She was 19 when she was raped by her painting instructor. Her father, Orazio Gentileschi, one of the great painters of 17th century Italy, sued the instructor for the crime. But instead of obtaining anything that vaguely resembled justice, in the ensuing legal proceedings, his daughter Artemisia Gentileschi was tortured and her attacker was ultimately acquitted.
No wonder Artemisia Gentileschi's painting of Judith decapitating a drunken and smitten Holofernes is known throughout Western art for its singular violence, even for one of the 17th century Italian followers of Caravaggio (known to their art student friends everywhere as the "Caravaggisti").
It is generally conceded that Artemisia was the first great female painter known to Western art.
If ever there was a subject crying out for the attentions of a feminist filmmaker, it's the life of Artemisia Gentileschi.
Under the title of "Artemisia" French filmmaker Agnes Merlet's film about Gentileschi was given its hemispheric premiere at the Toronto Film Festival. To Merlet, its a great romantic story, somewhere in the neighborhood of "Wuthering Heights."
It's now in the process of a title change, so, for a little while anyway, we'll have to call it "The Film Formerly Known as 'Artemisia.' " Its U.S. premiere on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. will open a six-film Feminist Film Series, "About Women," to be held Tuesdays in the Screening Room of the University at Buffalo's Center for the Arts.
The films in this festival were chosen by a committee chaired by Penka Skachkova, who worked closely with the Toronto Film Festival on the selection and wound up with films representing Argentina, Senegal, Brazil, Iran, Mali and the United States and France. The festival is in its second year.
Others in the series, all in the screening room at 6:30 p.m.:
Oct. 28 -- Maria Luisa Bemberg's 1990 Argentine film "I, the Worst of All." about Mexican poet Sister Juana Ines de la Cruz.
Nov. 10 -- Trinh T. Minh-Ha's 1995 American film "Tale of Love." about the Vietnamese immigrant experience.
Nov. 18 -- Safi Faye's 1983 Senegalese documentary film "Selbe." about African women and directed by the first sub-Saharan woman to direct a feature, and Adama Drabo's 1997 film from Mali "Taafe Fanga" ("Skirt Power"), a satire about what happens when men cook, clean and take care of children and women sit in the shade philosophizing and telling everyone else what to do.
Nov. 25 -- Metodi Andonov's 1997 Bulgarian film "The Goat Horn." about a 17th century woman born to behave as a man until love comes along.
Dec. 2 -- Mohsen Makmalbaf's 1997 Iranian film "Gabbeh," about a beautiful young woman in a nomadic desert tribe. The title of the film refers both to the name of the woman and to a type of illustrated carpet.
The ambitious plans for the International Feminist Film series are calling for a truly international women's film festival that attracts the filmmakers to UB to discuss their films.