Update: Chaz Ebert confirms Ebertfest’s decisions had nothing to do with my no-platforming in Urbana and Beligium, and they were unaware of any controversy.
Ebertfest (Roger Ebert’s Film Festival) is the big film festival in my town (Champaign-Urbana, Illinois). In October, its director told 2 film critics/scholars I know that my new feature film Seder-Masochism was “at the top of our list.” Which makes sense, since it’s by an Urbana filmmaker (me) whose last film was a star at the festival (Sita Sings the Blues) and contains my late father’s voice, which is known to much of the fest’s audience (he used to be Mayor of Urbana, as well as a math professor at the U of I). I emailed Ebertfest in January to ask if they were going to screen it, because I have to make plans in April. They didn’t reply. I emailed them again over a week later (Friday). “Sorry, we don’t have room for it.”
A week earlier Seder-Masochism was the target of a de-platforming campaign in Belgium. The women’s film festival that programmed its Belgian premiere removed all traces of it from their web site after transactivists threatened them. A few days before that, I was the target of a Twitter mob for sharing opinions with Graham Linehan.
Ebertfest’s decisions are made behind closed doors, and I’m certainly not entitled to be at any film festival. But it is my opinion that their decision is very much related to my defamation and condemnation as a “TERF”. Much of the witch-hunt against gender-critical feminists comes from Academia, and Ebertfest is an extension of the University of Illinois College of Media. Last Fall the self-described “Chair of Gender Studies” Mimi Nguyen led a campaign against me to have my film de-platformed at a local cafe.
Seder-Masochism is currently doing its film festival rounds. There are a number of festivals lined up this Fall and Winter, most of which I can’t name until they make their official announcements. I really, REALLY want to free the thing online, like, yesterday, but many festivals will disqualify any film that has an “online platform.” Film festivals are the only theatrical screenings it’s ever likely to have, so I’m not going to publicize an online release – even a Free, peer-to-peer one – until its “regional premieres” (which some festivals insist on) are done. If it’s any consolation, this waiting drives me crazy. But I’m going to wait, so that it may see the light of theater screens.
P.S. If you haven’t seen my first feature, Sita Sings the Blues, now would be a good time to watch it! It’s Free all over the place.
I am so grateful I got to meet Roger Ebert in 2009, when he screened Sita Sings the Blues at Ebertfest. He couldn’t speak then, but he stood onstage while his computer’s synthetic voice read his comments and looked intently in my eyes to make sure I was taking it in. He really wanted me to receive his gift, which was hard because it was so generous.
Through this cinéma vérité documentary, you too can experience what it’s like to be a nobody on the red (actually blue) carpet, navigate ridiculous security theater, shake the hands of countless strangers, smile nervously, and above all, lose.
Featuring Nina Paley, Alistair Milne, Steven Beer, and dozens of celebrities and/or nobodies whose names I forget and whose permission I don’t have, so sue me. Camera: Nina Paley, with Steven Beer. Edited by Nina Paley in 2011.