Don’t Call Me Honey: Fierce Women of Film

Don’t Call Me Honey: Fierce Women of Film is a summer film series at the Wexner Center for the Arts that highlights cinematic contributions by women across genres and eras while celebrating the idea of “fierce” in all forms—from trailblazing filmmakers behind the camera to truly kick-ass characters on screen.

The Women’s Fund knows it’s crucial to represent the voices of all women in media and on the screen. Similarly to the work of The Women’s Fund, the series Don’t Call Me Honey: Fierce Women in Film strives to achieve social change through collaborative efforts, enforcing new representations of women, and encouraging conversation around how women are perceived.

The series is also a great example of advocating for and convening voices to create gender equality, it was co-curated by a group of scholars, artists, and curators– including Vera Brunner-Sung (Filmmaker & Assistant Professor, Department of Theatre, Ohio State); Jennifer Lange (Wexner Center for the Arts); Laura Larson (Artist, Associate Professor of Photography & Integrated Media, Ohio University); Sandra Macpherson (Associate Professor, Department of English, Ohio State); April Martin (Filmmaker & Artivist, Oakland, CA); Astria Suparak (Artist & Curator, Oakland); and David Filipi (Wexner Center for the Arts).

Below is a chat between Curator, Filmmaker, and Assistant Professor Vera Brunner-Sung and Wexner Center for the Arts’ Kellie Morgan.

Can you talk a bit about how you came to collaborate on this project?

David Filipi, director of Film/Video, invited me to be involved, along with artists, filmmakers, academics, and curators Laura Larson, Astria Suparak, April Martin, Sandra Macpherson, and Jennifer Lange.

What was the process for working with the Wex and other partners on selecting films?

Dave oversaw the process, which took place over e-mail. He initially solicited a list of films from each of us, that we felt fit with the “fierce women” theme. He had a few in mind already; I believe the Pam Grier movies had been on his list. But he didn’t prescribe a definition; he was interested in the perspectives we would bring. He then compiled our lists and indicated which films had more than one person recommending them—there were quite a few. But the work of programming was more complex than just putting together the most popular films. I think it’s fair to say that we were all interested in creating a well-rounded selection as far as the diversity of identities represented, both in front of and behind the camera. And of course, through the selection process, we were also hashing out this definition of “fierceness.”

How did you end up defining the term?

Maybe the first idea that comes to mind is the cool, tough characters like Grier’s Coffey, or Ripley in Aliens. These particular films were directed by men, and male filmmakers have been responsible for shaping some iconic female protagonists. As entertaining as they are, I think a truer definition of a “fierce woman” is more dynamic and nuanced. I like fellow programmer April Martin’s description: “loving yourself, fighting back, embracing sexuality, being vulnerable, finding agency like the courage it takes to be a trans woman, and following your heart.” Female strength is more than just an emulation of the norms of masculine power. I’m pleased with how that comes through in our selection.

Of the films in the series, which are the ones you selected and why?

This might sound strange, but it’s a bit difficult to go back and take credit for specific films. As I mentioned, a number of films were suggested by more than one of us, and the evolution of the selection happened organically, with a lot of mutual support. I could say that I pulled for the inclusion of older films — represented in the August 11th program by Ida Lupino’s The Bigamist (1953) and Dorothy Arzner’s Dance, Girl, Dance (1940). It seemed important that the films in the program be historically distributed, since, truly, women have been making movies since the dawn of the art form. Part of championing women in film is celebrating the great work that’s been made in the past, some of which seems hidden in plain sight.

Do you think this collaborative effort could be a new model for programming at institutions like the Wexner Center for the Arts in the future?

Since I don’t represent one of these institutions myself, it’s probably not for me to say. I do think that our group struck a good balance; our process went smoothly. A large group also has the potential to be unwieldy. With many voices, you can imagine how things might descend into a “too many cooks in the kitchen” situation. I really respect the way Dave reached out to collaborate. He took a risk to approach programming in this way, and the selection is stronger because of it. It was a treat to work with this smart and thoughtful group of people.

Vera Brunner-Sung is a filmmaker who uses experimental, documentary, and narrative techniques to explore the relationship between place and identity. In addition to making films, Vera is a writer and educator. She is currently an assistant professor at The Ohio State University.

Kellie Morgan is the Manager of Marketing, Outreach and Engagement at the Wexner Center for the Arts, where she specializes in building community partnerships, community engagement, and audience development in conjunction with the broad spectrum of programming offered by the institution.

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