The town of Idyllwild on one September weekend will be taken over by a film festival that emphasizes diversity.
The inaugural Women Under the Influence Goes Idyllwild film festival, according to founder Tabitha Denholm, will be a lot like a music festival … just with movies.
“Think Coachella on a smaller scale, but without the feathers and bikinis,” said Tabitha Denholm with a laugh. “I am obsessed with the idea of diversity. This year, we have legendary documentary director Barbara Kopple, who perhaps will be next to a first-time director, who is next to someone who rocks a mean air bass guitar. Everyone is included and welcomed.”
Women Under the Influence is a community founded by Denholm in 2015 with this goal: “By sharing the stories of cinema directed by women, through events and media, WUTI pushes back against the industry’s bias.” The festival is the brainchild of Denholm, creative director Laura Rule, and Meredith Rogers, the vice president of cultural programming at NeueHouse, a collaborative workspace in New York and Los Angeles.
“We all have our roles and know our parts. We mix well together,” Denholm said. The idea began at NeueHouse in Los Angeles. “In other large cities, there are communities around films, and we just didn’t feel that here in L.A., of all places. So we started one.”
How did they pick Idyllwild as the location?
“I had heard about Idyllwild and thought it was going to have like a wine-country sort of feeling, so I drove up there in my old convertible with a pair of jeans and a T-shirt on,” Denholm said. “I got there, and it was snowing! In fact, we had to stay the night there, because we got stuck in a blizzard! … Where else can you find a town so close to L.A. with art schools, cinema and a wonderful energy?”
Energy is a key ingredient in WUTI.
“We are inclusive. We have a broad focus on what should be in our festival,” Denholm said. “We screen films that we like. There is no submission process. We just make a list and then bug people until they come.”
When asked what festival films are her favorites, Denholm responded that she had no “favorites.” “But I love Grind Reset Shine by Margarita Jimeno. It’s about the demise of the male ego. Crystal Swan by Darya Zhuk is also a good one to catch.”
A portion of the festival has been set aside for preteens and teens. “On Saturday, Sept. 21, we devote a large part of it to Gen Z,” Denholm said. “There will be talks for teens by teen directors.”
Denholm said she hopes Women Under the Influence Goes Idyllwild becomes an annual event.
“Our ambition is to grow incrementally with what we can handle. Our dream is that it will be a destination for people meeting up and making new friends,” she said. “This is not just for women; anyone can come, but we felt it was important to give women a platform. There is sexism in directing; that is getting better, but it still is an issue. The way women have been portrayed in films has had a huge impact on how the audience thinks of women on a subconscious level. It affects us all; if a man is the one writing or directing he doesn’t always see things from her point of view.”
Other highlights of this year’s festival schedule include singer Karen O, the front woman of Yeah Yeah Yeahs, discussing the music she’s created in films; director Kimberly Peirce, celebrating the 20th anniversary of Boys Don’t Cry; and director Penelope Spheeris, who will join actress Tia Carrere to screen and discuss the legendary Wayne’s World.
Women Under the Influence Goes Idyllwild will take place from Friday through Sunday, Sept. 20-22, at various venues in Idyllwild. All-festival admission costs $225, with discounts for teens and Idyllwild residents (use the code IDYPASS online); children 12 and younger are admitted for free. For tickets or more information, visit www.wutigoesidyllwild.com.