When the High Falls Film Festival was founded back in 2001, with a mission to highlight the contributions of women in the film industry, just 17 percent of jobs behind the camera were held by women. Sadly, 14 years later not much has changed. In fact, that statistic hasn't budged an inch. The need to give female filmmakers the recognition and opportunity they deserve remains as critical as ever.
Now in its 13th year (the festival took a brief hiatus in 2012), and under the guidance of new Executive Director Nora Brown, High Falls will screen a lineup of 19 narrative and documentary features. The final day, Monday, November 16, will be reserved for the annual "Best of the Fest" re-showing of the viewers' choice picks for the best narrative and documentary features. In addition to the features, there are four programs of short films screening this year, including a Children's short film program co-presented with the Rochester International Children's Festival, and a program featuring shorts by women of RIT's School of Film and Animation, both on Saturday.
For the complete schedule, visit the festival's website at highfallsfilmfestival.com, where you can also find ticket information, and a full list of all the events, panel discussions, and parties. Below, we took a look at a few highlights from this year's lineup.
"Yemeniettes" is an inspirational documentary about a group of young Yemeni girls who rise above their country's limited resources and broken educational system to participate in a pan-Arab young entrepreneurs competition. Director Shawn Thompson's film presents a hopeful view of modern Middle Eastern youth. (Friday, November 13, 5:30 p.m., in Little 5)
Making its world premiere at High Falls, "Tea & Cake" is a poignant drama focusing on four generations of British women as they face the obstacles life throws their way — from searching for a job, to a marriage that has grown stale, and loneliness of growing old alone — ultimately finding that their struggles are far less when they're together than when they're apart. (Friday, November 13, 8:30 p.m., in Little 1)
The "Small Gestures" shorts program presents films about how even the simplest actions can sometimes have a profound impact: a married couple aren't sure they're ready to start a family in the heartbreaking "Testing"; Feeling adrift, a woman attends "Juniper," a new-age retreat in an attempt to make a connection; In "The Road Home," a Vietnam nurse tracks down the only person who understands how she feels; and a father and daughter bond over everyday frustrations in "Throwing Stones." (The "Small Gestures" program screens on Saturday, November 14, 4:15 p.m., in Little 5)
In the quirky comedy "Odd Brodsky," a young woman named Audrey moves to California to pursue her dream of becoming an actress, but after nearly 11 years, she has little to show for it. Quitting her desk job, she hires a cameraman to document her path toward success, and attempts to turn her life into her own low-budget reality show. A film for anyone who feels they've been born with the soul of an artist, but not necessarily the ability. The filmmakers will be in attendance for a Q&A following the screening. (Saturday, November 14, 4:30 p.m., in Little 1)
Anna, a struggling young actress from London, seeks a respite from her problems by visiting her gay best friend in Paris, in the likeable "Drama." Hoping to stay with him while she sorts things out, her visit ends up stirring up trouble with his boyfriend, who's facing the imminent death of his mother. An appealing cast (led by director Sophie Mathisen as Anna) earns our sympathy, even as we cringe watching them make terrible decisions. (Sunday, November 15, 11 a.m., in Little 1)
When amateur boxer Heather Hardy makes the decision to turn pro, director Natasha Verma follows her during the crucial final bouts of her amateur career in the compelling documentary "Hardy." Facing an uphill battle in a sport so dominated by male athletes, Heather also struggles to find a balance between the professional and the personal with her demanding trainer, who also happens to be her boyfriend. (Sunday, November 15, 4:15 p.m., in Little 1)
An admirably unconventional choice for a closing night film, "Funny Bunny" calls to mind the eccentric work of Miranda July. Concerned with trio of oddballs who form an unlikely bond, this absurdist comedy comes from the mind of Alison Bagnall (writer of "Buffalo '66"). For those who can get on its unique wavelength, the offers some touching observations about the difficulty involved in connecting with another human being. (Sunday, November 15, 7:30 p.m., at the Dryden Theatre)