Women Behind the Lens (Part One): Victoria Kereszi

Victoria Kereszi is an educator and core volunteer at the Sanctuary for Independent Media in Troy, an organization known for bringing indie and alternative media and arts to the Capital District. It is no coincidence Kereszi is involved in the Sanctuary; she is also the founder of Eye Am: Women Behind the Lens.  Eye Am is a women’s experimental, memoir, and documentary film and video series that has quarterly screenings at the Anthology Film Archives in NYC and is in the process of also establishing itself in the Capital Region. Its focus is to provide a space for women and female identified filmmakers to show their work, specifically work on the theme of self and identity.

Eye Am was founded by Kereszi when she was the programming director for Manhattan Neighborhood Network, Manhattan’s Public Access television station. In March of 2006, Eye Am aired for the first time as a way to show the work of female identified filmmakers who were being left out of mainstream showings. Kereszi says it is difficult for women filmmakers to get their work shown, especially the experimental, short films Eye Am spotlights. “The combination of personal female work  and experimental does not seem to find a home in the film festival world – even the women’s film festivals.  I don’t know if it is that women’s fests have conformed to the patriarchal structures which show less personal work.  My series is also free to submit to which seems rare.  I think filmmakers appreciate free festivals because we rarely make money on our videos,” she notes.

Although Kereszi has yet to showcase Eye Am at the Sanctuary for Independent Media, she did write a grant for the Sanctuary that secured funding from Holding Our Own: A Foundation for Women, in order to do a weekend workshop of women creating digital stories about their lives. Some of the pieces created in that workshop, along with submissions received from an open call, will be spotlighted at the upcoming First Friday event on Friday July 1 from  6:30pm – 9:30pm at The Women’s Building (373 Central Ave, Albany). The event is part of the Women’s Building Arts Series called Wonder Women: Artists as Social Action Heroes. The Friday July 1st event is the “Women in Film” component of the Wonder Women Series, which spotlights women who use music, literature, theater or visual arts to bring about social change. Here is just one of the films that will be shown July 1st: The History of the Universe as Told By Wonder Woman.

Locally, Eye Am has also worked with The Workforce Development Institute’s Art of Labor cultural arts workshop series which provides local women workers’ access to writing, photography, and digital story workshops. Films from this series will also be shown July 1st at the Women’s Building.

While Kereszi is busy bringing Eye Am to the Capital Region, artist and filmmaker Lili White curates the work Eye Am does in NYC, like the showing at the Anthology Film Archives’ New Filmmakers Series.

Kereszi doesn’t just coordinate the screenings of other women’s work, she is a filmmaker herself.

“My work over the past 10 years has been creating portrait documentaries about elderly women who live their lives from the margins and against the grain of society.  Older women are expected to be sitting in rocking chairs knitting and my experience meeting elderly women has not been like that.  My first film was about my grandmother who ran my family’s junkyard business, the next was about Glendora an 81 year old public access tv icon who has dedicated her life to preserving everyone’s right to free speech and access to media making.  My current work in progress is about an old lady duo: Faity (99) and Squeaky (86), who are still pursuing their writing and acting dreams late into their lives.  The passion to live and go for what they want so late in life is what inspires me.  Also the need to document women’s history drives me to make this work.” (You can find out more at www.victoriakereszi.net)

Intrigued & want to find out more about contemporary women filmmakers? Besides coming to the Wonder Women July 1st Event at The Women’s Building and keeping an eye out for the Sanctuary’s offerings, Kereszi’s personal top picks of women filmmakers for people to check out are:

  • Orianna Fox’s work (http://www.orianafox.com/) because of the way she dissects popular culture and being female.
  • Diana Arce’s performance video art and interactive performances are wonderful and push boundaries of being female. http://www.visualosmosis.com/
  • Pavitra Chalam’s strong work is about social change and cultural representation in Desi communties. http://www.pavitrachalam.com/
  • Vanessa Woods tender and raw animations. www.vanessawoods.com
  • Meerkat Media (made up of men and women) is a video collective that workshops their videos about social issues on weekend retreats. Kereszi finds their model of non-Patriarchal Media Making inspiring. www.meerkatmedia.org