Zooey Deschanel is known for a lot of things — her mad skillz with a banjo, her truly gigantic eyes and startlingly deep voice, for having her name dropped into seemingly every single article pertaining to the pros and cons of the Manic Pixie Dreamgirl trope — but our personal favorite quote of hers goes thusly: "We can’t be feminine and be feminists and be successful? I want to be a
f**king feminist and wear a f**king Peter Pan collar. So f**king what?" Preach, girl. Snaps.
This is the quote that sprang to mind when I first heard of Forever Fest, a film festival being organized by some of the ladies over at Austin's respected Alamo Drafthouse. The ladies in question are Brandy Fons and Alamo Drafthouse programmer Sarah Pitre — pictured above in what can only be Lisa Frank's bedroom — and they are determined to celebrate what they call "girly pop culture" with fun and passion and not a hint of the patronization that Deschanel denounced.
"We basically put together a weekend that we think is like the weekend of our dreams," Pitre said when I spoke to her and Fons last week. "We hope that it's the weekend of other people's dreams as well."
The weekend Pitre is speaking will be Nov. 1-3 — tickets went on sale Oct. 14 — and will feature a screening of John Hughes classic teen film Sixteen Candles, an Empire Record-inspired Rex Manning Day, a book talk with Go Fug Yourselves' awesome ladies Jessica Morgan and Heather Cocks, a Wild Brunch (which, according to their kickstarter, is a "mimosa-fueled salute to the hottest men in cinema") and much more.
"[We're] taking that idea of what we were doing in our free time — and what a lot of ladies who we also spoke to about that festival, where they plan that Friday night or Saturday night girly movie with their friends and their community," said Fons.
"And sometimes they bring snacks to that event, or games to that event, and they kind of personalize it in their own way. So we're taking those nights and doing it on the big screen in this theater, and we're offering things like mimosas for the Wild Brunch, or the photo-booth for Sixteen Candles, so that we have memories to come out of that night that we can share together."
"I think it's important to give people a place to come together to celebrate what they're obsessed with."
It's being billed as a kind of giant fun sleepover thing — to put it in my own most eloquent words — and, at its core, it is a celebration of the female experience through the pop culture typically associated with that. Think of it like a weekend embodying the principles of sites like Hello Giggles or Rookie — celebratory places where girls and women are free to love the things that they might love without the judgment of a society that frequently trivializes the feminine.
In fact, the programming for Forever Fest — which will also include an appearance by Empire Records and Can't Hardly Wait star Ethan Embry — is pretty tightly scheduled, with no overlapping programs. This means that attendees will experience the whole festival largely together; something that will hopefully foster even more of that sleepover bonding vibe.
Pitre — who already runs the on-going Girlie Night at Alamo Drafthouse, on top of a blog for YA readership called Forever Young Adult, both of which had a heavy influence on the festival — also has some ideas about what it is that makes something a good and/or memorable piece of "girly" pop culture.
"Whether it's a novel or a film or a show, it needs to be authentic to the female experience," she said. "I think that part of why films like Sixteen Candles still resonate; because a lot of it still feels very true to life, like what many of us may have experienced, and I think that instead of just relying on cliches, I think that if films can really get to that truth of what it's like to be a teenage girl, or a woman in college, or a woman dealing with family — [no matter the situation it's portraying] it needs to speak truth to the people who have been through it, I think that's the most important thing."
This year the festival will focus more on older films, movies, and books, but they've got big hopes for the more recent and soon-to-be-released things that future years could hold: Divergent was mentioned, as was The Fault in Our Stars.
"I think it's important to give people a place to come together to celebrate what they're obsessed with," said Pitre when I asked her and Fons why they think it's important that a festival like this exists. "And to do so without any sense of shame."