Interview with Festival Director Edda Manriquez (Les Femmes Underground Film Festival)

 The International Les Femmes Underground is a film festival centred on the subversive, unique, and innovative. LEFUFF, showcases artists from all walks of life creating work which redefines the manner in which women are represented in mainstream cinema. Making its debut in 2016, Les Femmes Underground is premiering in Los Angeles as the first ever traveling women’s underground film festival. Les Femmes Underground was created as a response to the decline of feminist icons and role models in the media. As feminists, they believe it is our responsibility to empower new generations of young women to generate work which breaks away from society’s gendered roles.

http://lesfemmesinternational.org/
 
Matthew Toffolo: What is your Film Festival succeeding at doing for filmmakers?

A: LEFUFF, is an underground women’s traveling film festival featuring work from intersectional feminist artists from all around the world. We provide fee waivers for at need artists, low pro-rated submission rates, and offer opportunities for artists to attend through our traveling component. We bring films to the locations with the most artists; thereby alleviating costs of travel. Our festival features the gritty, raw undervalued marginalized stories and people in our community. A lot are emerging diy artists whose approach is millennial in aesthetic featuring digital, film, video, and glitch forms. We provide a space through which narrative artists can transition and experience experimental work, as well as a space where experimental filmmakers can glean and learn from narrative artists. We provide an edgy artistic underground world of queer-trans , experimental, phycho-trophic non-heteronormative art forms as well as insight into different cultures and the differences which bring us together as a community.

MT: What would you expect to experience if you attend the festival this year (2017)?

A: Our lineups are divided into 5 sections. This year we have included a documentary portion to our festival, where marginalized characters are examined. Our second portion showcases experimental work such as glitch art, experimental animation, and psycho-trophic films. Our third section features coming of age narrative shorts where the characters undergo cultural clashes and self-acceptance. Our fourth section features horror shorts, where we will showcase horror from a female lens. The last section is our adult rated showcase, where female sexuality will be examined through a variation of shorts.

MT: What are the qualifications for the selected films?

A: Films must be directed, produced or written by female artists or have strong female leads. The films can be made by men, after all feminists come in all shapes and forms, the only requirement that women aren’t one dimension.

MT: Do you think that some films really don’t get a fair shake from film festivals? And if so, why?

A: The world of film is split into 2 major demographics. Hollywood and Indie Films. As most have made a reference to in the past couple years is that Hollywood is now Super Hero movies, and Indie is none other than large production companies making drama genre films. AKA not super heros. Then that leaves the rest of us…. Well more like then there’s commercial films ( people with good cameras who shoot boring basic content) …. And then the rest of us… the artists. The people who want more than just a pop-up book of movies. We crave substance, form, and mental stimulation. There in lies the bias in film festivals. If you look like you belong in Sundance due to your budget and the quality of camera you have then you are chosen. The quality of story is boring and has been seen many times before. If you have a budget for special effects.. you get in. If you have a celebrity in your film… you’re in. Why? Because most festivals want numbers. They want attendees, and celebrities bring that to you. They bring revenue. But they don’t bring diversity other than their token minorities with stories to claim to feature hardships of certain demographics, but are often directed by white rich men. So some films don’t make the cut. Then theres the world of experimental films, and those can be biased too. They have their own underground world of celebrities. If you are a certain name then you will play because you bring prestige to the festival . And so many times, people aren’t given opportunities. Also they don’t teach you this in art school or film school, festivals prefer shorter pieces to program more. So anything under 11 mins are preferred and 20 mins is pushing it. You have to remember these people are watching hundreds of movies. We’ve seen the same movie over and over again, or more like the same plot lines being retold. So yours has to stick out within the first shots. Also you can have an awful camera but if your sound is good and your story is compelling then you have a chance as a indie filmmaker.

MT: What motivates you and your team to do this festival?

A: We want to create a positive social change for women in the media cinematic arts. As a minority female artist, I understand my resume is skipped because I have a latin last name. I know because I am female I will also be questioned by production companies when it comes to tech knowledge. I know this because I’ve been there. I know because I have experienced being spoken over and disregarded. So we do this because we are all intersectional feminists, some of us are minorities, some of us are queer, some of us are male, some of us are Caucasian. We have the gambit of participants. So we know what it means to have to push against adversity. We do this so we can succeed as a community, to change the way films and women are viewed through different mediums of art.

MT: How has your FilmFreeway submission process been?

A: FilmFreeway is intuitive, it helps tracking and allows very easy sharing among other judged. Withoutabox is still very much a task. I want to compare it to apple vs pc. One just has more steps to customize. Filmreeway gives you the indie flavor and withoutabox has a lot of great narrative pieces with higher budgets. They both offer great resources and diverse options.

MT: Where do you see the festival by 2020?

A: We hope to continue to grow and eventually offer grants to at need artists to continue with their art. We would have traveled a couple more cities, as we did Venice Los Angeles last year and will be doing San Diego this year.

MT: What film have you seen the most times in your life?

A: Funny enough I realize that my favorite film isn’t the best in technique, its not artistic, and its not a cinematic masterpiece. It’s the film which first made me feel something. It awakened a sense of awe, it gave me a desire to story tell. It was a film which created a world outside of myself, and of course it was none other than the very basic yet wonderfully whimsical Casper. Yes the kids film. Yes Christina Ricci. Yes my CalArts professors would be smacking me in the face for choosing this. But its true, I have watched this more times than I can count. I don’t need to think. I don’t need to analyze. It just is. Artists often look at me in disgust when I say this. But I believe this to be the most honest non-pretentious truth. This film changed my life when I was 8 years old. I started to write after that. It was raw and it was real and I still love it. Now if you were to ask me my favorite art film… then id get snooty pretentious… because I did go to an experimental Disney school.

MT: In one sentence, what makes a great film?

A: A great film makes you question or embrace your understanding of the world.

MT: How is the film scene in your city?

A: Los Angeles. Right. The capital of film, over stimulation. It is everywhere. It is the Mecca. There’s all kinds of underground societies as well as Hollywood. There’s a huge network of artists out there, grant it I am more familiar with CalArts inspired universes.
 

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Interviewee: Edda Manriquez- Edda graduated with an MFA in film and video from CalArts and received her BA at UC San Diego. She is southern California based feminist experimental filmmaker and performance artist. She founded LEFUFF in 2015 along side David Leopoldo Gonzalez. She currently works for the Getty Research Institute and is a community activist and educator. She now lives with her pet dog in Santa Clarita.

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Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 20-50 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto, and Los Angeles at least 2 times a month. Go to www.wildsound.ca for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

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