Interview: Corrina Antrobus Talks Women, Food & The Patriarchy Ahead Of The Bechdel Test Fest’s Latest Event, “Nora Ephron’s Last Supper”
Following a non-stop year of events & screenings under the hugely successful Bechdel Test Fest header, Corrina Antrobus is beginning to make real waves in the film industry and, as the latest event approaches, Top 10 Films’ Hayley Toth caught up with her to check out what’s in store.
The past year has, undoubtedly, been a rollercoaster for Corrina Antrobus, Founder & Director of Bechdel Test Fest who admits, “I never thought the Bechdel Test Fest would be more than a little DVD club in the back of an old pub somewhere.” Since founding the feminist film festival in 2015 to coincide with the 30th anniversary of Alison Bechdel’s original coinage of the Bechdel Test, Corrina and her team of volunteers (which includes men, by the way) have been overwhelmed by the response.
Quickly recognising the scope of the project and, more to the point, the amount of work still needed in terms of pushing forward positive female representation within the industry, Corrina is looking ahead to a year of bigger and better events – each geared toward celebrating and indulging in women’s contribution to film.
What she describes as “a year of talking” last year is, this year, “a year of doing” and, in that respect, the Bechdel Test Fest’s growing online and social media presence as well as the sheer number of events it has planned speak volumes. The latest, ‘Nora Ephron’s Last Supper’ aims to celebrate the life and times of one of most influential female filmmakers of all time, combining the love of her work with her own love of food and writing.
“Everyone’s heard of, and most have seen, When Harry Met Sally and You’ve Got Mail,” explains Corrina. “We saw the opportunity to draw attention to Nora’s other works – foodie films like Heartburn and Julia & Julia – and marry them up with a dinner party that corresponds with the etiquettes and standards she, herself, wrote about in as much detail as possible.”
As well as animating the life of such a talented filmmaker and unapologetic feminist, the highly immersive event will also see the screening of Heartburn on 35mm – something Corrina insists the Bechdel Test Fest is a real advocate of. In fact, not just big on good quality cinema, but on the silver screen more generally, the Bechdel Test endeavours to provide a platform on which female filmmakers can showcase their work which, as Corrina highlights, is commonly limited to online distribution only.
Indeed, it was at one of the Bechdel Test Fest’s film screenings last year that moviegoers finally got the chance to see Gina Prince-Bythewood’s Beyond the Lights on the big screen, a film that went straight to DVD despite being widely praised by critics and even picking up a nomination for Best Original Song at the 2015 Academy Awards.
“Screening Beyond the Lights was particularly huge for us because it ticked so many boxes in terms of what we, the Bechdel Test Fest, are about, i.e. raising the profile of diverse cinema and proving the female-directed films do have an audience,” remembers Corrina. “Gina Prince-Bythewood would have wanted her film to be seen, heard and experienced in a way which only a cinema can provide. Being able to accommodate that need where the industry has otherwise failed is incredibly special to us and marks our way of acknowledging those female filmmakers that are otherwise side-lined or silenced by what remains a male-dominated industry.”
In the same vein of increasing the visibility of women, the Bechdel Test Fest, along with a number of other selected film clubs, is contributing to the British Film Institute’s (BFI) ‘Woman with a Movie Camera’ project later this year. The project aims to showcase some of the best, forgotten or unknown female-directed or female-led films off the back of research by Sight & Sound, BFI’s monthly magazine. In view of BFI’s renown and global fan base, Corrina hopes the project will cement the Bechdel Test Fest as a serious player in the movie industry and one with both a lot to give and a lot at stake.
Nora Ephron’s Last Supper is being held on Sunday May 29 at Rio Cinema Dalston with supper being served at a nearby Hackney residence.
Written by Hayley Toth
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