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Strong Leads Fall 2023

Strong Leads: A Film Seminar for High School Girls is a free after-school program spotlighting films by women. It is designed for 10th, 11th and 12th girls of all identities including gender-nonconforming youth. A presentation of the Belcourt’s education and engagement program, Strong Leads explores gender representation in cinema, in the Hollywood establishment, and in film discourse. The fall 2023 Strong Leads is the 14th installment of the seminar, which started in 2016 with support from the Stackpole-Hall Foundation and in collaboration with a Belmont University/Watkins College senior, Daisy Stackpole. With a new slate of films each semester, Strong Leads has presented 67 individual films by female directors with female lead characters.

Students will meet at the Belcourt Wednesdays, Oct 18-Nov 15, 4-7:30pm, to watch films and discuss with their peers. Strong Leads is facilitated by Allison Inman, the Belcourt’s education and engagement director, and Jessie Griffith, the Belcourt’s theatre operations director and education associate.

Participation in Strong Leads is by application only. This seminar is offered at no cost to participants, but capacity is limited, and students must apply and be selected to attend. It is designed for students only and is meant to be taken in its entirety (no single sessions). Please note that the seminar is for 10th, 11th and 12th grade students. No exceptions, please.

Strong Leads features high-quality films designed to spark conversation about important issues. Because of that, some films contain adult situations, profanity, drug/alcohol use, nudity, sexual situations, and violence.


Applications are due Wed, October 11, and applicants will be notified Thu, October 12.





Wed, Nov 15: THELMA & LOUISE

Dir. Inna Sahakyan | Armenia/Germany/Lithuania | 2023 | 94 min. | NR

At only 14 years old, Arshaluys Mardiganian (“Aurora”) lost everything during the horror of the Armenian genocide. Two years later, through luck and extraordinary courage, she escaped to New York, where her story became a media sensation. Starring as herself in AUCTION OF SOULS, an early Hollywood blockbuster, Aurora became the face of one of the largest charity campaigns in American history. With a blend of vivid animation, interviews with Aurora herself, and 18 minutes of surviving footage from her lost silent epic, AURORA’S SUNRISE revives a forgotten story of survival.

Dir. Ana Lily Amirpour | USA | 2014 | 101 min. | NR

Strange things are afoot in Bad City. The Iranian ghost town, home to prostitutes, junkies, pimps and other sordid souls, is a bastion of depravity and hopelessness where a lonely vampire stalks its most unsavory inhabitants. But when boy meets girl, an unusual love story begins to blossom…blood red. Cinema’s first Iranian vampire Western, Ana Lily Amirpour’s debut feature basks in the sheer pleasure of pulp. A joyful mash-up of genre, archetype and iconography, its prolific influences span Spaghetti Westerns, graphic novels, horror films and the Iranian New Wave. Amped by a mix of Iranian rock, techno, and Morricone-inspired riffs, its airy, anamorphic, black-and-white aesthetic and artfully drawn-out scenes combine the simmering tension of Sergio Leone with the weird surrealism of David Lynch. Above all, Amirpour’s tale of love and squalor is fun. Why else would a vampire ride a skateboard?

Dir. Morrisa Maltz | USA | 2023 | 86 min. | NR

Reeling from a devastating loss, Tana (Lily Gladstone) is pulled back into the world by an unexpected invitation to her cousin’s wedding. She packs up her late grandmother’s Cadillac and hits the open road, driving from her home in Minnesota to South Dakota. After reconnecting with her Oglala Lakota family, Tana sets off to retrace a surreal journey that her grandmother took decades ago, searching for the spot captured in an old family photograph. As she travels, Tana finds connection in the stories of everyday people who’ve settled down far off the main roads — including Isaac (Raymond Lee), who provides a pivotal clue to understanding the lost location that could cultivate closure. A personal reverie summoned from a beguiling mix of fact and fiction, THE UNKNOWN COUNTRY is an arresting debut feature from Morrisa Maltz.

Dir. Cheryl Dunye | USA | 1996 | 90 min. | NR

Set in Philadelphia, THE WATERMELON WOMAN is the story of Cheryl (Cheryl Dunye), a 20-something Black lesbian struggling to make a documentary about Fae Richards, a beautiful and elusive 1930s Black film actress popularly known as “The Watermelon Woman.” While uncovering the meaning of Fae Richards’s life, Cheryl experiences a total upheaval in her own. Her love affair with Diana (Guinevere Turner, GO FISH), a beautiful white woman, and her interactions with the gay and black communities, are subject to the comic yet biting criticism of her best friend Tamara (Valerie Walker). Meanwhile, each answer Cheryl discovers about the Watermelon Woman evokes a flurry of new questions about herself and her future.

Dir. Ridley Scott/Writer Callie Khouri | USA | 1999 | 130 min. | R
Thelma and Louise — a bored housewife and a strait-laced waitress at a coffee shop — are best friends, both sick of what they’ve settled for. To escape the tedium of their everyday lives, the pair sneak off in Louise’s ’66 T-bird convertible for a three-day fishing trip with no husbands, no boyfriends and no problems. But things don’t go according to plan when an encounter with a drunken, foul-mouthed, would-be rapist transforms their quiet getaway into a cross-country escape that will change their lives forever. While Strong Leads films spotlight films directed by women, we’re making an exception to celebrate Callie Khouri’s groundbreaking first screenplay, which was named Best Screenplay by the Academy Awards, the Golden Globes, BAFTA and Writers Guild of America.