SXSW Panel Recap: The Female Gaze

Women get shit done on set

What does it mean to be a woman filmmaker? Alicia Malone of Fandango posed the question before taking her seat as panelist moderator for the Monday afternoon panel, “The Female Gaze,” featuring directors Kestrin Pantera (Mother’s Little Helpers), Karen Maine (Yes, God, Yes), and Chelsea Hernandez (Building the American Dream).

Alicia Malone (l), Kestrin Pantera, Karen Maine, and Chelsea Hernandez (Photo by Sarah Marloff)

Malone, who recently released a book by the same name as her panel, said she wanted all the women filmmakers – calling out trans women and women of color specifically – at SXSW 2019 to join her, but said the final lineup came down to availability. Over the course of the next 60 minutes, the four panelists discussed their careers, subverting the male gaze, and whether or not women directors are telling new stories.

For Maine, Yes, God, Yes, which premiered at the Fest over the weekend, provided an opportunity to showcase a woman’s perspective on sex. Like the lead in her film, Maine attended Catholic school and recalled the way sex education is taught. “It’s black and white,” she said. “It’s about reproduction, but to reproduce, men need to ejaculate – which is pleasure – but women don’t.” Therefore, women aren’t taught to expect or enjoy pleasure, so when we inevitably experience it, we aren’t prepared and are met with shame. Maine hopes through movies, TV, and humor – the door will open for discussion.

Malone agreed, noting that if kids aren’t learning it from school, it’s important they see women’s perspective on sex somewhere.

Noting that Maine and Pantera hired production crews made up largely of women, Malone also concluded that the more women directors there are, the more other women in film benefit. Pantera, a mother of two, joked: “A lot of the people in my production team are moms … they’re so uniquely qualified to hold emotions and get everything delivered and shipped on time. ... Time to shift the narrative: Moms get shit done.”

But while each filmmaker said she felt supported in her role as director, Maine said she often feels like women are “considered a bitch” if they’re “hard or intense” at their job. Hernandez agreed, calling it the “Serena Williams Effect.” “We’re not trying to be bitchy; we’re passionate and we have a story to tell.” Men, she added, aren’t criticized for that dedication. Hernandez, the only documentary maker on the panel, also suggested more women filmmakers turn to documentaries because they’re more accessible.”

Before the panel turned to the audience Q&A, both Hernandez and Maine praised recent comic book movies. Hernandez, speaking about the stereotypes Latina women face in movies, applauded Black Panther for portraying women of color in leadership positions. “We need more leadership roles, not just side characters.”

Maine, spotlighting Wonder Woman and Marvel’s latest (and first woman-led feature film) Captain Marvel, insisted: “give women bigger budget films to direct. … Just give women more money.”

The Female Gaze

Monday, March 11, ACC Room 16AB

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

The Hidden Cost of Labor Calculated in <i>Building the American Dream</i>
The Hidden Cost of Labor Calculated in Building the American Dream
In the rubble of the NOLA hotel collapse, Chelsea Hernandez's documentary remains relevant

Richard Whittaker, Dec. 6, 2019

Gun-Filled Weekend Prompts APD Action
Gun-Filled Weekend Prompts APD Action
Spring fest unrest

Mike Clark-Madison, March 22, 2019

More by Sarah Marloff
Travis D.A. Announces New Policies to Support Rape, Abuse Survivors
Travis D.A. Announces New Policies to Support Rape, Abuse Survivors
D.A.’s Office commits to culture change to aid access to justice

Feb. 26, 2021

Assault Plaintiffs Get Court Date
Assault Plaintiffs Get Court Date
Fifth Circuit set to hear oral arguments in late March

Feb. 19, 2021


SXSW Conference 2019, SXSW 2019, Alicia Malone, Karen Maine, Chelsea Hernandez, Kestrin Pantera, Captain Marvel

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle