Indie Films, Bechdel and Beyond: An Update

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In May, Fandor began a new initiative to classify and filter the films in our library that passed the Bechdel Test. This test, for the non-initiated, is a pass-fail exam for film and other media that evaluates the quality and depth of female characters portrayed, using the following three questions:

1. Are there two or more (named) female characters?
2. Do they talk to each other?
3. About something other than a man?

We asked members and non-members alike to rate films based on this criteria, so that we could tackle the thousands of films in our library with the help of crowd-sourcing. And we had amazing response! In May alone, the test was taken 3,500 times and over 500 films (about 10% of our library) were rated. Of those, 115 were deemed as passing of the Bechdel Test. And now, you can view all of these films in one place! A glance at the collection reveals that these films have very little in common besides the three criteria listed above; they cross genre, continents, cast, crew and subject matter and reveal that a diversity of voices can be represented in many different forms.

Now, the Bechdel Test has come under some controversy for its arguably reductive parameters, but we encourage Bechdel Test skeptics to read this article exploring the test’s use in examining the landscape of film and the implications of gender representation therein, especially when it comes to independent film. Additionally, the fantastic Kevin B. Lee has updated this ongoing dialogue with a thoughtful and incisive essay and accomanying video using examples from his favorite films to explore the test’s limitations and benefits.

In the end, the Bechdel Test is not the only litmus for measuring the representation of women onscreen, but it remains, in the wake of an evolving industry, as important today as it was in previous decades. So why not explore our library using this filter, and see what it reveals to you?

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