Since 2014 Etheria Film Night has been honoring women in genre film by showcasing their work at an annual film festival in Hollywood. This year Etheria curated NINE beautifully executed films by female directors to highlight the important work women are doing to push forward genre films. In addition to showcasing films, the festival offered Q&A sessions, red carpet, refreshments, and awards to recognize outstanding women working in film. Overall, the night was a celebration of women and display of notable primarily short length films in the sci-fi and horror genre.
The first and only full-length film, CULTURE SHOCK (which you can read our review here), started the festival off on such a high note it set the tone of excellence for all films that followed. Following her 2017 slasher film La Quinceañera (review here), director Gigi Saul Guerrero teamed up with Hulu’s Into the Dark to deliver a futuristic horror film centering around the U.S. Mexico border. In a similar style to Black Mirror, CULTURE SHOCK simultaneously explores the realistic horrors individuals face when crossing the border while also envisioning how technology can be twisted to elevate and prolong human suffering. The film makes poignant social commentary about the American Dream and immigration policy while uncovering multiple layers of horror. With a talented cast, thought-provoking narrative, and visually stimulating cinematography, CULTURE SHOCK is a definite reason to invest in a Hulu membership if you don’t have one already.
The evening consisted of an assortment of short films in the sci-fi and horror genre. One of the most notable films HAIR WOLF, which won the 2019 Etheria Jury Award and is directed by Mariama Diallo, was a thriller-comedy about cultural appropriation in New York City. This short film used comedy and striking social commentary to push the genre of suspense thrillers to a deeper level. Its costume design and wit made it one of the most memorable films at the festival.
Other films at Etheria also added a level of depth by implementing social commentary but in different ways. CUPID’S PARADISE directed by Ivy Liao made commentary about how as society becomes more technologically advanced there could be a negative impact on self-worth, identity, and image that hinder romantic connection. The special effects used in this film made is particularly engaging in visually stimulating to the audience.
Like HAIR WOLF and CUPID’S PARADISE, HANA also had a message, although because it is a Korean film it may not generalize to Western societies. Written and directed by Mai Nakanishi this film uses the story of a babysitter’s interaction with a little girl to comment on the potential horrors arising from parental neglect. Although this short was interesting, its slow burn narrative and predictable storyline made it less compelling than other offerings at Etheria.
French film, ATOMIC SPOT directed by Stephanie Cabdevila utilized intriguing monster makeup to relate a story about loneliness and misunderstanding between cultures. The film has a clear beginning, middle and end which feels satisfying to the audience. The ending is perhaps the most powerful in the film and makes the short memorable. Overall, although entertaining, the film had clear similarities to the Del Toro’s The Shape of Water which created a distracting element for the audience.
BITTEN, another offering in the horror comedy genre, directed by Sarah K. Reimers, turns traditional werewolf stories on their head in a cringe-worthy playful comedy. The plot and unveiling of the narrative make BITTEN a compelling and memorable film for audience members. The acting and character development in this 10 minute 40 second short is a significant highlight of the film.
Like BITTEN, END OF THE LINE, directed by Jessica Sanders, also develops compelling characters however it is perhaps the darkest offering in terms of content at 2019 Etheria. END OF THE LINE examines issues related to power, control, ownership, and autonomy. This short will leave you with a lot of questions and a desire to know what happens next. Despite it being a compelling short film, this modern day Gulliver’s Travels would be better suited for a longer piece.
Another story about being different and bullied takes on the form of a horror thriller about young love. LUCY’S TALE, directed by Chelsea Lupkin, had high-quality cinematography and monster design. The plot about a high school girl with powers had a traditional story arc, however, with a longer narrative, there would be an opportunity to explore the circumstance around her supernatural powers and contribute something new to the genre.
Last but not least GOOD MORNING, which won the 2019 Audience Award and is directed by Elaine Mongeon, is a horror thriller centered around a father-daughter pair in a dystopian future. The storytelling is a highlight in this short as it focuses on character development while dropping subtle clues of the danger of the time period. It creates a complex narrative while leaving audiences intrigued for what will come next.
Not only were women honored through the showcase of their films, but also through awards that were presented at the festival. Gale Anne Hurd was recognized for her contribution to film. She is known for her work as an Executive Producer of AMC’s The Walking Dead in addition to a history of producing classics like The Terminator, Aliens, Dante’s Peak, and Armageddon. She was awarded Etheria’s 2019 Inspiration Award that was presented to her by her mentor Roger Corman. Additionally, up and coming director Ines de los Santos received the 2019 Stephanie Rothman Fellowship Award presented by Rebekah McKendry (Shock Waves Podcast).
Etheria Film Night has a very important purpose and mission. The message is clear that great art is made when women are included in traditionally male-dominated roles. Only with individuals supporting women and creating opportunities for women, will the world be able to enjoy the amazing films showcased at Etheria.