WOFFF – the Women Over 50 Film Festival – is about to have its fifth outing. It’s running at Depot from 20th-22nd September. I sat down with founder Nuala O’Sullivan to hear all her inspiring reasons why.
“I started WOFFF with a pal in Brighton”, she says. “I was a writer and producer frustrated at what wasn’t happening for me and others. I really felt the invisibility of being a woman over 50.”
So WOFFF “celebrates older women in front of and behind the camera”. Every film that shows at the festival either stars or is made – meaning written, directed or produced – by a woman over 50.
Nuala is thrilled the festival, for the second time, is at Depot. “It’s such a fantastic set-up,” she says. “The Depot screams Festival!” She’s clearly passionate about WOFFF and the platform it’s now providing. “If you build it, people will come.” And come they have.
WOFFF screens mainly short films: that’s its focus, a medium Nuala herself appreciates and works in. When I ask, what’s the relation of a short to a feature film, she says “It’s like a short story compared with a novel.
“Shorts – which tend to be up to about 20 minutes long – are filled with micro touches – all films are, of course – but screening these shorts, we see such gems. And shorts can be exciting too. Often you get to see people’s work before they become well known. So one year we showed The Farmer’s Wife, a short by Francis Lee starring Geraldine James. That was before his breakout feature, God’s Own Country. And we see really astonishing, varied work in shorts from countries like Afghanistan, Taiwan and Iran” she tells me.
Highlighting and fighting sexism and ageism is one struggle of older women but of course younger women face similar but different issues. “Older women become invisible whereas younger women can feel horribly scrutinised: we need to get together, compare notes, and support each other. Older women are full of resourcefulness and resilience. They’re often overlooked despite the richness of their stories.” Nuala, quoting Ashton Applewhite (from This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism), says, “Ageism is just discrimination against your older self.”
So how does the Festival unfold? “From more than 220 submissions we’ve selected 60 short films to show at Depot over the festival weekend.”
There is also a host of workshops – such as how to make a film on your mobile phone and how to write older female characters. “We want everyone to feel welcome – that’s why we subtitle all 60 of the shorts we screen. We want to make sure deaf and hard of hearing people, who are often older, feel included at WOFFF.” There are free events too, including a lecture by Professor Brenda R Weber from Indiana University. Free events have been part of WOFFF since it started in 2015. “Getting older often means dealing with poverty and isolation,” says Nuala. “Inclusivity is part of WOFFF’s DNA.”
I loved talking to her. Nuala O’Sullivan is one inspiring woman.
Image from A Gude Maks A Strong Erm by Martin Laird