Thinking about the films in this year’s programme, some outstanding images keep flickering through my mind: The naked woman wearing a Kafia in a cool NY hangar, welcoming her Iraqi relatives who have just fled the troubled region (The Imperialists Are Still Alive!); Hidelgaard von Bingen consumed by her visions, leading her fellow nuns into the second Millennia with ideas and determination that could easily be dubbed radical feminism, only they took place nearly 1,000 years before the term was coined (Vision); mothers standing next to their sons as they read their last statements before leaving on suicide missions (Women of Hamas); a boy running through Kibera slum in Nairobi in an attempt to save his father from evil spirits (Soul Boy); three pilgrims isolated and lost on the Portland-Oregon trail (Meek’s Cutoff); and oh, the one I really struggle to get out of my head – Daddy’s Girl engaged in a culinary extravaganza where Daddy is the main course (Horror Shorts)…
Yes, these are all films made by women – a fact that we proudly highlight – but it’s the breadth and richness of themes and styles that’s the most striking thing about the programme as a whole.
It’s with sheer confidence, equipped with knowledge and the courage of conviction, that women filmmakers enter zones which might otherwise be seen as ‘off limits’, be they emerging filmmakers from around the world delving into blood and gore with wit and some profound ideas abut the uncanny; or Lucy Walker with her modern horror about nuclear proliferation, Countdown to Zero. More hardcore politics are addressed and crafted in documentaries like Women of Hamas and, through Margarethe von Trotta’s historical study about the revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg. “Accidentally conspired into the ferment of world history, but really born simply to tend geese”, wrote Luxemburg about herself while shaping one of the 20th century’s most influential political philosophies and becoming an icon to leftwing thinkers and activists around the world. It is the complexities between personal and political trajectories that these women filmmakers so beautifully convey. And as BEV joins many others in marking 100 years of International Women’s Day, we are reminded of its political edge by none other than its actual founder, Clara Zetkin, a close friend and political ally of Rosa Luxemburg, who on 8 March 1911 formed International Women’s Day.
From Ruby’s (Grown up Movie Star) North American coming of age story in Adriana Maggs’ debut film through Julie Moggan’s fascinating Mills and Boon devoted readers (Guilty Pleasures), to Patricia (Night Catches Us) at the heart of the Black Panthers struggle for civil rights, these are all women of their time, well placed in a particular point in history, in a particular place, challenging the idea of an eternal, homogenous Woman.
While female characters, experiences and points of view are appropriately present, the attention and insights into men’s lives and emotional complexity also prevail. This was fascinatingly evident as we were finalizing our Shorts programmes, where from hundreds of films so many of those making it to the final stage were preoccupied with men’s stories. And no, we really don’t think this is all about projection here!
Is this a crisis of masculinity female filmmakers are particularly attentive to these days? Complexity that was always there and is seen anew? Surely it’s also just the fact that women looking through the lens have a whole world to engage with, respond to and also to challenge. Think about this when you watch Susanne Bier’s masterpiece In A Better World, the unsettling Self Made by artist Gillian Wearing, and all those shorts from the troubled animated Stanley Pickle, through Pablo, The Pool Party, On Your Own, Winter and Atlantiques.
Themes are never detached from form and here is where our programme of Innovation deserves special mention. Bringing together ‘Adventures in Animation’ where groundbreaking techniques are explored by four leading filmmakers who master technology and suggest new ways to narrate stories, and ‘Filmmaking for Change’ where new technologies and their impact on political and social activism are explored. With recent events in Tunisia and Egypt and talk of the internet revolution, BEV’s take, highlighting the work of women in this field, couldn’t be more timely.
And yes, there is sex too, and of course we talk about it. Adding to the many celluloid moments of romance, passion and sex appeal (Night Catches Us simply has to be mentioned here), we take a critical turn with Orgasm Inc exploring the ways women’s sexuality has been exploited by pharmaceutical companies. Followed by Sam Roddick, Bidisha and psychosexual health expert Dr Sandy Goldbeck-Wood conversing the bumpy road to sexual pleasures – this is bound to be some raucous journey.
Gali Gold – Head of Programming, Birds Eye View Film Festival 2011