Filmmakers from around the globe converged on Peachtree City, Georgia this weekend to celebrate the second annual Women in Horror Film Festival.
After an opening night VIP party and their official “Dead Carpet” ceremonies, screenwriters, directors, and fans filled the auditorium at the Crowne Plaza hotel to settle into the first day’s festivities.
Co-founders Samantha Kolesnik and Vanessa Ionta Wright put together a fantastic roster of unforgettable films and panels designed to entertain, terrify, and in many cases, provide fodder for deeper discussions about gender, race, sexuality, and so much more.
In fact, one of the crowning achievements of the Women in Horror Film Festival was that discussion often spilled out of the theater and into the hallways, and it was fascinating to watch filmmakers become fans of other filmmakers and the seeds of future partnerships and collaborations planted.
It would be impossible to review every single film and its effect, but certain moments stand out in my memory…
Young Farrah Martin, not yet a teenager, representing the film Blood Runs Down, with an effervescent grace and a wide-eyed untainted joy that people loved her work in the haunting film.
A room full of people laughed until tears ran down their faces at Brendan Pollecutt’s revenge-horror-comedy, Keloid, when his leading lady Libby (Taylor Cathcart) decided to take back everything she’d given her ex-fiance.
The laughter continued as Sarah K. Reimers showed us what could happen if a dog was bitten by a werewolf and the effects of that transformation.
That hysterical laughter turned to utterances of “hell yeah” and “damn right” as Laura Vail’s character, Jo, in What Metal Girls are Into tells a man “You are not entitled to our attention.”
An entire audience sat enraptured at the almost painful beauty of an entire block of science fictions films, a new addition at WIHFF this year, that challenged notions of what it meant to be a woman or man, what it means to fight even when you no longer feel you can, and how we must evolve and change in order to survive as a species.
A panel on diversity and visiblity spoke about the inherent need for equal representation in filmmaking to a crowded room where no eyes were rolled and no dismissive attitudes pervaded.
But even more palpable as the weekend grew was the feeling of belonging and acceptance that each and every participant felt. It was a privilege to feel completely safe to be one’s self in this carefully cultivated environment where women, people of color, LGBTQ folks, and straight male allies could share their stories with each other and find common ground.
It’s a feeling that can be sorely lacking at many festivals and conventions, and I hope that they’re paying attention to what Sam, Vanessa, and the entire crew at the Women in Horror Film Festival are doing..
Submissions are already open on FilmFreeway for next year’s Women in Horror Film Festival and I cannot encourage female genre filmmakers enough to enter their work so that you too can experience everything that this one of a kind festival has to offer.