Celebrating female directors and films at the Pickford

By Molly Todd

4 percent of the top 100. 

8 percent of the top 250. 

15 percent of the top 500.

These small percentages represent the amount of women directors working on the top films in 2018 alone, according to a program statement released from the Pickford Film Center.

The Pickford Film Center hosted a series of four different films directed by women from the 1970s to bring attention to the lack of representation they receive, Susie Purves, the executive director of the Pickford Film Center, said. She also came up with the idea to create the film series, which she named “The Distaff Side: Women Directors of the 70s.”

Located in downtown Bellingham, the Pickford Film Center is a nonprofit theater that acts as a resource for independent film and a place for the Bellingham community to come together through education, dialogue and film, according to its website. 

The Pickford Film Center opened in 1998 and is named after Mary Pickford, who, according to the website, was “innovative, creative, and had an entrepreneurial spirit.” She also produced her own films, was an actress and created United Artists with Charlie Chaplin and Douglas Fairbanks, according to the website. 

“One of the things that surprised me about programming this entire series was how few films were made by women in the 1970s,” Purves said. “In 1978, there were only four films directed by women.”

The four films included in the new series are “Wanda” (1970), directed by Barbara Loden; “Hester Street” (1975), directed by Joan Micklin Silver; “Micky and Nicky” (1976), directed by Elaine May and “Girlfriends” (1978), directed by Claudia Weill. 

Tickets are available for purchase at the Pickford Film Center, but the nonprofit is doing something else to bring attention to the underrepresentation of women directors: Tickets are $4 for women and $7 for men, according to Purves. This is to reflect the gender wage gap during the 1970s, which according to the program statement released from Pickford, was 59.4 percent in 1978 specifically. 

“The ticket price difference just goes along with this series, I think it’s a nice fit,” Mikayla Nicholson, education outreach coordinator for Pickford, said.

Because the ticket price difference is adjusted for women and men, those who identify as non-binary or use they/them pronouns can also feel included, Nicholson and Purves said. They expressed that it would be up to the person to decide what they wanted to pay for the ticket price, or be charged the discounted price. 

“It’s not really a monetary difference between $4 and $7 in the long run,” Nicholson said. “I would rather give a discount to an underrepresented person.” 

This is not the first film series that Pickford premiered in which there were women directors featured, Nicholson said. A few months ago the film center featured films by Ida Lupino in a series called “The Director,” according to Nicholson.

In 2018, the film center also showed a series called “Beauty, Brains & Know-How: Screwball Comedy in the Glamour Age,” which starred strong female leads from the 1930s and ’40s, Nicholson said. 

Purves expressed that while it’s important to give recognition to the women directors of the 1970s, it’s also important to note that not much has changed since then. 

“Women working in the film industry today can thank the small group of women, active in the 1970s, who worked hard to quantify discrimination and raised the consciousness of many individuals in the industry leading eventually to studios hiring women executives,” the program statement noted.

The film series, “The Distaff Side,” will continue throughout the rest of March with film showings every Monday of the month. The next film in the series, “Hester Street,” is playing on March 11 at 6 p.m..

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