Truth Be Told: Women In Film at Sundance 2014

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“Truth Be Told” panelists (L-R) Valerie Veatch, Effie Brown, Rory Kennedy, Lucy Webb (moderator), Lori Cheatie, Tracy Droz Tragos, and Hilla Medlia. 

 
Women In Film (WIF) hosted its 8th annual filmmakers’ panel discussion at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival. It’s one of the most anticipated events of the festival, with women from all over the country coming together to network and celebrate their accomplishments.

WIF, which is the Los Angeles chapter of Women In Film and Television International, presented four grants at the event, totaling $32,000 made up of cash and in-kind donations.

Frances Bodomo, director of Afronauts, received the WIF/CalmDown Productions Grant, awarded to a woman director in the Sundance short program. Tracy Droz Tragos and Andrew Droz Palermo, the co-directors of Rich Hill, were awarded the WIF Documentary Grant. Two additional grants were presented to Cynthia Hill for her documentary Private Violence, and to the documentary short One Billion Rising, produced by Eve Ensler and directed by Tony Stroebel.

Immediately following the awards presentation, a panel was held, titled “Truth Be Told.” Moderator Lucy Webb encouraged the panelists to share stories of seeking truth in their filmmaking and the particular challenges of women in this industry.

Panelists included filmmakers with narrative or documentaries films in the festival: The Last Days of Vietnam director/producer Rory Kennedy, producer of HBO’s Captivated: The Trial of Pamela Smart Lori Cheatie, Dear White People producer Effie T Brown, Rich Hill co-director/producer Tracy Droz Tragos, Web Junkie co-director/producer Hilla Medlia, and Love Child director/producer/editor Valerie Veatch

“We live in a sexist world and Hollywood is at the heart of it,” Kennedy said when asked about the challenges that face women filmmakers. “Hollywood is a sexist world.” 

Tragos agreed, adding that it’s a myth that Hollywood is an equal playing field. Her documentary, Rich Hill, which turns an eye on poverty, won the 2014 Sundance US Grand Jury Prize for Documentary. Cheatie discussed the role the mainstream media played in the conviction of Pamela Smart, currently serving life in prison after being convicted in 1991 of being an accomplice to the first-degree murder of her husband.

Brown’s film, Dear White People, is a satirical look at being a black student in a predominately white institution. To level the playing field for female filmmakers, she recommends leveraging social media outlets such as Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook. “These are the tools that laypeople can use, that can’t get blocked,” said Brown.

It was a true pleasure and inspiration to hear the filmmakers share their passion and discuss their projects. 

ROZ MURPHY

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