Thursday, 14 July 2016

Check the Gate: Thelma & Louise

Thelma and Louise was the start of something. It was and is an important film for women. Back in 1991, the film was hailed as a landmark of feminist film and now, 25 years later it is as relevant as powerful as it was then. But, sadly the movement the film promised never came to fruition. But things are moving and feminism in in film becoming more of a talking point. After the film, both Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis became activists for women in film and countless women across Hollywood and the world have spoken out. It's not as fast I had hoped but change will happen and I hope to be a part of it all the way.

The film was screened as part of Check the Gate, a celebration of celluloid. It is a season of 35mm print films being screened at one of my favourite cinemas, The Prince Charles Cinema. Know for its varied and brilliant programming that includes new(ish) releases as well as special events, sing-a-longs, classic double bills and special focus seasons such as #ChecktheGate. The PCC is hosting this season in collaboration with Park Circus who work with cinemas, film festivals and events to bring back films to the big screen. After perusing their catalogue I think my eyes were watering at how many greats films they have.

Presenting the film was The Bechdel Test Fest, an organisation made up of a small team who are passionate about cinema and after finding them through Twitter, I was very excited about the message they were putting out about celebrating women in film and women who love film. I also became obsessed with their fantastic zine, 'Girls Gotta Eat' so much so that I passed on a copy to friends to share the film goodness.

Directed by Ridley Scott and written by Callie Khouri, Thelma and Louise is about two women who go on a road trip but after a terrible event, they end up on the run. Thelma (Geena Davis), an unhappy housewife with domineering and unkind husband wants a break from her dull life. Louise, an independent woman who works as a waitress wants to get away for the weekend to teach her boyfriend a lesson. But after Thelma is assaulted and nearly raped, Louise comes to her aid holding a gun. But after the rapist goads her with insults, Louise pulls the trigger. This is the beginning of a chain of events that changes everything but these two women know how the world works and nothing will stop them, not even the Grand Canyon.

After the screening there were Lightening Talks, which is a regular feature from The Bechdel Test Fest. Four speakers were invited and they all brought a different perspective to the table. Film critic Kate Muir talked about how important the was when it was first released and how she finally got to meet Geena Davis and Susan Sarnadon. Laura Snapes, who writes for various publications had never seen the movie before and expressed that while she enjoyed the film she couldn't help but feel sad that nothing happened after the film's release. The hope that things would change for women in film is still there. The last two speakers were two thirds of the co-founders of the Reel Good Film Club, Maria Cabrera and Grace Barber-Plentie who didn't like the film. Their reason was that the film was 'full of white people' and that as far as they got as they didn't really elaborate but just kept repeating the same thing. I thought this was a shame as a different point of view would have been great to hear. Unfortunately the great event ended in shouting and throw away comments that weren't thought through. A film audience who are passionate can be a dangerous thing.

I really hope that another event is organised, a discussion panel maybe so that everyone's views can be heard and given the proper time to explore the reasons why people like the film and why they don't.

Having only seen Thelma and Louise once before a few years ago, I was kicking myself then for not watching it sooner. Seeing the film on the film screen in 35mm, with all its little technical imperfections was a dream.

The influence of Thelma and Louise is strong with most generations appreciating how things were in Hollywood in 1991 and that a film with two female leads who go their own way was and is staple in feminist films. But the starry eyed younger film generations might not see this as what it is, a film about women in a world of men, which is how my friend (also a film fanatic) described it. I fear that those in their teen years or early twenties might not enjoy this film for what it represents, which is a shame. Understanding the film for what I think it is, a film about two best friends who hit the road and don't look back.

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