Film Fest Females: Spotlight on ‘Les Femmes Underground’

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“Les Femmes Underground International is a film festival centered on the subversive, unique, and innovative. LEFUFF, showcases artists from all walks of life creating work which redefines the manner in which women are represented in mainstream cinema.
 
As feminists, we believe it is our responsibility to empower new generations of young women to generate work which breaks away from society’s gendered roles. Les Femmes Underground seeks to premier first time under-represented emerging feminist film-makers and artists.” – www.lesfemmesinternational.org

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Now that I have your attention, here’s a fun fact for you: Did you know that we are in the midst of a 4th-wave feminist movement? While there are many aspects that go into this updated era of feminism, the key to this “4th-wave” is the digital realm of technology, social media, mass information and entertainment. As all of us in the industry know, what we watch and consume has a huge impact on our ideals and worldview. So what better way to celebrate progressive ideas and forms of art than a film festival?

That’s why the Les Femmes Underground International Film Festival (LEFUFF) was the perfect opportunity for me to expose myself to an out of the box approach on art as activism. Hosted at the adorably quaint theatre space Beyond Baroque, I arrived to a wonderfully friendly group of women, and an explosion of colorful programs, grab bags and glowsticks. After being handed a raffle ticket and a badge, I was shown around the facility by the wonderfully whimsical festival organizer Edda Manriquez (donning a moon phase dress and pendant) and took my seat for the opening panel discussion.

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Have you ever noticed how seldom women of history make in into the curriculum at our schools? Or how your average Disney animated movie woefully lacks diversity? Feminist author and former animator/programmer at Dreamworks Jason Porath wondered the same thing. But instead of complaining and going about his life as usual, he elected to do something about it. Introducing… Rejected Princesses, or “Women too Awesome, Awful, or Offbeat for Kids’ Movies”.

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While a book is on the way, Jason already has a bustling and constantly growing blog database of personally-animated “rejected princesses”, highlighting badass women of history from around the globe. Every week he becomes a mini-expert on a particular female from history (typically those who have passed at least 50 years ago or more), and seeks to illustrate and shed light on their background and life-events. Jason already has over 200 entries, with over 1,500 queued up for the future! To ensure his history is accurate, he consults a vast network of real-life historians, language translators, original texts, online databases, and much more. He aims to eventually represent a significant historic female from every culture and country across the world. Rejected Princesses has become a full-time job for Jason, and it’s gaining popularity quickly. Make sure to check out his work HERE if this piques your interest!

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After being awed by the sheer creativity and originality of Jason Porath’s princess project, it was time for the first showcase of films titled, “Psychotropic Visions (Experimental Cinema)”. My taste in film is pretty conventional, so I did not know what to expect with so-called “experimental” film… but wow, I was impressed. I’ll admit that some of it flew right over my head, but understanding everything isn’t essential to this genre of film. It’s more of an experience of feeling and tantalizing visuals with an overarching theme (in this case, radical expression and feminism). This allows the viewer to interpret the meaning individually, much like an art exhibit. From heart-stopping psychedelic animations to VHS-style retro throwbacks, from pastel music videos to hilarious dream hypnosis scenarios, I was on a rollercoaster of high-concept creativity from start to finish.

The emotion through the unspoken nature of a lot of the featured works ironically spoke volumes to me. They exemplified that the images and music of media are equally powerful storytelling devices that transcend language and conventional film structure. I was impressed, to say the least. I was shocked to hear from many of the filmmakers who spoke afterwards that they reverted back to “vintage” methods of filmmaking, taking it as far as painting and collaging on the film itself to create their works of art.

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Intermission was an experience all its own, with food, drinks, local art for sale, and a special appearance from bright and bubbly band POLARTROPICA.

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The next two showcases were called, “Youth and Altered States” and “Femme Fatales (Horror)”, and brought forth more narrative-style shorts with a twist. Ranging from creepy to heartbreaking, colorful to dreary, these films ran the gamut of thought-provoking topics while still focusing on non-conventional female-driven storylines. Thoroughly entertained, my night concluded with an adult showcase titled, “SEXual ReduXXX”, aimed at breaking down the taboo of sexual awakening and destigmatizing the female anatomy.

As a young female in the entertainment industry, interested in both filmmaking and activism, LEFUFF completely took me by surprise and educated me in ways I would have never expected. Being the first traveling underground film festival, I am beyond excited that they get to take this program and its mission to various places, because I think everyone needs the occasional break from normality and conventional art.

My parting thought is this: fellow females, it is absolutely inspiring to witness other women take charge and make the content that needs to be made. Support festivals and movements like this as often as you can, because the more we feel unafraid to push the boundaries of creativity, society and our industry as a community, the more success we’ll have in making the changes that need to be made in our culture.

To subscribe to the LEFUFF newsletter, click HERE.

To find out more about Rejected Princesses, click HERE.

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Kaytra Parkman

About Kaytra Parkman

Actress. “An old cosmic soul disguised as a 21st-century earthling”. Kaytra has no recollection of “catching” any acting bug... it was always there. At the ripe age of 3, she pointed to the television enthusiastically and declared, “I want to be IN THAT!”. After her parents jokingly reminded her she would have to be really small to fit in there, Kaytra skipped and tripped her way through adolescence until she landed a coveted spot at the Orange County High School of the Arts (OCSA). There she spent 4 years studying everything from stage combat to documentary filmmaking amongst a wide variety of young artists. A professional nerd on the side, she also freelances as a social media manager/video editor/techie, and spends her free time Netflixing and obsessing about space. Kaytra hopes to combine her love of acting, filmmaking and activism to evoke positive change both individually and globally.