Reel Sisters Becomes the First Qualifying Film Festival for Women of Color

Reel Sisters of the Diaspora Film Festival & Lecture Series has officially made history this year by becoming the first Academy Qualifying Film Festival for narrative shorts devoted to women of color! The festival’s new status is a game changer for women’s access to Oscar consideration in the Live Action Shorts category.

“Reel Sisters’ new designation will give women of color a path to getting on the Oscar consideration list and open the doors for all women directors. It is a milestone for women directors who rarely get nominated by the Academy Awards for Oscar worthy films,” said Carolyn A. Butts, Reel Sisters Founder. “We’re proud to kick off our film submissions season with this amazing news and opportunity for women filmmakers.”

In the Academy Awards 90-year history, only five women directors have been nominated for Best Director. Kathryn Bigelow was the only woman to win for Best Director in 2010 for The Hurt Locker.

The list for women of color represented in Live Action Shorts is just as short. Dianne Houston was the first African-American woman to receive a nomination in 1996 for Tuesday Morning Ride and Yuki Yoshida, an Asian-Canadian director, won an Oscar in 1978 for I’ll Find A Way.

Reel Sisters has presented over 3,000 films produced, directed and written by women of color, and has awarded more than $25,000 in scholarship money since 1997. The festival has set the agenda for creating opportunities for women in the film industry through advocacy and supporting other organizations with similar missions.

The organiation is currently seeking films for its 2018 season. Shorts, web series, animation, works-in-progress, narratives, features, documentaries and experimental works are eligible. Filmmakers will have their films screened in Reel Sisters Film Festival at Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Brooklyn from October 20-21, 2018 and other venues in New York City.

If you have a film that you would like to submit to the festival please submit using this link HERE.

The early bird deadline is May 7, 2018 with an extended deadline of June 22, 2018.



Omision is a way of deleting our stories

The true story of “Spotlight” and the queer woman left out of the film

on March 2, 2016
This year’s Oscar for Best Picture went to Spotlight, the true story of a group of editors and writers at The Boston Globe who reported on the attempted covering up of sexual abuse within the Catholic church. While the film was well-written and expertly acted (winning Best Ensemble at the Independent Spirit Awards, among others), it turns out that this “true story” is not as honest as has been portrayed. Specifically, it completely left out queer news editor Susan Ryan-Vollmar of The Boston Phoenix, where the real investigation began with her reporter, Kristen Lombardi.

photo via FacebookAs Btchflks reports, The Phoenix was the first to tackle the case of the sex-offending priests, but the film doesn’t credit them at all.

Tom McCarthy, the co-writer and director, did interview Lombardi as research for the script, but he decided her role wasn’t important enough to include in the final cut of the film. Instead McCarthy decided to focus on white-guy, mainstream newspaper mythology, and that focus not only makes the film untrue, it renders it dramatically inert.

In 2012, Susan penned a letter to air her grievances with the Globe‘s taking credit without any hat tip to the Phoenix and their original reporting. She notes:

The Globe’s work on this story was phenomenal, and they deserve perhaps 90 percent of the credit for blowing the sex abuse story wide open. But they continue to insist on taking 100 percent credit. Not only does the Globe today fail to credit former Phoenix reporter Kristen Lombardi’s work, but it seems to take credit for the swarm of other stories on clergy sex abuse that popped up around the country.

She also shared this comment with Boston Magazine last year:

Until the Phoenix’s reporting, no Boston outlet had pulled together the full extent of the horror taking place within the Boston Archdiocese: Law’s knowledge of the abuse and his decision to keep pedophile priests employed, and the fact that it wasn’t the case of one bad priest, but many. The Phoenix’s reporting was so solid and convincing on these points that the Boston Herald took the extremely unusual step of calling for Law to come clean in an editorial, and cited the Phoenix reporting in its piece. The late David Brudnoy did the same on his well-regarded radio show. To say that Kristen’s reporting merely raised suspicions without proving anything shows a rather astonishing level of ignorance about her work.

Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo, Brian d’Arcy James, Michael Keaton and John Slattery as “Boston Globe” journalists in “Spotlight”


Susan also reported on issues relating to the church and the backlash it faced after the Globe‘s pieces (as highlighted in Spotlight) enlightened the public to what was going on with their local Catholic Archdiocese. In a 2006 story, she wrote:

It was one thing to edit the Phoenix’s coverage of the clergy-sex-abuse scandal as a Catholic. It was something else to edit the paper’s coverage of 9/11 as, well, an American. But it was another thing entirely to direct the paper’s coverage of the story of same-sex marriage in Massachusetts. For me, a lesbian raising a child with my partner of 20 years, the story of Goodridge v. Dept. of Public Health was personal in a way the clergy-sex-abuse and 9/11 stories weren’t. I was deeply engaged — and enraged — by the first two stories. But the story of same-sex marriage in Massachusetts changed my life.

Since leaving the Phoenix, Susan worked as the editor of New Engladn’s LGBT publication, Bay Windows, and has even contributed to the Globe, including a piece last summer on how American policies on LGBT rights directly affects how LGBTs are treated in other nations. Susan now works in consulting and has worked with several LGBT clients including the Family Equality Council, GLAD, and MassEquality.

Is Spotlight a great film? Yes. But does it oversimplify the events of what really happened and fail to credit two women who played a large part in the ultimate take down celebrated in the Oscar-winning piece of, ultimately, fiction. Considering there is only one woman in the final product (played by Rachel McAdams), it seems like one giant missed opportunity.

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