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IU Cinema staffer creates international event showcasing films directed by women

Aug. 26, 2015

A movement that started as one IU Cinema employee’s personal challenge to watch more films directed by women has since morphed into a 14-day international phenomenon.

Barbara Ann O'Leary

Barbara Ann O'Leary | Photo By Eric Rudd, IU Communications

“To support my personal challenge, I created an online list of women film directors,” IU Cinema social media specialist and cinephile Barbara Ann O’Leary said. “And after the list grew to something like 7,000 women, I thought, ‘I’ll never be able to watch all these films. What if everybody around the world got together to watch these films? We need a party!’”

Just like that, “Directed by Women” was born. The movement calls for film lovers across the world to watch at least one movie directed by a woman director from Sept. 1 to 15, and has already garnered support from across the globe.

IU Cinema has committed all of its public programming during the timeframe to the work of female filmmakers from around the world. Screenings include “Last Days in Vietnam,” directed and produced by Rory Kennedy; the “New Negress Film Society Short Film Program,” including visits by directors Ja’Tovia Gary and Stefani Saintonge;  IU alumna Hannah Fidell; and filmmaker Penelope Spheeris, whose work includes “The Decline of Western Civilization” Trilogy and “Wayne’s World.” 

Other “Directed by Women” events at IU include “A Feast of Experimental Shorts,” coordinated by Wells Library Media Services; “Educational Films Directed By Women: Screening Science, Art, Nature and Gender in the Classroom,” hosted by IU Libraries Moving Image Archive; and additional film screenings at Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center Library. 

And the movement is only gaining steam, O’Leary said. The Portland Film Festival has joined the celebration; the annual Scalarama festival that takes place in more than 250 venues across the United Kingdom and Ireland will take part; branches of the Seattle Public Library will host public screenings; and a group of female filmmakers in Spain have organized multi-day events in Barcelona and Madrid. In addition, a multi-city film series is being planned in India by the newly formed organization Women Making Film India.

“It’s an opportunity for people to awaken a deep hunger for what women are creating, and appreciate the diversity and range of what is being created,” she said. “And it’s also about the sheer joy and love of film and expanding your awareness.”

O’Leary, who graduated from the Department of Theatre, Drama and Contemporary Dance with a bachelor’s degree in theater, has managed IU Cinema’s social media since 2013. She made her own experimental short film last year as part of a class taught by IU doctoral student Russell Sheaffer, himself an award-winning filmmaker whose work screened at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival.

“Directed by Women” is a culmination of O’Leary’s lifelong connections to women’s issues. She timed the celebration of “Directed by Women” with the 20th anniversary of the UN Women’s world conference in Beijing, which she attended due to her work with former Congresswoman Bella Abzug, founder of Women’s Environment and Development Organization.

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