Sunday 8th February saw the launch of The Bechdel Test Fest at Genesis Cinema in East London. The test itself emerged after Alison Bechdel published a comic strip, inspired by friend Liz Wallace, where one character has a set of rules for watching a film. The criteria for passing the test are whether the film has two named female characters who talk about something other than a man. It is widely acknowledged as an extremely low bar.
Set up 30 years ago now, it seeks to address the gender bias in works of fiction; it has been found that just around half of films pass this test. With such a low bar set, the figure should be closer to 100%. This festival, led by Corinna Antrobus, puts The Bechdel Test in the spotlight, and aims to provoke discussion on gender in the film industry. In an effect to ‘reclaim the rom-com’, the launch event featured 2014’s Obvious Child and classic The Philadelphia Story — though I couldn’t stay for this part. After the first screening there was a panel discussion, including a video statement from Chloe Angyal about a statement she made that there is “no such thing as a feminist rom-com”, arguing that this is largely because society is still sexist.