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Women In Film Los Angeles launched the campaign called 52 Films By Women as a fun way to bring attention to the many talented female filmmakers around the world and to spark a creative and interactive conversation.

So we have decided to add to this great campaign and Else will be writing about films she is watching over the year. Please tweet us your film choices @WIFSE15

The BABADOOK Jennifer Kent

Essie Davis as Amelia in the Babadook

Essie Davis as Amelia in the Babadook

Written and directed by Jennifer Kent this Australian horror gem explores amongst many things the taboo of the absence of maternal feeling, just what do sleep deprived, frazzled mothers do when they have nothing left to give ? Samuel (Noah Wiseman) is grating and demonic but at the same time could be just a normal, demanding six year old boy, innocent and adoring of his mother. Amelia played by Essie Davis starts the film gentle and caring, a picture of motherhood and soft femininity, devoting her life to her son and the old folks home. This facade progressively alters as she lets her demons loose. The mise en scene is key to the mood, Amelia’s pale pink dresses, sceptural green cardigans, and straw blonde hair framing her anxious face, create a woman seemingly fading away into her own grief. Her house is a refuge, plunged into dark greys, blues and inky black shadows, and it is a place in which the depths of her unconscious resurface. Amelia is suffering, she has lost her husband in a car crash and Samuel, born on the day his father died has perhaps never been forgiven.  Exploring her fragile mental state Amelia is shown suffocating at the very start of the film, Samuel is affected by his mother’s state of mind and has frequent nightmares. She reads him the story about the big, bad wolf whose resolution is safely finalised in the pot, but the wolf resurfaces in this narrative as the trauma of the husband’s death and refuses to go away. An interweaving of psychological drama with references to early horror/fantasy genres such as Georges Melies, who also used filmic trickery such as stop motion to make spectators amazed and fearful, this is a film which reminds us of the power of cinema to evoke another world beneath the rational one.

Watched on Netflix 7.4.16

 

MUSTANG Deniz Gamze Erguven (2015)

Turkish born Deniz Gamze Erguven was one of only two women nominated for directing feature films at this years’ Oscars, the other was Liz Garbus for What Happened, Miss Simone? Mustang follows briefly the conventions of the coming of age genre, the poster and the opening lulls us into a false sense of familiarity with 5 girls in a conventional girlhood posse and the typical ‘schools out for summer’ exposition.
Mustang_poster
Yet the conventional references only last for a short while, as the unfolding of an abusive, retrogressive tale, reveals a world barely recognisable or comprehensible to western audiences.
Mustang still

“shit coloured” dresses, Mustang

Set in a village in northern Turkey 1000 km away from the more cosmopolitan Istanbul, the film depicts 5 girls who are orphaned, and then left into the care of their grandmother and uncle. An initial scene of the girls in the Black Sea enjoying a boistrous piggy back game with boys seems normal to our eyes. Yet to the villagers, these actions prove that the girls are sexually depraved, apparently they have been ‘rubbing their parts’ against the boys and they will have to be punished. This fear of girls’ sexuality and a desire to contain it, is nothing new. Slutwalks demonstrations in both America and England are proof of the hypocrisy of our so called liberated societies where women who wear revealing clothing are still seen by the law to be asking for it. The restrictions on the girls’ freedom pile up in the film; made to wear « shit coloured » high necked dresses , cut off from the rest of the world, with not even a landline permitted is a situation so extreme it is difficult to place in our contemporary world in which the mobile phone plays such a central part.

Mustang 2016

Mustang 2016

The film creates a claustrophobic atmosphere, the camera rarely strays from the house, intensely focussing on limbs, feet and hair which are constantly intertwinned. The girls’ bodies become subject of the camera’s (female) gaze celebrating  young women as voluptuous beings rather than condemned as sinful.

The film focusses on the reality of child marriage and sexual abuse, common in Turkey and the girls in order of age, are gradually picked out and married off to eligible boys and older men by ‘the elders’ of the village. The youngest girl, Lale (Gunes Sensoy) still has a sliver of a chance, not yet having reached the danger stage of puberty when she will too become a target. There are hints in the film at the importance of literacy , scenes in which Lale is seen reading and writing signal her way out, illiteracy being a common factor for the continuing debasement of girls in this society. The denouement becomes a tense escape scenario with the girls’ not just fleeing marriages but fighting for their survival. This is an important film for our understanding of the situation for girls and women in Turkey and should provoke a sense of urgency around these issues to instigate change.

Watched at Peckham Plex May 30th 2016

 

Wadjda Haifa el Mansour (2012)

 

The companion film to this is  Wadjda (2012) directed by Haifa el Mansour the first ever film shot in Saudi Arabia featuring the 12 year old Wadjda (Waad Mohammed) who dreams of getting a bike, forbidden in an equally repressive regime. This film contains similar scenes of girls together, who whilst not totally empowered, certainly manage to undermine the restrictions imposed on them by giggling, mocking authorities and wearing trainers. These are small, yet poignant gestures towards independence which both films thankfully contain.

Watched on DVD 24th May 2016

Wadjda poster

 

Losing Ground (1982)

LG poster
Written and Directed by Kathleen Collins (1982)
Screening: Women with a Movie Camera at the BFI, May 2016.
The screening was introduced by Denis Doros from Milestone Film & Video, who restored and re-released Losing Ground

Review by Tracey Francis

 

At a time when filmmaking was unashamedly imbalanced, Kathleen Collins was able to explore her creativity through narrative filmmaking and her playwriting. Losing Ground is a unique film reflecting on the life of an African-American, middle-class academic in the 80’s America. Kathleen Collins gives her protagonist Sara, a young academic, dialogue that questions race, gender and class in subtle ways, through conversations with her husband through to her eager students and free-spirited mother.

Watched at the BFI 25 May, 2016