Femme Visuale: The Filmme Guild at the MFA

Gemmill creates a forum devoted to analyzing the convergence of women and film

It’s about shining a different light on the films they have loved and hopefully letting them [men] consider those films from a different angle.

Art and critical discourse come together this summer when the Museum of Fine Art and The Filmme Guild partner up for a film series in correlation with the exhibition of Shana Mouton: Journeys Out of the Body.

The three hand-picked films in this series explore the relationship between the female body, modern and holistic health practices and pop culture self-improvement sensibilities.

Selected film screenings in the Marly Room at the MFA include Safe (1995) on July 21 at 6 p.m., Daisies (1966) on August 18 at 6 p.m., and The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye (2011) on September 29 at 6 p.m., with in-depth post-screening panel discussions held by local expert panelists. Cost is included in the $5 after 5 p.m. Thursday night admission, so you can browse the museum exhibits before the film begins.

Allie Gemmill, film critic and entertainment writer, founded The Filmme Guild to create an open space for deep conversation, debate and reflection to discuss the connections between film and feminist contexts.

“As for where I got the idea for The Filmme Guild, I like to think it’s a fun story. When I was in London, I was working with smaller film societies in different capacities. London is filled with great, unique film groups that each hone in on a specific film niche. The two I worked closest with — The Bechdel Test Fest and The Nomad Cinema — brought aspects that I’ve reincorporated into The Filmme Guild, which has a focus on women in film and a pop-up style cinema where locations change but the fun vibes remain, respectively,” Gemmill says.

When she came back to Tampa, she knew she wanted to create a film group that was unlike what was currently offered in the local scene.

“I am passionate about women in film: how do we write for and about women, how do audiences watch and process women onscreen, how do we treat women working in the industry... I wanted to combine those rather academic questions into a format that was a little less esoteric and much more accessible — a film group, set up as a salon, a place that fosters conversations, was the best route to take,” she says.

“While The Filmme Guild is mostly me in regards to who runs it — although I have a few amazing volunteers—I like to think the ‘Guild’ comes from joining forces with other groups as well as working to create a community. The ‘Filmme’ part is a portmanteau of ‘film’ and “femme,” which helps telegraph what we’re all about. So, in short, I wanted to create a film group with a specific message of positively exploring the intersection of women and film, and presenting it as exciting, digestible and inviting to the public,” Gemmill explains.

The springboard for the film series is the current exhibition of Shana Moulton’s complex work that’s sometimes unsettling or serious, with injections of humor.

“There was a sense of the kinds of films we wanted to show and the resulting three we’re presenting each cover a different aspect of Moulton’s work. Safe discusses modern healing and specifically, how to heal the female body and mind when you cannot pinpoint the affliction. Daisies is a coming-of-age story, where the cinematic focus on aesthetics, female bodies and humor come to the forefront. The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye examines the lengths we go to for love, the limits of art if there are any — and what it’s like to mold yourself for the sake of beauty. Moulton’s work, in different ways, tackles these ideas too,” she says.

These films bring up the question: what makes up the contemporary woman today? How do women today deal with these shifting roles that include home and professional life, while trying to fit in time for the self?

I think that the conversation surrounding how women treat their own minds and bodies is an ongoing one. In spite of society moving towards stronger messages of body positivity and a willingness to discuss the mental and emotional health of women, there is still plenty to be discussed. As women, we’re in a very aware, empowered, ‘take no shit’ attitude right now, which I love. The women of today are the products of a few waves of feminism and a more globally-aware approach to how we treat ourselves and how society treats us. I think that these films aren’t afraid to channel that feeling while still discussing the emotional depths of womanhood and serving as capsules of what it was like to be a woman at the time they were made. Each film feels revolutionary and evolutionary to the female condition, which I think is important to be exposed to—male or female,” Gemmill says.

But don’t think that just because these films are female-centric that the male audience won’t get anything out of seeing what the series has to offer.

“I certainly do not want to alienate male audiences from any event The Filmme Guild has, now or in the future. I welcome to male viewpoint when discussing films, women and the issues that surround these two fields. I think it’s necessary to hear from men, and this salon-style environment fosters that. I think for male audiences, it’s about re-focusing their attention so that they might see what women see. It’s about shining a different light on the films they have loved and hopefully letting them consider those films from a different angle. The Filmme Guild is merely a fun, artistic conduit for that reconsideration and conversation a male audience member participates in,” Gemmill explains.

