In an alternate reality, this weekend would see the second annual Nevertheless Film Festival return to the Michigan Theater. Of course in this timeline that isn’t happening, but founder and festival director Meredith Finch took inspiration from the success of the Ann Arbor Film Festival’s virtual switch in late March and decided to move Nevertheless, which features films “made by womxn, for everyone”, online. [The word womxn is defined by Nevertheless as “an intersectional way of encompassing those affected by misogyny or women-related issues, including all cis and trans women, and any other person who self-identifies as a woman regardless of one’s biology or the gender assigned at birth.”]
We caught up with Meredith before the festival’s launch today to chat about the virtual move and what people can look forward to over the next four days.
Can you give us an overview of the festival, for those who have maybe not heard of it before?
Absolutely. So this is the second annual Nevertheless Film Festival. We have 26 films made by womxn for everyone. The festival has a requirement that all films in order to be submitted to the festival have to have at least 50% of leadership positions behind the camera filled by womxn. The festival really is about just elevating the work of womxn in film, and showing audiences works of film that maybe otherwise would go unseen because of lack of opportunities. And also, to simultaneously show audiences that womxn are making really awesome movies all the time.
So, theoretically, in a perfect world, this would be taking place in Ann Arbor for the second year in a row. You’re a U-M grad, but you’ve also worked for film festivals all across the country. Why did you choose Ann Arbor to host your own festival?
Basically, I’m always kind of looking for an excuse to go back to Ann Arbor. I love it so much. I haven’t lived in Ann Arbor in the seven years since I graduated, but when I had the idea two years ago to create something of my own, my first thought was to have womxn in leadership positions and my second thought was, okay, where am I going to do this? As soon as Ann Arbor entered my brain I knew it would be there.
I just knew that this community of people is the perfect environment to bring something like this. The community of Ann Arbor is full of people who love embracing new things. They love the arts, they love these kinds of status quo-questioning things like a festival for womxn in leadership roles behind the camera.
And also, I mean, the Michigan Theater is the most beautiful and cool movie theater I’ve ever been to.
Why did you decide to go virtual, rather than wait until next year?
Basically, in March of this year I was about halfway through the film submission process and I was going full steam ahead planning on it being in person and then obviously things got crazy. And I really kind of just had to keep planning because I am not a quitter. So I said, okay, I am going to keep planning for this festival as if it is happening. And then I saw the Ann Arbor Film Festival really quickly pivot to a virtual platform, and I attended the festival virtually, and I was watching it and being like, wait, this is actually really cool. Obviously nothing beats an in person event, but I’m able to talk to people in the live chat, I’m able to watch things in real time. It was this moment of community—even though I was by myself in an apartment, I felt like I was a part of something.
What’s the selection process like for the festival?
For the second year in a row, we had open submissions. So for about four months, we had films coming in pretty steadily. We received a couple hundred film submissions this year. And then a team of us shared the responsibility of watching these films, and eventually narrowed it down to 26 films, which is six feature films and 20 short films. [We had] films from all over the world, in multiple languages—we hope that Nevertheless is a place where audiences have the first opportunity to see these movies.
What are a couple of films that you’re really excited about this year?
Oh my gosh, that’s so hard. But yes, I will try. There’s a documentary that I’m really excited about. It’s a documentary feature called First Vote, and it follows four people who happen to be Asian Americans, voting in battleground states in the 2018 midterm elections. This is a super political movie, [but] it shows people across the political spectrum. I’m really into politics, so to see this documentary about people who are either immigrants or descendants of immigrants and seeing the wide range of political ideologies that they hold is completely fascinating to me.
There’s also this [shorts] program that I love called Take Care. The films in this program are all about the different forms of love, so there’s self love, friendship, romance. There are some kind of sad shorts in this program,there are some thought provoking ones, and there are some really, really funny ones.
What sort of things can audiences look forward to this weekend, in addition to the movies?
So all day Thursday through all day Sunday films are available to watch at any time, which is something I hadn’t even thought about. It’s kind of become this cool silver lining where instead of worrying about, Okay, are people going to come to a screening at 2 PM on a Saturday? It’s like, No, you can watch the films at any time you want. And then the things that are scheduled are these Q&As. Granted, if a person misses the scheduled Q&A they’re all recorded so you can watch them later, but we’re hoping that people participate live. There’s a chat feature and you can ask questions of the filmmakers and have them answered in real time. So that’s the way that we’re hoping to engage people in a way that feels somewhat like a real live festival.
The Nevertheless Film Festival runs Thursday July 9 through Sunday July 12. Passes are $29, and single tickets are $6. See here for more information, or to buy tickets and passes.
You can also catch Meredith, alongside Alana Davis, Director of Artist Relations for the festival, speaking with Michigan Theater programmer Nick Alderink on the latest episode of our podcast Behind the Marquee.