Kate Kaminski’s Bechdel Test-certified approach to film curation brings female-first stories to Southern Maine.
Even a killjoy millennial feminist like me will probably admit that there’s been nuanced and, in some cases, more diverse representations of women in big-budget films relative to the past. From the saber-toting, kiss-rejecting, neo-Jedi stylings of Daisy Ridely’s Rey in the newest iterations of the Star Wars films, to Leslie Jones’ absurdists wisecracks as Patty Tolan in Ghostbusters, women have had it marginally better on the big screen as of late.
However, this bit of thoughtful visibility for women, particularly women of color, in feature films is still severely lacking and often grotesquely stereotypical, whitewashed or nonexistent. These recent small victories are not enough, and there’s no sign that Hollywood will ever get it right (please, no more patting Disney on the back for subverting the sordid gender norms they almost single-handedly created).
This is why we need Kate Kaminski and the Bluestocking Film Series. Using the Bechdel Test as one of the key parameters for sussing films for the Bluestocking Film Series, Kaminski seeks to showcase films produced by, about and starring women of all kinds. “We still see a lot of very narrowly defined gender representations in commercial films,” says Kaminski. “The way that I’ve always curated Bluestocking is that I don’t need the women in the films we screen to be likeable, I don’t need them to be strong in a way that we normally think of strength in a Mad-Max-Fury-Road-kind-of-way, and they can be morally weak. I like complicated characters.”
The film series aims to “amplify female voices and stories,” and does a good job (much better than your typical line-up of mainstream films) depicting all kinds of female-identified people. Bluestocking features films by local and international writers and directors who chose to tell stories about people of varying gender identities and ability levels. “We want to see everything. We’re not restrictive in any way in terms of content or genre, except we don’t screen documentaries,” Kaminski says. “If [someone] brought me Tangerine, I totally would have screened that.”
“We’ve shown some edgy stuff, but we hew very closely to story and good acting as the main criteria after the requirement that the film has a female protagonist,” she adds.
The Bluestocking Film series is successful since, as Kaminski points out, the film industry is changing. She believes people want to see stories featuring complex female protagonists and has even had the opportunity to honor one of the people who agrees with her, master comedy director Paul Feig (The Heat, Spy, Bridesmaids). Kaminski bestowed him with the “Best Gender Swap” award for his work on the new Ghostbusters. “As far as I know, he’s walking the walk,” says Kaminski. “He stands with women in the industry.”
Thanks to close partnerships with filmmakers, generous sponsorships and other collaborations with independent organizations concerned with uplifting female voices in film, Kaminski will continue to program The Bluestocking Film Series in different ways. “We have a big mouth, a big voice and lots of connections to some really wonderful filmmakers.”