Six Of The Greatest Girl-Centric Films, As Picked By Melbourne’s Girls On Film Festival
Before their festival kicks off this weekend, the team tell us about the all the female friendships, unlikely heroes and "unlikable" ladies that inspire them most.
With programs now regularly bustling with more than 300 diverse titles, film festivals can be a fairly daunting prospect. First you have to comb through the options — diligently researching and highlighting screenings from different genres and styles — then you have to nab tickets, co-ordinate your friends through an impossible group chat, and eventually hope the blissful 90 minutes in the cinema are worth it.
Whether you wandered into a draining foreign language drama thinking it was a comedy or stumbled across some misguided bros trying to re-enact Entourage, it’s likely you’ve been disappointed before.
Now, Melburnians have a much easier option: about to kick off for its second year, the Girls On Film Festival is offering a slick little 13-film program of guaranteed hits packed into a weekend of “movies, parties and feminism”.
Explicitly curated for “movie lovers who are tired of seeing films made by and about men”, the festival features girl-centric classics like Desperately Seeking Susan, Matilda and Bend It Like Beckham alongside newer favourites like Whip It and A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, and pertinent political documentaries. Lesser known titles include In The Turn (a doco about a young trans girl who finds a community in roller derby) and She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry (a historical look back at the makings of modern feminism), and they’ll all be mixed in alongside other events like a zine fair and an all-day girl gang love-in.
After an exciting debut last year, this has been in high demand — a Pozible campaign to bring it back even delivered $1,000 over their target. And, before opening night tonight in Brunswick, we had a chat to the team about their inspiration.
If you can’t get along to the event in Melbourne, here are a few great movies to binge this weekend:
Thelma and Lousie, 1994
Picked by: Karen Pickering – Creative Director
Something we love at GOFF is female friendship, unlikely heroes and “unlikable” ladies — three things that also mean a lot to me. Luckily, that’s all reflected in the program (both this year and last) and if we’re talking female friendships on screen, then we can’t go past Thelma and Louise. It’s closing our festival with a bang (literally) and reminding our audience that some of the best feminist movies are also the best movies period.
Picked by: Isobel Taylor Rogers – Mangaing Director
Top of my fave films is Heathers. I first saw this film in my late teens and — as I came from an art background, the meticulously co-ordinated set by Jon Hitman and costume by Rudy Dillon had me hooked before you could say “What’s your damage?” But what cemented Heathers as one of my all time faves was the film’s overflow of female aggressors: the bullies, in-fighters and murderers. Brutal language, blow waves and murder in the first. It’s perfection.
Muriel’s Wedding, 1994
Picked by: Mimo Mukki – Opening Night Co-Producer
My favourite girl-centric film is Muriel’s Wedding. This is partly because Muriel’s obsessive love of ABBA made me unashamed of my own love for the band, but also because of Muriel herself. After suffering as a social outcast, she eventually breaks free from the status quo and becomes a determined and brave woman. This film is amazing because it has strong feminist messages about family, friendship and self-acceptance! (Plus a killer soundtrack).
Boys On The Side, 1995
Picked by: Emily Kersing – Producer of Scream Queens
At slumber parties with my BFF in the late ’90s, we would always drift off at 2am in the closing minutes of 1995’s otherwise rarely-seen Boys on the Side. Directed by Herbert Ross (Footloose, Steel Magnolias), it’s a road-trip dramedy with a Roy Orbison motif that still regularly prompts me to tear up on cue in supermarkets.
If you haven’t heard of it, here’s the gist: Robin (Mary-Louise Parker) is a real-estate agent looking for some company on a road-trip to California. Jane (Whoopi Goldberg) — an out-of-work nightclub singer — answers her advertisement. En route, they pick up Holly (Drew Barrymore, at peak adorableness), who is pregnant and fleeing an abusive partner.
Boys on the Side is probably not a classic of modern cinema. It’s pretty cheesy, and partner violence, HIV/AIDS, motherhood, sexual identity and grief are some heavy themes to explore in under two hours. But it’s an unashamed tribute to the resilience of friendship between women — and when watching in a suburban bedroom with my bestie in the summer before high school, it got me right in the guts.
10 Things I Hate About You, 1999
Picked by: Emily Connolly – Co-Producer of Girl Germs and Volunteer Manager
One of my favourite girl-centric films is the classic ’90s Taming Of The Shrew adaptation, 10 Things I Hate About You. I love this film for its portrayal of really strong, interesting and complicated female characters. And yes, this includes Ms Perky: the guidance counsellor who has an unashamed love of saucy literature.
The film’s protagonist, Kat — “the shrew” who apparently needs to be tamed? Let’s disregard that part — is just everything! She is a woman in control, she knows what she wants and she really does not care what others think of her while she goes about getting it. Kat drives a cool car, she expresses her opinions at all times with no hesitation, and she lives in a super-cool ’90s world where there’s a bar exclusively occupied by femmo riot grrl babes. (I want to go to there).
Even though the ladies’ male co-stars try their best to steal the spotlight — I must admit Heath Ledger reading feminist books and serenading us with Frankie Valli were definite highlights — this is a film about not compromising who you are, even when faced with immense peer pressure and society’s insane expectations of women.
Frances Ha, 2012
Picked by: Grace Edwards – Ticketing Manager and Cuddle Puddle Producer
I’ve watched Frances Ha at least twice a year since I first saw it. It’s comforting in that same way that listening to a sad song over and over again can finally help you drift off to sleep. It perfectly captures that in-between time of technically being an adult, and the limbo of not being ready to move fully into that role yet.
Frances Ha is also an ode to the intensity of female friendships, and the specific kind of heartbreak of losing your best friend in the world for no other reason than life happens. The world moves on around you, they move on past you, the one thing you felt you could rely on has shifted and there’s no way to openly grieve its loss. Frances Ha is warm, and funny, and articulates thoughts and feelings I didn’t even know I had, which is all I can ask for in a film.
The Girls Of Film Festival runs in Melbourne from October 23-25. Check out the full program here.