Monday, 25 August 2014 14:01

September Indie Film: The Bandit Zine Presents Grand Rapids' First Feminist Film Festival

Written by  Josh Spanninga
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With all the different themed film festivals going on in West Michigan, you'd think there would be festivals for everything. There are horror film fests, comedy film fests, hell, there was even a cat video film festival at ArtPrize in 2013. But when Lydia Vanhoven, co-founder and contributor to the Grand Rapids-based Bandit Zine, started doing research for their very own feminist-themed film festival, results were pretty sparse.

Vanhoven saw this as all the more reason to produce the first-ever Grand Rapids Feminist Film Festival, which will be coming to the Wealthy Theatre on Sept. 21. The festival features short films, all less than 20 minutes and include themes of social justice advocacy and feminism.

Vanhoven said the reasoning behind the festival is simple.

The real reason we wanted to do the feminist film festival is that we feel that women and the LGBT and queer community are really underrepresented in media."

So Vanhoven and the rest of the Bandit Zine crew set out to fix this by putting out a call for entries for short feminist films.

We've gotten entries from everywhere,” Vanhoven said. “Turkey, India, Poland, Ireland and all across America. It's going to be a really, really great cross section.”

In an effort to include a diverse sampling of feminist films, they left the submission guidelines open, much like the way they run their collaborative, social justice-themed zine. The resulting submissions cover a vast array of cinematic territory, from documentaries and narratives to music videos, from amateur films to award-winning pieces. And the Bandit crew couldn't be happier.

It's a culmination of taking the zine model and taking our film fest model and putting that together,” Vanhoven said. “So I guess we're kind of doing our own thing, and we're just going to pick the best damn films that we get.”

With such a variety of films comes a large variety of feminist subject matter. While the festival is all inclusive and all ages, organizers advise that some of the shorts may be more suitable for certain audiences than others. In order to prepare viewers for such pieces, members of Bandit Zine will be introducing each film and announcing trigger warnings when appropriate.

We've gotten some films with sexual assault and a few rape scenes, things like that, but those are all issues that need to be talked about, need to be discussed,” Vanhoven said. “We just want to make sure our audience is comfortable with it and has a chance to leave the theatre if they need to.”

Ultimately, Vanhoven hopes the festival will help introduce audiences to different concepts of feminism and debunk myths that surround the movement. While many audiences see film as a way to simply entertain, Vanhoven knows it can also serve as a great tool for sharing ideas and information.

We want it to be educational,” Vanhoven said. “Grand Rapids needs that, and we eventually want to send this whole curation piece around to a bunch of other cities and maybe they can have their own feminist film festival.”

The best part is, in order to make the festival accessible to everyone, Bandit Zine has decided to cover all charges through donations and their own personal money, making this a free event for the public. And they do encourage people from all walks of life to show up.

It will be relevant to everybody, because everyone should be introduced to feminism.”

For more information on the festival, or to find out how to donate to the Bandit Zine, you can email Vanhoven at or visit

UICA to Screen David Bowie-Themed Art Doc

You really can't get enough David Bowie. Whether it's Ziggy Stardust-era Bowie or Goblin King-era Bowie, the guy never disappoints. That's why the UICA will be screening the documentary David Bowie Is... for one night only on Tuesday Sept. 23.

The documentary explores the in-depth David Bowie exhibition curated by the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, England. Fashion designers, pop culture figures and the curators themselves pore over a multitude of artifacts, from costumes, hand-written lyric sheets, photographs and more in an attempt to further analyze the mythical enigma that is David Bowie.

Showtime for the film is 8 p.m. Tickets are $4 for UICA members, $8 for non-members. For more information, visit

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