Ten years into holding the Portland Oregon Women's Film Festival, better known as POWFest, Executive Director Tara Johnson-Medinger says she's frequently asked, "Why are we still having this conversation?" — as if the fest should cease operation.
The festival is exclusive to female-gendered filmmakers, and spurring dialogue is the point.
"The statistics haven't budged over the years," Johnson-Medinger says. "We want to continue to provide a space for women that maybe aren't selected for other film fests (and who) have work that we see as valued in Portland."
POWFest goes from March 2-5 at Hollywood Theatre.
The fest will consist of 64 short films showing in seven categories, including Quirky, Dark Tales, Family Drama, Expressions of Love, Animation and Experimental Showcase, Youth/POWGirls Showcase and LunaFest. There are also seven narrative and documentary features, and three films by POWFest's guest of honor, director Cheryl Dunye, the festival's first African-American guest of honor. And plenty of Q&A sessions.
"I'm just thrilled that it's her. She represents so much, like, so many obstacles that women have overcome over the years," says Johnson-Medinger, who has helped organize the festival since the beginning.
When Dunye's feature "The Watermelon Woman" premiered in 1996, it was considered the first feature by and about a black lesbian. The movie features a character also called Cheryl, who is attempting and struggling to film a documentary about the fictional black actress Fae Richards, known as "The Watermelon Woman."
Also showing at the fest will be POWFest's own POWGirls Showcase, a block of short films by high school-age girls in its youth program, called POWGirls.
POWGirls is for female students age 15-19 and offers video production workshops, cinematography, audio recording, and more in an effort to push more women into the industry.
Johnson-Medinger says it's not only about showing the girls a working set and equipment, but also "making sure that if there is an interest there, we are helping to provide that connection to continue that encouragement."
Ann Hanlin, a Portland senior who is homeschooled and a member of POWGirls, and four other students worked on the film "Glazing Saddles," which will show at POWFest Sunday, March 5. The film was produced at a POWGirls silent film workshop last March to be submitted to the International Youth Silent Film Festival and was made over five days.
Hanlin calls the short a "hipster stand off" featuring two sugar-obsessed cowgirls and a doughnut. It's only three minutes and 23 seconds long, but took a lot of work.
"I mostly directed. Everyone kind of does everything because it's such an intensive thing," she says.
Hanlin hopes to meet other POWGirls when she goes to the festival.
"I think it would be awesome to start making a kind of community of the girls my age and see if we can make films together outside of POW," she says.
Hanlin is also excited because she just got her first gig making a music video for a friend.
"I'm going to try and keep moving in that direction and just collect as much knowledge as I can," she says, adding that in the fall, she'll be going to Clark College in Vancouver, Washington, to get her associate of arts degree.
Johnson-Medinger says it's important to make sure there is an ongoing interest there that "we are helping to provide, that connection to encouragement."
"That sort of mentoring aspect, that's highly important to me," she says. "That's a very needed part of any young woman's experience."
IF YOU GO
What: POWFest, Portland Oregon Women's Film Festival
When: March 2-5, 2017
Where: Hollywood Theatre, 4122 N.E. Sandy Blvd.