival’s budget has also grown. Kaminski operated the event on a shoestring, with the help of donations from businesses and individuals, before bringing Wagner-Peck on in 2014 as director of development. That year the festival doubled its budget. The budget increased another 50 percent in 2015 and 20 percent this year. This has allowed Kaminski to be compensated some for her work and to expand the festival’s programming. She hopes to build the size of the staff in the years to come. Local businesses continue to be involved beyond the sponsorship level. This year has Rising Tide Brewing Company signing on as the official beer, and Portland lingerie purveyor Étaín Boutique provides the “official underthing” for the festival.
Kaminski says the organization’s goals are to continue to grow the festival as a destination event, and to attract more and more Hollywood industry players to it.
“I am not just a filmmaker. I also love movies,” says Kaminski. “I want to see myself and the whole diverse world of women on film because I crave those stories, and I think other people crave those stories, too, and not just women; men, too. I think it’s culturally important for women’s voices to be available to all.”