SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — This year, the SCAD Savannah Film Festival announced their first-ever Wonder Women Panel Series. The endeavor focuses on the cinematic achievements and contributions of women in film and television.
On Wednesday, Nov. 1, at 5 p.m., the ‘Global Shorts Forum: Wonder Women’ will feature seven short documentary-style films that focus on women who persevered through incredible odds. The event is sold out, but you can read more about each short online at http://filmfest.scad.edu.
One of the short documentaries on the list is “Yours Sincerely, Lois Weber” which profiles Lois Weber, the highest-paid silent film director at Universal Studios in 1916. The short has been making the film festival rounds and has already received a lot of praise—including Best Documentary at LA Shorts Festival in August.
Never heard of Lois Weber? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Even the director, award-winning cinematographer/director Svetlana Cvetko said she had never heard of Weber and that Weber’s story was never a part of her film education despite her great achievements.
Cvetko has received attention for her work on several award-winning documentaries, including “Inside Job” which won an Oscar in 2011 for Best Documentary as well as “Inequality for All” which took home the 2013 Sundance Special Jury Prize.
In her latest project on Weber, actor Elizabeth Banks (The Hunger Games and 30 Rock) executive produced and appears in the film. And it was the other executive producer, Benjamin Alfonsi (co-founder/creator of Metabook) who first brought Lois Weber to Cvetko’s attention.
“He asked if I knew who she was, and I didn’t,” Cvetko says. “So I went home and Googled her, I started making calls, I went to dinner parties and would ask if anyone knew anything about Lois Weber.”
She says in the end, only two historians knew who she was.
And that’s when she decided she had to make this film.
She says the feedback on the film has been tremendous. People seem to be most surprised that Weber was one of the most prolific directors during the silent film era—she made more than 200 films. She was also involved in all aspects of production from writing to acting, producing and directing.
And she autographed many of her releases by signing her films, “Yours Sincerely, Lois Weber.”
“She is credited as the first woman to make a feature-length film in American cinema,” Cvetko says.
Weber took on topics like social injustice, wage inequality, women’s issues and the criminal justice system.
But Cvetko says that it’s her opinion that the fiery, strong topics addressed in Weber’s films—like her 1916’s “Where are my Children?” which took on abortion and birth control at a time when both were illegal–is what possibly led to her fall into obscurity.
“In the 20s, no one wanted to be ‘preached’ at. This was the Jazz Era and people wanted to be entertained and to have fun. But she wanted to make films that made a statement.
“… She definitely wasn’t shy. I just find it really fascinating that she as able to push through into that world. She even had her own studio in Hollywood.”
The complete schedule to the forum includes:
Yours Sincerely, Lois Weber
USA, 2016, 6 min.
Director Svetlana Cvetko
A profile of Lois Weber, the highest-paid silent film director at Universal Studios in 1916.
Woman with an Editing Bench
Australia, 2016, 15 min.
Director Karen Pearlman
In the 1930s Soviet Union, an editor has to save her film, and her husband, from Stalin’s suppression.
Giving Birth in America: Louisiana
USA, 2017, 18 min. 47 sec.
Directors Clancy McCarty
Follow two pregnant women and their personal challenges in the aftermath of the 2016 Baton Rouge floods.
USA/Uganda, 2016, 6 min. 32 sec.
Director Nicholas Brennan
In rural sub-Saharan Africa, women use traditional birth attendants. One Mama has dedicated herself to saving lives in Uganda.
USA, 2016, 11 min. 16 sec.
Director Merete Mueller
Plus-sized pole dancer Roslyn Mays navigates newfound media attention and various types of public exposure.
USA, 2017, 4 min. 33 sec.
Director Dan Goldes
Activist Karen Topakian has been arrested dozens of times for using nonviolent civil disobedience to protest.
USA, 2017, 30 min.
Director Mischa Hedges
This is a story about democracy, human rights, and what it means to stand up for your values in America today.