Once you start applying the Bechdel Test to movies, you can’t stop.

Coined by cartoonist Alison Bechdel, the test evaluates a movie on three criteria:

1. It has to have at least two women in it.

2. Who talk to each other.

3. About something other than a man.

Obviously, the Bechdel Test was intended to prove a point, and it does. It’s pretty eye-opening when you think about how many films (even great ones) come up short, relegating their female characters to the periphery.

And the Bechdel Test is also one of the criteria for inclusion in the Bluestocking Film Series, the women-only short film festival premiering at the St. Lawrence Arts Center on Oct. 30. It’s the brainchild of Kate Kaminski, who teaches filmmaking and film studies at the University of Southern Maine and is a mainstay of the Portland movie scene.

Why “Bluestocking?”

The term “bluestocking” was originally a pejorative for the idea of female intellectualism, but women embraced it and re-appropriated it.

What prompted the inclusion of the Bechdel Test as a qualification?

It’s not a political thing necessarily, it’s just important that the films reflect female experience in whatever form that takes. Does that mean no men can be in it? No, of course not. It’s more a way to guarantee there’ll be women in the film and they’ll be talking about something in the experience of being a woman.

Do you see more women becoming involved in filmmaking?

As a woman filmmaker, I have, obviously, a vested interest in saying, “Hey, over here! Anybody watching?” Also, as an educator, I’m always extremely pleased when women sign up. I’m a big supporter of all my students, but I really try to reach out to ex-students who are women. Hopefully, I’ll see them carry on. Truly, though, I don’t see it shifting much. I really have no explanation. It’s just really hard to make films independently. It’ll beat you down, male or female. I teach kids in the summer, and the girls muscle their way right to the front; they learn just as fast as the boys. I will say that there are lots more women working in the underground indie-film arena.

What sort of submissions are you looking for for Bluestocking?

I want to be real clear — we’re not looking necessarily for slick stuff. I’m a big fan of the dirty, the rough, to see stuff that really pushes the envelope. This isn’t about the remake of “Beaches” — let’s see some edge, ladies! I would like everyone to know that we want you to just focus on creating something. (Don’t) worry too much about how it looks. I’ll take an iPhone 4 movie if it’s interesting. How about some comedy! It’s not about being politically correct at all; it’s just about supporting the expression of women in film.

Dennis Perkins is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.


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