Review of the Artemis Women in Action Film Festival
by Rebecca Nyahay
I had the pleasure of attending the Artemis Women in Action Film Festival in LA a few weeks back and during the screening of our film, Blackwell Summers Mysteries, I knew we had found our audience. This festival truly celebrates Women in Action and all that that implies.
Artemis was the Olympian goddess of hunting, the wilderness, and wild animals and couldn’t be a more fitting name. Founded in 2015, it was the first festival dedicated to women in action roles. Initially the festival was created to celebrate female action films in a way that brought filmmakers, actresses, stuntwomen and athletes together in one place. While the festival initially focused on features, shorts, docs and animation that featured physically empowered women, in the 3 years since its inception, it has expanded to include films about female activists and historically influential women. The non-action genre films featured incredibly brave and independent women in stories that inspired and educated. As you can imagine, I was very excited to be a part of it!
Let’s start with the festival itself. The founding members, Melanie, Sean and Zac, were all a delight! I have often found that the level of communication from the organizers leading up to the festival itself can be an indication of the experience the filmmaker will have while there. All communications were very clear and they were always accessible to answer any questions. Once at the festival, the entire staff was friendly and accommodating. The opening night Red Carpet gala was a grand event complete with celebrities and press. The ceremony honored a selection of women and men who have worked to promote women in the action genre. The 2 biggest celebrities honored, Melissa McCarthy and Tom Cruise, even recorded acceptance videos that were shown during the ceremony. Not bad for a festival that’s only in its 3rd year! I was most impressed with how supportive each award recipient was in their acceptance speech. Every woman talked about helping other women in the industry and creating a supportive environment rather than a competitive one. You can find a full list of honorees here - http://www.artemisfilmfestival.com/2017-honorees/
I was able to attend 2 panels during the festival – All Stars of Stunts and Women Warrior Panel. I particularly enjoyed the Women Warrior Panel as it included archaeologists, historians, female martial artists and MMA fighters. It was a fascinating discussion about the history and current reality of being a female warrior. It was so refreshing to be at a film panel that focused more on a subject matter relevant to the overall festival rather than the technical filmmaking aspects of specific films. The discussion really put many of the films into perspective and I was able to view the evening action screenings through a slightly different lens.
As with most small festivals and the action genre itself, the films were hit or miss when it came to the straight action pieces. There were some phenomenal fight sequences that didn’t always have strong storylines, great storylines with weak acting and a few that despite having female leads, were a bit sexist in terms of subject. Action films rarely have that unique combination of strong story, believable fight sequences, beautiful camera work and strong acting. Overall, most of the films hit at least 2 of those elements, but I didn’t see any that hit all of them. That being said, there were some incredibly fierce women with phenomenal fighting skills. To see that kind of talent in low budget films when you know the actresses are doing their own stunts and really kicking butt without the benefit of CGI or fancy aerial rigging is really awesome.
There was a VR Lounge set up throughout the weekend and though I personally do not have as much interest in that type of filmmaking, it was amazing to see the technology that’s being created. I got to experience a village in Africa surrounded by all the villagers and children singing while walking by my side. The 360 degree VR is incredible and I would encourage everyone to check it out if the opportunity arises.
Now, you’d think an actress/producer who loves action and does her own fighting and stunts would be most drawn to the action films at the festival. That did not end up being the case. My favorite films in the festival were the docs. Saturday afternoon brought stories of female activists, suffragettes, riveters and athletes. From the Margaret Lambert Story about a Jewish athlete barred from competition during Hitler’s 1936 Olympic Games to We Can Do It – Stories of Rosie the Riveter which focused on the millions of women who joined the labor force in WWII to I Shot Einstein about the work of veteran photojournalist Marilyn Stafford. The following morning brought films of women rock climbing in Thailand, downhill mountain biking some sick trails and an artist hiking and painting the view from the summit of each of the 58 Colorado mountains. The stories were inspiring and the cinematography was stunning.
My only criticism would be the lack of networking opportunities throughout the festival. It would have been great to have a reception before or after the red carpet event for filmmakers to get to know one and other. The event was held at a smaller theatre and while the theatre itself was grand and perfect for the evening, the lobby was tiny and cramped and there was no specified reception. The VR lounge was great and open for the duration of the festival but did not encourage filmmakers to stick around and mingle unless they were there for the VR. These small criticisms are easy fixes going forward and as they are only in their third year, I’m sure they will continue to nurture their filmmakers and grow the opportunities. I would highly encourage any filmmaker with a film that honors female action and empowerment to submit to this festival. It is still a young festival and will only keep growing! Overall I really enjoyed this festival and plan on returning whether or not I have a film being screened.
If you would like to read more about this year’s films, you can check out the full schedule including film synopsis’ here -