The film industry tends to treat women filmmakers of color in two ways: It either patronizes or ignores them. Which leaves small-name directors looking for any chance to screen their work. “If it’s popular, light, and not about threatening social issues, then it’s easier,” says director Grace Poore, whose short film, The Children We Sacrifice, screens this weekend with 30 others by African, African-American, Native American, Asian, Latino, and Caribbean women at the REEL Shades Film Series.
The series and its mission, assembled by a group called Sisters Empowered to Promote Interest and Opportunities in the Arts (SEPIA), suggests a pent-up supply of films made by nonwhite women that seldom see the light of a projector. As for pent-up demand, the women behind the films would like to think it’s there, but some aren’t so sure. “Sometimes even people in the [black] community [resist] films that are made for them, because they have been fed the stereotypes,” says Lydia Douglas, director of Nappy, which screens as part of the series. “They can’t relate to stories about their own people that aren’t some Hollywood pseudo-images.”
Much of the problem in getting these films out to an audience is that the directors don’t have the moneyor, more importantly, the contactsthat mainstream directors enjoy. “I ask people, ‘Who are the women filmmakers of color?’” says Toya Watts, who’s running SEPIA’s film series. “Most people don’t know who they are. That’s why this [series] exists.”Ayesha Morris
The SEPIA REEL Shades Film Series, including two free film forum discussions, runs from noon Friday, May 14, through 5 p.m. Sunday, May 16, at the National Museum of Women in the Arts. Admission is $7. Call (202) 783-7370 for details.