THE DIRECTOR OF WAYNE'S WORLD is this year's guest of honor at the Portland Oregon Women's Film Festival (POW Fest).
And while there's something inherently, well, excellent about that fact, it also highlights the most important aspect of the festival, now in its sixth year.
Penelope Spheeris has no shortage of arthouse cred—her three-part documentary series The Decline of Western Civilization offered a groundbreaking window into the LA music scene—and in addition to Wayne's World she also directed Little Rascals. And Black Sheep, one of the last movies Chris Farley ever starred in.
In other words, she's a working director, with a varied resumé that doesn't wear many outward signs of the gender of the person behind it.
This gets to the heart of POW's mission: The festival explicitly supports female directors. It's not dedicated to films about women, or "women's issues," but to providing a space for female directors to showcase their work, regardless of its content. Which is why the director of Wayne's World is a pretty damn perfect guest of honor. (She'll be in attendance at an afternoon screening of her 1987 comedy Dudes on Sat March 9, and again later that night for her 1984 punk classic Suburbia, which'll be followed by a screening of The Decline of Western Civilization III.)
That said, the most interesting two films screening at POW this year, for my money, do happen to actually be about women.
The documentary Unfit: Ward vs. Ward (screening Saturday, March 9) tells the absolutely essential story of a Pensacola, Florida custody battle between a lesbian and her ex-husband, who also happened to be a convicted murderer. Two guesses who won custody of the child. Combining recently conducted interviews alongside archival news and talk show footage from the mid-'90s, it's a heartbreaking, nearly unbelievable example of how homophobia ripped apart an otherwise happy family.
On a slightly more upbeat note, Rock N Roll Mamas follows three female musicians over six years of recording, touring, and motherhood. Kristin Hersh, the Dandy Warhols' Zia McCabe, and Portland hiphop artist Ms. Su'ad AbdurRafi are all at different points in their career when Portland filmmaker Jackie Weissman begins observing them. The film is ostensibly about motherhood, and about the demands placed on a touring musician. The point that comes through even more strongly, however, is just how much things can change in six years, as relationships and careers ebb and personal and professional objectives shift. It's nonjudgmental, revealing, and pretty fucking badass.
The rest of the POW lineup is all over the map, and that's as it should be. There are as many ways for a woman to make a movie as there are ways to be a woman—unlike Hollywood, POW Fest reflects that.