Reclaiming the Chick Flick for People Who Love Them
I expected Rom Com Fest to entertain me. I didn’t expect it to move me so much that my heart grew several sizes and I started to believe in me. No, in all of us.
If that sounds overwrought, well, I did just spend the weekend watching multiple full-length romantic comedies. After attending the screenings, held at the Downtown Independent Theater in Los Angeles, it’s hard to believe that festival founder Miraya Berke conceived of the idea for an all rom-com festival just a few months ago, in October 2018.
After a screening of Never Been Kissed, Berke said that she started the festival because she herself loves romantic comedies, and felt that other film festivals never give them their due. Rachel Bloom (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend) did an interview with Berke following the film. She co-signed the sentiment, saying that people don’t respect romantic comedies, romance novels, and other types of entertainment aimed at women because their audience is, well, mostly women. The culture relegates them to the category of chick flicks, something women drag groaning men to on Saturday nights.
This festival celebrated films many might call “guilty pleasures.” Berke programmed screenings of 90’s favorites like 10 Things I Hate About You, How Stella Got Her Groove Back, and Never Been Kissed, along with a series of shorts and new full-length features. Each screening featured something special following–some had panels with cast and crew, while others featured talks with a celebrity guest like Bloom. Several writers and directors appeared to talk about their work as well. It was a wonderful festival for film fans and those in the screenwriting industry.
You might consider it a waste of money to see a film on the big screen that you’ve watched dozens of times already, but you’d be wrong. It’s so much fun to watch an old favorite in a packed theater, hearing everyone else cringe and moan when Josie’s teacher Mr. Coulson gives her another of his smoldering, lingering looks. What a blast to hear a whole theater sigh at their fist glimpse of Joseph Gordon-Levitt in 10 Things I Hate About You. “He’s such a baby!” someone, who was probably me, squealed.
It was wonderful to feel connected to an entire audience there to celebrate films I’ve often been embarrassed to admit I love. I found it inspiring to see writers like Karen McCullah and Kirsten Smith (10 Things) discuss their process and new projects. The energy of the weekend will buoy me for months to come.
Berke did an excellent job organizing, programming, and running the festival. Every promised vendor and treat showed up as promised, and every single event happened. The films even started pretty close to on time. In L.A., that’s a minor miracle. It must also be noted that Berke wore on point and on-theme red and pink outfits all weekend.
I went to two packed screenings, plus another well-attended one. While I didn’t see the full numbers, I hope it was enough for Berke to plan another Rom Com Fest for next year. I’ll meet cute again.