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Arts & Culture

Etheria Film Festival celebrates genre films by women

Dana.jpeg
Etheria Film Festival
An undated still from "Dana" is seen above. "Dana" is about a woman who becomes a vigilante after she is assaulted. It is one of the short films streaming on Shudder as part of the Etheria Film Festival.

Etheria Film Festival showcases horror, sci-fi, fantasy, action and thriller films directed by women. For the third year its showcase will stream on Shudder.

2022 Etheria Film Festival - Official Teaser

In 2020, COVID-19 forced the Etheria Film Festival to go virtual, but it did so in a big way. It partnered with Shudder, the horror streaming channel, and was able to share its showcase of women-made genre films to a much wider audience than it could ever have reached in person.

This year that partnership, which seems a perfect fit, continues with seven short films streaming through July 19th.

The films explore a diverse range of topics and display wildly differing styles from women around the globe.

From Spain, "Dana" delivers a thriller about a woman who survives a sexual assault on the street one night and then sets off on a mission to hunt down serial rapists. Directed by Lucía Forner Segarra, the film boasts strong performances and a no nonsense visual style.

"FREYA" and "Come F*ck My Robot" offer two takes on our ever-changing relationship to technology. Canadian filmmaker Camille Hollett-French looks to a futuristic technology known as FREYA (Federally Regulated Enquiry and Yield Assistant). Jade considers FREYA something of a friend or at least a companion as FREYA takes part in every aspect of Jade's life from helping her rate one-night stands to letting her know when her mineral levels are off. But as unexpected events disrupt Jade's routine life, she starts to question FREYA's purpose.

Both "FREYA" and Mercedes Bryce Morgan's "Come F*ck My Robot" use humor to tackle our sometimes uneasy interactions with technology. Morgan's film cites a real Craigslist post of the same name as the inspiration for her film. Brian, an unemployed slacker, finds the job listing posted by an engineer who wants someone to engage in intercourse with his prototype sex robot. The result is a lesson for the engineer in how not to treat a woman or even a robot for that matter.

"The Familiars," from Australian director Millicent Malcolm, and "Inheritance" from Annalise Lockhart both look to family secrets and legacies as well as supernatural elements. Both directors give us well-crafted horror tales with mysteries at their core.

A.K. Espada's horror comedy "This is Our Home" pits a vegan and her roommate against a rodent infestation. The film states that no animals were harmed in the making of the film but warns that there is "real archival footage of an animal in distress." I'm not sure that using disturbing footage someone else shot gives you a free pass even if you are trying to make a point.

Finally, "Lucid," directed by Deanna Milligan and from Canada, serves as sort of a summation of the festival showcase. Mia is an art school who shares a self-portrait in her class and is told it's a borderline fail. Her teacher suggests she dig deeper to reveal something more personal. Although the teacher and some of the classmates come across as buffoonish, they are right in the sense that Mia can do better and she does by fully embracing her love of the grotesque in a bloody performance art piece.

Kudos to Etheria for highlighting these emerging female artists and encouraging them to dig deeper as well for their art.

The seven film stream on Shudder through July 19. And if you want to support more films by and about women there are still a few days left in Les Femmes Underground Film Festival's virtual fest and then there will be an in person event on August 13 at the Aero Theater in Santa Monica, where I will be moderating a post film discussion.