By Susan Haley Associate Editor
The 2015 POWFest will be held March 12 – 15 at the Hollywood Theatre in Portland, Oregon. More than 600 films were submitted for this year’s festival and the lineup looks promising, with 22 directors scheduled to be in attendance. Having an opportunity to attend Q&As after a screening with a film’s director enhances the viewing experience and is one of the best aspects of attending festivals.
The festival’s executive director, Tara Johnson-Medinger, has been leading the festival for the past eight years. Her hard work has paid off, as she’s been able to grow the festival. The goal of POWFest is to eliminate the gender disparity that exists for women directors and to create opportunities for all women working in the film industry. The festival has featured accomplished directors, as well as dynamic, young, up-and-coming directors, some from Portland’s burgeoning film industry. POWFest is dedicated to promoting and creating professional development and networking opportunities for women filmmakers of every discipline and skill-set/level.
POWFest had been on a five-year hiatus when it returned with a reinvigorated format in May 2008, screening 60 films from 18 countries over 4 days. In 2009, the festival moved to a March date in honor of Women’s History Month. The showcase included films such as Academy Award winner Smile Pinki, and Academy Award-nominated films The Betrayal and The Final Inch; Coming Up Easy by local award-winning filmmaker Rebecca Rodriguez. The 2009 POWFest received overwhelming praise from the press, the local film community and festival attendees.
POWFest 2010 turned the focus back on the filmmakers in the ranks on the heels of Kathryn Bigelow’s Oscar win for The Hurt Locker. With the dismal numbers of female directors in large-budget films, the attention was turned to those filmmakers in attendance and the 44 international films on the schedule. In 2011, POWFest grew into a five-day format. The Guest of Honor was Australian director Gillian Armstrong, and the festival featured her documentary Love, Lust and Lies. In 2012, the festival’s fifth year, POWFest expanded to more than 60 films and co-produced the NW Film Financing Symposium with OMPA, rounding out the festival with an educational program.
With nearly 90 films, more than 3,000 people attended the 2013 four-day festival, which also hosted a number of mixers and parties. POWFest hosted two local premieres, Gabby’s Wish by writer/director Hollie Olson and documentary Rock N Roll Mamas by Jackie Weissman. The Guest of Honor and POWFest Pioneer Award winner was Penelope Spheeris, featuring her films Dudes, Suburbia and Decline of Western Civilization III. And throughout the 2014 four-day festival, POWFest screened 102 films with 40 directors, producers and talent accompanying their films from the U.S., U.K., China and Russia (among others), with Q&As after the films.
POWFest also programs events throughout the year. In particular, the festival has made strong efforts to create opportunities for young women filmmakers. POWFest and MetroEast Community Media partnered to host POWGirls 2015, a filmmaking workshop for girls 15 to 18. Their mission is to help girls realize their power, creativity and voice in media production and encourage them to explore opportunities as future filmmakers.
Over the course of 30 hours, a group of 14 girls concepted, wrote, filmed and edited two films—Great Expectations and Words of Wisdom—that will screen on Sunday, March 15, at 3pm at The Hollywood Theatre. Participants hail from Oregon high schools, including Lincoln, Madison, Parkrose, Beaverton, La Salle, Silverton, Oregon Virtual Academy, home school, Early College High School and St. Mary’s. POWGirls is made possible with support from The Faerie Godmother Fund of the Oregon Community Foundation, MetroEast Community Media, Whole Foods, Women Co/Create, The Twisted Carrot and Cibo.
POWFest runs for four days every March and the full list of programming can be found at www.powfest.com.