This summer series with the MFA is the first high-profile event for The Filmme Guild. They’ve held two previous events since starting up in January: a screening of Suffragette and a community discussion of cinema in the 1960’s, both hosted at the Upper Tampa Bay Library.

“Both had small but enthusiastic turnouts, so I hope this series with the MFA will propel us to a bigger scale of visibility,” Gemmill says. “I’m also in the process of planning events with a political women’s organization and a local university. I can’t reveal much more but I can tease that both are going to be great fun! From there, the possibilities are endless.”

For the time being, The Filmme Guild doesn’t have a brick-and-mortar salon space, but Gemmill has big plans for the future.

It’s a moving entity, which I like in these early stages, though I’d love to find a permanent residence somewhere. Right now, I like that I have the opportunity to pair with great organizations that have great spaces available to utilize. In the short term, I’d like to capitalize on the momentum The Filmme Guild has had in uniting with other local arts groups, women-friendly groups and Tampa-based youth groups to creating film screening events with purpose. I think this will help fulfill my personal vision for enriching the Tampa arts and culture scene while making fresh connections that the community can access. In the long-term, I’d love to open up our blog to freelance contributors for different women and film-related pieces, create a film festival-style lineup of female-centric films worth celebrating, and perhaps even bringing in bigger names in the film industry for specialized screenings, one-on-one Q&A’s or even participating in a panel,” she says.

With this much passion and dedication for film, you can tell that she has been immersed in it from an early age. Starting with theater when she was around 9 years old, she participated in school plays and community theater.

“It went from hobby to a serious pursuit when I got to high school. I specialized in acting when I was at Blake High School here in Tampa. From there, I kept theater going during my undergrad at Penn State. It was somewhere in my junior year of college that I started to find myself attracted more to film. I was getting into independent and foreign films, more in terms of movements than specific people (French New Wave, ‘90s American Indie Cinema, and so forth.). Even when I was directing small scenes in a theater setting, I envisioned them cinematically. So a few years later, when I found myself stalled out in my postgrad life, I decided to go back to school but really make a crack at film studies. I am fascinated by the art of filmmaking, but writing about it, appreciating it and being able to study it in all its facets is where I am most comfortable,” she says.

“I started as a film critic during my master’s degree in London in late 2014. I’ve been growing since then, ending up where I currently am, working as an entertainment writer at Bustle. I wish I had the knack for actual filmmaking! I make a decent director and actor but if I had it my way, I’d try my hand at cinematography. But the chips fells in such a way that I’m much better at film writing,” she confesses. “I love writing, that’s my niche in this crazy world. Aside from writing, building The Filmme Guild is where I devote my the rest of my energy and time because I want to create something exciting but artistically meaningful here in Tampa and St. Pete.”

With such a powerful platform to discuss these films, the community can create deeper meaning and understanding of not just the artwork itself, but also the world around us.

I primarily want to celebrate the amusement and relief from daily life that film brings us. It’s always been an escapist art form, a medium that allows the imagination to wander. But—and popular American cinema tends to forget this—film is also an art form for change,” she says. “I also think its important to remind people that films are talking to us, begging to be unpacked in one way or another for further enlightenment. I don’t want the conversation to ever be posed as too academic or alienating that is excludes potential audience members but rather, I hope its seen as an invitation for people to come and speak their minds.”

To find out more about The Filmme Guild and the film screening series with the MFA, visit thefilmmeguild.com.

Keep up with the latest events on the Facebook page.

Twitter: @thefilmmeguild

Urban Dictionary defines Femme Fatale as “a woman with both intelligence and sex appeal that uses these skills to manipulate poor helpless men into doing what she wants. May cause death.” Keeping in line with this concept, the women highlighted in Caitlin Albritton's "Femme Visuale" series aims to highlight local women artists and show off some lesser-known talent that's been hiding in the shadows. In the art world, if it ain't big and loud, it ain't being seen (looking at you, Koons). Art as a grand spectacle leaves little room for modest, sincere, or quiet voices, especially women's voices. And I promise, we won’t bite.

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