The next time you hear someone blame a conspicuous gender imbalance in a given field on a lack of “qualified female applicants,” hold that dude’s feet to the fire and point him to Etheria Film Night, a celebration of women’s contributions to genre filmmaking. Founded on the belief that the dearth of high-profile women in the director’s chair is due not to a lack of active talent but to frustratingly little acknowledgment, Etheria is simultaneously evidence of how preposterous Hollywood’s lack of trust in women is and a place to see some kick-ass horror, sci-fi, and action films from up-and-coming directors.
“There are plenty of very talented women out there that are making films,” says festival director Stacy Hammon, who earlier served on the board of directors of the Viscera Film Festival with Etheria director of programming Heidi Honeycutt. “They just don’t get the same recognition or representation in festivals or in theaters.” Etheria initially began as an offshot of Viscera, the former presenting science fiction and fantasy and the latter serving the horror community. When Viscera ceased operations earlier this year, Honeycutt and Hammon continued as Etheria while the lines between genres blurred and the quality and sophistication of films grew exponentially.
Having premiered its lineup at the famous Grauman’s Egyptian Theatre this past summer, Etheria brings its annual tour to Boston for the third time with its most diverse slate yet, from dark comedy (The Jelly Wrestler) to supernatural romance (New England premiere of Axelle Carolyn’s Soulmates, pictured). The screenings will be presented at Somerville Theatre’s MicroCinema by Mike Snoonian and Deirdre Crimmins of All Things Horror. “We see better submissions every year,” says Snoonian. “This year, the crop of short films is amazing. I think part of that is the scope of the festival has gone from just science fiction and fantasy to combining horror, science fiction, fantasy, action, really anything within the larger genre umbrella.”
“When it comes down to the business of film,” says Crimmins, “our society and film specifically is not trusting women to drive, and I think directors specifically have that much of an issue.” Women are often found as producers and editors, “but when it comes to women directing, for some reason, society just thinks that women can’t handle all of that.”
Although there is an undeniable political strand to the question of representation in the upper echelons of Hollywood, the focus of Etheria remains squarely on good filmmaking. As Hammon explains, “Some of these films aren’t necessarily feminist films themselves, they just happen to be directed by women. So what they bring is just as much action, just as much effects, and the portrayal of the roles. That said, yes—not with a sledgehammer, but you will notice a lot more slight things in diversity of all the characters, not just with the representation of women but as far as sexuality and race as well. And a little bit more internal. I think the characters bring a little bit more … There’s a lot more internal going on than just the slashing.”