G-Sync: From Seneca Falls to Grand Rapids, women's voices matter

Quick: Name your five favorite films of all time. Lifestyle Editor Tommy Allen is guessing most of them were directed by men, and he has just the local event to add some fresh new names to your list of favorites. 
Quick pop quiz: Name your five favorite films of all time.
Chances are, if you are like most folks you have a few names that overlap with your friends' selections. And chances are, almost all the films you hold near and dear to your heart were directed by men.
This is not necessarily a bad thing, and you surely have not failed any trick test of mine. It's simply a fact that many of the films we've grown to love and enjoy over the years are there on your list because of the access to storytelling these directors were afforded.
Over the last couple decades, a few things have greatly leveled the playing field. Through low-cost tools, software, and a new barrier-free creative ecosystem outside of the Hollywood machine on sites like YouTube and Vimeo, a filmmaker's voice has never had a better chance of reaching the masses.
One result of this new landscape is that groups like Grand Rapids Bandit Zine -- a submission-based, social justice-focused, limited print edition magazine, with an on-line (and always free) digital archive -- can look at their mission and expand upon it as they have done with the launch of the first Grand Rapids Feminist Film Festival at Wealthy Theatre on Sunday, September 21.
"This past summer when we released the Bandit Zine issue on feminism, we were really taken a bit by surprise at the public's desire for this topic, as the issue became our biggest seller," says Joi Dupler, co-founder of The Bandit Zine and of the inaugural Grand Rapids Feminist Film Festival. "We got to talking about what we could present to build off this energy that would encapsulate the showcasing of women's voices who were under-represented for so long in the media."
Dupler, along with a newly formed group of Bandit Zine members and filmmakers, began to imagine what a film fest devoted to this topic would look like. In the end, with such a short window, they decided to focus on short films for the first event.
After placing a call for entries, Dupler reports that they're excited with the results.
"The film selection committee received more than 120 films to consider programming," says Dupler. "In the end, we were only able to select 28 films, but what a diverse group we have for this one-night initial offering paving the way for more in the years to come."
For starters, the committee had to program the event in a way that met their festival's mission to present quality cinema with characters that were often under-represented in the films. They also had to marry these films back to the ethos of the Bandit Zine.
At the Bandit Zine, according to Dupler, they operate with a very wide acceptance policy to create safe spaces for people to create or to be vulnerable with their ideas. It's very refreshing to be around such places, as they become more rare in a world increasingly bombarded by the 24/7 news networks.
The GRFF includes within its mission a devotion to intersexual feminism, a nod to the social justice arm of this film fest's goals.
"We decided to adopt an intersexual feminism platform, ensuring that the needs of women could be met, but also included a strong messaging opportunity to others that we honor the struggles of all displaced populations and individuals," says Dupler, "simply explained as an 'all in or not' way of approaching our inclusionary principle devoted to anti-oppressive politics."
Lest you think this is some form of modern feminism and want to take a swing at this logic, we need to travel back in time to the first Women's Rights Convention in Seneca Falls where, as women (and men) stood alongside each other signing the Declaration of Sentiments, five of the organizers were also self-identified abolitionists during a time when women had zero rights.
This vantage point makes Dupler's "all in" comment that much more important the next time a person argues we need to roll back to a gentler time of our country's history.
This is what I love about this new festival, and I hope you do, too. The festival has a powerful program that is split into two distinct viewing experiences, with the first section devoted to lighter fare and a second program of trigger films to encourage conversation among the attendees.
The selection of films coming into Grand Rapids is truly remarkable, with 28 films representing the countries of Denmark, Israel, Spain, Poland, Canada, India, France, Thailand, Ireland, Lebanon, England, Ukraine, Argentina, and the U.S. And all these films share that vital and unique perspective of the modern feminist voice -- a voice we should be listening to, as our nation's population of women tipped past 54 percent of the voting public in 2012.
In beginning the great work before them at the Grand Rapids Feminist Film Festival, the organizers anticipate no small amount of misconception, misrepresentation, and ridicule, but you can be sure they will use every tool within their power to continue to create spaces that are friendly and safe for all of us, not just women, to listen and learn from one another. 
And while I acknowledge with much humility the words in the paragraph above are a direct lift and tuck to suit my own purpose, these closing lines from that historic Seneca document created nearly two hundred years ago still ring true. And yet still, I, too, affix my name as many have done before me as a ringing endorsement that the struggle of women in society is also my struggle...and that the launch of the Grand Rapids Feminist Film Festival is one of my favorite launches of the year.
Together, through the lifting up of the printed word, the projected image, or even the softest of voices in society, we can create a future welcoming to all as our founders intended us to be. And maybe we'll start including a female-directed film or two in our favorites, once we've seen a few more.
The Future Needs All of Us.
Tommy Allen
Male. White. American. & Lifestyle Editor
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