Student confronts ageism in film industry through on-campus film series

movies/film/tv/television

Many movies feature predominantly young casts, particularly when it comes to women.

In order to confront this issue, freshman Cameron Fontes decided to curate a film series entitled “Golden Girls,” which focuses on films with female protagonists over the age of 50.

“A big issue is ageism, especially for women, in film,” Fontes said. “Women over the age of 50 just aren’t being portrayed in the industry.”

The series kicked off Feb. 23, with “Hello My Name Is Doris,” a comedy starring Sally Fields, and “Make Way for Tomorrow” was shown March 2. Each film will be shown on a Friday night in the Jody Richards Hall auditorium, beginning at 7 p.m. “Marjorie Prime” will show on April 6 and “The Lady in the Van” will show on April 20.

Fontes, a film and French major, decided to put on the film series in order to gain some experience in curating and programming, something he’s interested in as a career.

Fontes said he believes the issue of ageism is important for more reasons than simply discrimination against older actresses.

“When you only see movies with younger actresses, you’re missing out on a lot of the social commentary that movies with older protagonists can provide,” Fontes said. “‘Make Way for Tomorrow,’ for example, gives commentary about things like social security and other issues that you don’t hear about in films centered around younger characters.”

Another issue Fontes finds with ageism in Hollywood is he believes Hollywood discredits older individuals and doesn’t respect their age and wisdom.

“We live in a society with a lot of value in youth and we tend to cast off a lot of older people, but they’ve lived the longest and they know more about living than the rest of us,” Fontes said.

He hopes those in attendance will gain a better understanding of those over the age of 50 and will be encouraged to listen to older individuals instead of casting them aside. His goal is for students in particular to gain greater respect for elders and take advantage of their knowledge instead of ignoring it.

“They have good things to say, and we can and should learn a lot from that,” Fontes said.

Assistant professor Sara Corkern, who introduced the first movie of the series, believes the films chosen are also more interesting to view because of their fresh perspective, as opposed to the typical films from Hollywood.

“I think it’s a refreshing look at a female protagonist over 50 and honestly over 22,” Corkern said.

Corkern said she hopes students walked away with a new perspective.

“I hope that students walked away from the film with a greater appreciation for seldom-seen types of protagonists and hopefully the desire to highlight those types of protagonists in their own work,” she said.

Fontes views film as a unique form of art. Because so much goes into a movie, he sees it as a large, collaborative piece of art. Therefore, he sees how impactful it can be and how film can and should be used to not only entertain, but also inform, its viewers.

He hopes he can both entertain and inform his viewers through the series, leaving a lasting impression about the importance of the older generations both in the film industry and in life in general.

Features reporter Julie Sisler can be reached at 270-745-6291 and [email protected] Follow Julie on Twitter at @julie_sisler.