Geena Davis illuminates at Sarasota Film Festival luncheon

wtatangelo@bradenton.comApril 15, 2011 

SARASOTA — Geena Davis exuded star power and winning charm Friday as she delivered a serious message about improving gender portrayals in media at the Sarasota Yacht Club.

While attendees noshed on a scrumptious salad and sipped wine, the Oscar winner spoke with upmost command. She joked about her early-career appearance in the movie “Earth Girls Are Easy” before talking about how the stirring fan feedback she received for her roles in the feminist films “Thelma & Louise” and “A League of Their Own” made her reconsider what Hollywood had to offer.

“I realized how few roles there were for women,” Davis said at the Sarasota Film Festival luncheon. “And that colored my decision-making process from then on.”

The acclaimed actor proceeded to speak about watching children’s programs with her daughter and noticing the disparity between men (lots) and women (few). She then detailed the groundbreaking work being done with her Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media and its programming arm See Jane.

“The message it seems we’re sending is girls and women are less important,” she said.

After Davis’ approximately 15-minute talk, Mark Famigilio, the festival’s president, returned to the podium.

He announced the Sarasota Film Festival and the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media have formed a year-round partnership to incorporate media training workshop and filmmaking challenge for middle and high school-aged filmmakers into the SFF’s educational programming. “We will start with Booker Middle School,” Famiglio said.

The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media and See Jane work with entertainment companies, educate the next generation of content-creators and inform the public about the need to increase the number of girls and women in media aimed at children as well as working to reduce stereotyping of both males and females. The partnership with the SFF will be See Jane’s first educational partnership with a film festival.

“The Sarasota Film Festival is proud to partner with See Jane to expand the reach of our Outreach and Educational Department, offering even more opportunities to teach filmmaking to students,” Famigilio said. Before Davis spoke, attendees were shown the world Premiere of the short film “Guess Who?” Created by student producers at Boston University in conjunction with See Jane, it’s the inspiration for the SFF/See Jane student filmmaking workshops. The short shoots down stereotypes by showing children’s perceptions of a baker and mathematician’s identity. “We believe the Sarasota Film Festival and its award-winning outreach and education department are perfect partners for us as we launch this initiative to educate the next generation of filmmakers about gender stereotypes and portrayals of female characters,” Davis said in a statement.

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