A Fantastic Woman

The Hollywood Theatre has a very special way of celebrating Women’s History Month: Throughout March, its programming will include more than a dozen films about and directed by women, the majority of which were chosen in partnership with local organizations like Brown Girl Rise, PICA, and the POW Film Fest. From beloved comedy Legally Blonde (screening Fri March 8) to Hollywood classic All About Eve (Sat March 2 & Sun March 3) to 2017 Oscar winner A Fantastic Woman (Mon March 4), this year’s lineup features movies about women reckoning with patriarchal control, overcoming bias, and redefining womanhood on their own terms.

To learn more about the inspiration behind Feminist March and highlights of this year’s festival, the Mercury interviewed co-curators Alison Hallett (who, full disclosure, was formerly the Mercury’s arts editor) and Anthony Hudson (AKA Carla Rossi, Portland’s premiere drag clown and the host of the Hollywood’s Queer Horror series, which examines “horror’s relation to queerness and what it means to identify with the monster”).

How it started:

“Feminist March was created by a former Hollywood staffer in 2016, and originally it had more of an arty, academic focus,” Hallett explains. “Having an explicitly feminist programming block really appealed to me, so last year I brought the series back to life with the goal of bringing in as many community partners and guest curators as possible.”

Why representation in film matters:

“One thing that’s been important to me in thinking about the series is recognizing how for women and other historically marginalized groups, for a long time we just didn’t have that much to work with when it came to decent representation in media,” Hallett says. “So we took strong female characters and non-insulting storylines wherever we could get ’em. I wanted to create a series where fun, surprising choices could run alongside more obviously ‘feminist’ films.” Anthony does a really brilliant job digging up subterranean queer narratives and recontextualizing horror films with the Queer Horror series—I wanted to take a similar approach with Feminist March.”

Recurring themes in this year’s programming:

“The only thing these films have in common is that they tell women’s stories—and it’s kind of wild to me that that’s still a revolutionary thing to do in today’s world,” says Hudson. “But as I look at the lineup brought to us by our community partners and in-house programmers, there does seem to be an undercurrent of breaking free—in The Haunting [Thurs March 7], a woman runs from her suffocating family home to dance free with ghosts; in Hidden Figures [Mon March 11], the once-untold story of three Black NASA scientists emerges from a hidden history and demands recognition, just as Kathleen Collins’ lost masterwork Losing Ground [Sun March 30] was liberated from unarchived obscurity thanks to her own daughter restoring the film; in The Stepford Wives [Fri March 15], Katharine Ross’ character seeks to escape the world men are creating for their wives in response to liberation. The Company of Wolves [Fri March 29] uses Angela’s Carter’s twist on Little Red Riding Hood to break away from patriarchal storytelling. Even Tank Girl [Fri March 29] is about fighting a corporation for freedom after the end of the world.”

Why The Stepford Wives was chosen for the Feminist March installment of Queer Horror:

“I actually saw The Stepford Wives for the first time this last December and it blew my mind,” says Hudson. “I don’t really think the original is all that campy—granted, the titular wives are camp by definition because they’re exaggerated and artificial, as women who have been replaced by robots. Oops, I just spoiled a movie from 1975. But it is fun, thanks to the relationship between Katharine Ross’ Joanna and Paula Prentiss’ Bobbie as they try to figure out what’s happening in Stepford. They’re loud and laugh a lot and are unapologetically themselves together; they sneak into the other wives’ homes and listen to them having sex and giggle. Their friendship feels so real and earnest and is completely independent of the men in the film, and the destruction of that friendship by their husbands is a gut-wrenching tragedy. Metaphorically, the film is genius: we find out the women of Stepford only started changing after a consciousness-raising group was visited by Betty Friedan; the Stepford Men’s Association spends its time restoring an old Victorian mansion as its base of operations; a woman is strangled to death with her own pantyhose. For a satirical ’70s paranoia thriller it feels shockingly, terrifyingly contemporary, and it only makes sense that Jordan Peele pulled so much from it for Get Out.”

What they’re most excited to see at this year’s festival:

“It is almost physically painful to pick just one event, but since you’re making me: I’m really looking forward to the screening of Kathleen Collins’ Losing Ground [Sat March 30], believed to be one of the first narrative features written and directed by a Black woman,” says Hallett. “Though it was completed in 1982, it didn’t receive a theatrical release until 2015, and it remains rarely seen even though many consider it to be an overlooked masterpiece. I’m really excited to partner with POW Fest for this special showing with Collins’ daughter, author Nina Collins, in attendance. But also... everyone’s favorite abortion romcom Obvious Child [Fri March 22], with NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon, is going to be a lot of fun.”

Hudson’s pick: “While Carla’s dying to become a Stepford Wife and I really can’t wait for the sheer feminist nerdfest that Tank Girl will be, I am so, so excited for our presentation of Narcissister Organ Player [Mon March 18] with PICA. Narcissister’s one of my favorite performance artists and has been ever since I first saw her perform a reverse striptease where she started nude and proceeded to dress herself with clothes hidden inside her body, all set to Chaka Khan’s ‘I’m Every Woman.’ I’ve never seen a better, more confrontational, or FUN drag number slash burlesque performance slash performance art piece, and I can’t wait to see what she does in this documentary she made about herself.”