It was just before noon on Labor Day, the last day of the Telluride Film Festival, and heaps of passholders were crowded into the Town Park in Telluride for the big passholder Labor Day Picnic, the second of two big feed parties the Telluride Film Festival throws for its passholders. Storm clouds hovered threateningly, but they were nowhere near as threatening as the clouds hovering on the brows of some of the eight women called there to put on a panel for the fest attendees. The panel topic: "Is There a Woman Behind Every Good Movie? The Gender Shift in the Film World."
An hour or so earlier, panelist Tamara Jenkins, director of The Savages, which sneaked at the fest, had gone off on a tangent during her Conversation with Juno director Jason Reitman over at the Courthouse about this very panel, and how being asked to participate in panels on women in film always makes her feel like she's on the "special olympics" panel. "It's either, oh, look, you made a FILM! Isn't that cute," she drolled in a cutsie "let's talk to the baby like it's an idiot" voice or, "You GO, girl" as she thrust her fists in the air. She laughed about it, but the annoyance wasn't a put on. She joked about all the implications of being labeled a "female filmmaker" rather than just a filmmaker ("Tell us, Tamara -- what's it like to direct a film ... while wearing a BRA?") but she made it clear that given her druthers, she'd far prefer that her gender wasn't an issue at all.
A while later, Jenkins was milling about in front of the platform schmoozing with the seven other female filmmakers who had been persuaded to participate in the panel: Diablo Cody (screenwriter of Juno); Tannishtha Chatterjee (Brick Lane); Alexandra Sun (producer of Blind Mountain); Laura Linney (The Savages); Jennifer Jason Leigh (Margot at the Wedding), Jyll Johnstone (director, Hats Off!) and Sarah Gavron (director, Brick Lane). This formidable group of women got up on the platform, and then we found that this panel about women filmmakers is being led by ... a man. Now, not that I have anything against men (heck, I like some of them quite a lot), but I wasn't the only one who found this a little odd. With all the women writing about film, teaching about film, making films, even staffing this festival, they couldn't find a woman to host this panel? I know Anne Thompson skipped out on Telluride this year, but surely they could have found someone. Anyone? Anyone?