PHILIPSBURG — The third annual Centre Film Festival, which goes through Sunday, brings over 80 films covering a variety of topics to the region.
Therese Shechter, filmmaker of “My So-Called Selfish Life” and founder of the production company Trixie Films, will be at a live stream session today at 3:30 p.m. Her film explores social expectations for women to have children, and Shechter confronts her own decision to be childfree throughout the film.
The idea for the project began after a friend, Anne Kingston, received backlash for her article on women choosing not to have children. At the time, Kingston, who passed away last year, suggested Shechter make a film on the topic.
“I still wasn’t quite ready to talk about it publicly,” Shechter said, “and then, about five or six years ago, there’s this explosion of conversations online.”
Seeking more information on the issues and people affected, Shechter sent out a survey. The response was overwhelming, almost 2,000 responses in a week.
“There was so much response from people who really wanted to talk about this and wanted others to talk about it in a public way. So it was clear that I was ready to do it,” she said. The film premiered in 2021.
Over the past few years, people have become more aware of conversations regarding women being childfree. Whenever working on a documentary, Shechter always wonders if the topic will no longer be relevant by the time the project is finished. However, this has never been an issue.
“I think people need the conversation more than ever, especially if they’re in an area that has absolutely no tolerance for wavering from the nuclear family plan,” she said. “It’s the kind of thing we should be talking about more, but I think we’re gonna be talking about it for quite a while.”
In the film, Shechter interviews her mother, who she regards as a feminist role model. Growing up, she spoke with her mother on the topic of being childfree.
“The conversations that we had in the film really grew out of conversations we’ve had all my life growing up. I didn’t expect it to be so intense in front of a camera because again, she wasn’t really talking about anything I didn’t already know about, but there’s something about the intimacy of talking about it in that way,” Shechter said.
One element to look for throughout the film is the image of storks. During her research, Shechter found postcards of storks, a symbol of child delivery, chasing women. The filmmaker encourages viewers to watch out for the storks in the credits.
The film is available through the film festival as a virtual screening. This year’s film festival is a hybrid, so some screenings are in-person while others are not. Shechter discussed the pandemic’s impact on filmmakers.
“I don’t love screening virtually,” Shechter said. “The beautiful thing about film festivals is being there, meeting other filmmakers, meeting your audience and talking to people in the audience. It’s a very personal experience to be at a film festival, especially when you’re just starting to show the film and it hasn’t been in front of that many live audiences.”
Shechter gave high respect to film festivals during these strange times. She also noted she was invited for a live screening at the Centre Film Festival. However, it was too difficult with her ongoing projects and travelling. She hopes there will be more live festivals in the spring.
“I don’t want to slam festivals for being virtual,” said Shechter. “We all get it. Every filmmaker gets it totally. But it’s just a lot more fun when it’s live.”
To this day, Shechter doesn’t regret being childfree. She enjoys being an aunt to a couple of “particularly fantastic nephews.” She noted that others may not even have the choice to take this path.
“I’m really glad that I had the options available to me to make this choice because not everyone does. Because we don’t have full control over our bodies in terms of our reproduction. We don’t always live in a community that’s open to different ways of living our lives and planning our futures,” Shechter said. “There are so many forces pushing at us to follow one specific path in our lives, especially as women.”
For more information about upcoming films, visit https://centrefilm.org/. There will be a variety of in-person screenings at the Rowland Theatre this weekend. Patrick Fabian, a man with family ties to Philipsburg, will be holding a discussion on his acting career on Saturday at 1 p.m. after the screening of “Driver X.” Other virtual films are available for those wishing to stay in the comforts of home.