As part of our International Women’s Day celebrations, we invited Oscar winning film producer Mia Bays and top film critic Anna Smith to introduce a screening of Professor Marston and the Wonder Women.
Mia and Anna also took the opportunity to launch the new Birds Eye View influencer programme – with a mission to draw ever greater audiences to films made by women to showcase a wider perspective of the world.
Regular contributor Eve Jones attended the screening, and here she reports back on the event…
In last Tuesday’s mild evening air I walked to Plymouth Arts Centre for the screening of Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, introduced by award-winning film producer, Mia Bays and renowned film critic, Anna Smith. As part of the joint International Women’s Day programme between Plymouth Arts Centre and Peninsula Arts, the event would include a post-film discussion in partnership with Bays’ non-profit organisation, Birds Eye View (BEV), which has been working to improve gender parity and visibility in film for over a decade.
When I arrived, flushed from my walk, the centre was already abuzz with an audience in anticipation. Though mainly women, it was reassuring to see so many men also interested in the film and the launching of the BEV influencer programme which is looking for cinephiles to, as Mia put it, spread this ‘wonderful gender equality virus’.
Settling into the cinema I chatted warmly to my row D neighbours, a fellow blogger and an independent cinema programmer. Anna and Mia enthusiastically prepared us for the film and as the lights dimmed I had little idea of what to expect.
After nearly two hours of immersion the audience let out a sigh, the rolling credits bringing us back into reality. Having known so little about the film beforehand, I was surprised by how subordinate the Wonder Woman narrative was to that of the polyamorous relationship of the three protagonists and their consequential internal conflicts. Anna and Mia jumped straight onto the mics to begin their post-film discussion, celebrating the film’s subversion of the male gaze and sympathetic portrayal of polyamory.
The film’s creator, Angela Robinson, is a rarity in Hollywood as a self-identified gay, black writer/director. Mia opened up the ‘A&Q’ to the viewers, asking us to consider how this affects the telling of the story. Not even waiting for microphones, audience members were keen to vocalise their opinions on the film. The refreshing portrayal of female sexuality and the shame often associated with that (a presentation likely authenticated by Robinson’s personal experience as an outsider in the eurocentric, heteronormative film industry) was well received by the audience, some thanking the speakers for bringing the film to their attention. It appeared that many of us identified with this pain of conformity and, through the discussion, we were led to confront the sacrifices we make to fit in to society.
Equally engaging was Anna’s question: did watching the film change your perceptions of polyamory? It appeared that suspension of disbelief towards the three romantic relationships was greatly affected by audience experience. Nevertheless, we all agreed that Robinson avoided the salacious stereotype surrounding polygamy, depicting instead a poignant love story without using the ‘dominant cinematic grammar’ – tropes used to depict romance in mainstream film making.
The Arts Centre and speakers worked to create a supportive atmosphere, allowing people to converse about their own prejudices without judgement and leading to fascinating insights into the true power of the film. This enrichment that comes with diversity is exactly what BEV are working to propagate through their Influencer programme and we were left with a rally to agitate over gender equality in film. I can’t wait to see what other discussions BEV will inspire through film at Plymouth Arts Centre over the coming months.
Between May and September, Birds Eye View will be bringing four films made by women (including cis-women, trans-women, femme/feminine identifying genderqueer and non-binary), to Plymouth Arts Centre, each screening hosted by BEV and expert speakers, filmmakers or actors. If you want to get involved in the influencer project, you can find more details by clicking here and attend the ‘town hall’ event at Plymouth Arts Centre in April.