Sometimes men do a lot more for women than we give them credit for! Click To Tweet
How do we ensure gender equality in filmmaking? How do we empower women in filmmaking? Do we make a special award for women? Do we create special festivals only for women? And how do we encourage filmmakers to empower women through their movies? Being a judge of an online film festival showed me that sometimes men do a lot more for women than we give them credit for.
“If we truly want to achieve equality in filmmaking, we have to be very careful and give women the chance to win the regular awards too,” said Roy Zafrani film director and the director of the Festigious short film festival a few weeks ago as we talked. I was immediately bought by his approach to women, to the industry, and of course, to movies. Little did I know then that he would ask me to join his judging team and give me the honoring, yet so heavy, responsibility of nominating three movies as winners in three distinct categories:
#1 – Inspiring Woman in a Film
#2 – Hope
#3 – Best Inspirational Film
He asked me not to apply positive discrimination – as the more diplomatic world would call it. But what he really asked me was not to nominate a movie only because it was directed by a woman. I bowed before his request – not only because he asked me to do so, but also because I owed this to us, women; to be treated equally.
I started to watch the movies without reading their headlines, without reading who the director was. Instead, I numbered them – a great tool to dehumanize anything in life, isn’t it?
Each night I would watch three movies, write my thoughts on them, score them on a scale of 10, and then go to sleep. I repeated this cycle for three nights. Once I finished all the nine movies that were on my plate waited for me to judge them, I added up my scores, re-read my comments and highlighted the ‘winner’ with the diligence of a high-school student; with a yellow marker.
These movies – and even more their directors – were waiting for me to judge them. But judging sounds too powerful, somewhat even negative. The word reminds me of my ballet competitions where they tag a number on your leotard, and you are reminded every minute that now, you are being judged. Judged by each movement you make, judged by every breath you take. Your career was in the hand of others; a selection of people, whom you knew little about. It was pretty uncomfortable; I must admit. No, it was simply terrible!
So, instead of being the judge over these (aspiring) artists, I went with the word: REVIEW. I was asked to review a snapshot of their artistic path. So I reviewed the story they chose, and the angle they used to depict that story. I reviewed how they built up the tension, how they filmed the scenes, what language they used, what tools they applied. I was so very objective. Until the point, when I inescapably reviewed the impact they had on me. This was not objective anymore. But isn’t it the overall aim? To trigger something in the audience?
This trigger was the strongest as I watched The Women Newspaper that won the Honorable Mention of the Festival.
How could anyone know that there will be a movie on my list, from Renaud Duval, that exposes a former ballerina, who was once living in fame and today, is sleeping on the street, possessing nothing else but a bunch of magazines marking her past and a pair of used point shoes? I watched without knowing the who, why, when, and above all, without knowing that this story is a true story; there is a former ballerina today in the streets of Paris, who lost everything but her grace.
“The story is great, and being a former dancer myself, I found it sorrowful; yet, it was empowering to see how she coped with her situation with the dancer’s grace. “Give me back my life!” is the most honest inner struggle one can feel. The movie was perfect in terms of depicting the whole life circle: the child’s greatest dream (that comes as no surprise opposed by the parents), the success that inevitably needed to come (a full passion must bring fruits), and the total breakdown (comes as the predestined future from the parent’s fear). The movie imposes many hidden questions: Shall we pursue our dreams no matter what? Should parents have the right to stop you? What do we hold on when all else is gone (the magazine featuring her greatness and the point shoes)?””
Since then, the Director got in touch with me. And now, I know more about the story, and I know that who made the movie was not a woman, but a man. A man who dared to care about a woman.
#1 – Inspiring Woman in a Film
The winner of Inspiring Woman in a Film – February 28 -, however, was a movie from a woman about a woman; but definitely, not only for women. I knew Diana Galimzyanova’s story from our interview with her, but I did not know what to expect from her movie. And not knowing was useful.
“The story was engaging and it was very nicely built up throughout.
Made you think, yet you knew what was going on, which I find crucial even in indie movies. I found it empowering that a woman, who survived cancer, and now faces apathy slowly but surely gets back to life with the help of her old passion. But, for me, the movie went even deeper, showing that sometimes seemingly coincidental events (why she gets a job there, that girl needs a photographer) and saying yes even if we are reluctant (photographing cats?) can lead to something great; and also that sometimes it’s enough if one person reaches out to us. I also liked how she played with the noises, showing what depression feels like, and how the ego was represented by the filmmaker herself.
Marina’s character is inspiring – showing that we always have two choices: giving up or let life win.”
Giving up or let life win. Isn’t life all about these two choices? She chose life, and this is where (women) empowerment lies.
#2 – Hope
How does one define hope? I am not sure. Hope changes its form every day. One day, hope means hoping to catch the bus on time. The next, it means, hoping to find a boy who loves you back. The next, it means, hoping that your friend arrives home safely from the army. And a day later, hope means, hoping that you can hug your mother just one more time.
“This movie was excellent. Both in terms of thematic, and the angling.
The reason I chose this for the Hope category is because this movie was clearly about hope and not empowerment. Hope that a miracle can happen, hope till the last string, hope even when your mind says no. The little girls were playing rather mature, and the tension was there all the way. The bigger sister’s hesitation yet deep hope that something can happen. The little sister with her uncensored and perfectly matching naiveté breaking down the adult life’s (self)protecting boundaries; both required very well-crafted screenwriting. And the tension around the mother’s reaction was mesmerizing and the relief at the end was both expected (by your heart) and unexpected (by your mind). I loved this movie.”
David Casademunt Izquierdo movie – Sleeping Death – fused the world of fairy tales with hardcore reality, and just like a kid hopes during the good night stories that the good wins over the bad, we, the adults, never stop hoping that fairy-tales enter our lives when we most need them. And sometimes they do.
#3 – Best Inspirational Film
Do you ever feel that inspirational quotes are backfiring and somewhat uninspire you at the end? Too much of anything is just bad – or just as I read the other day: “Anything can turn into a heroin”.
No wonder I was excited to visit the movies in the Best Inspirational Film category. I was looking for something unique, something that I could relate to. And there it was: the film , I’ve just had a dream, from Javi Navarro. A gem that revisits the golden rule of content life: the theory of half empty, half full glass. My parents kept on assuring me about the fullness, and I kept on challenging them on that.
“This outstanding short film, directed by first-time filmmaker Javi Navarro, is a movie that masters visualizing the theory of half empty, half full glass. The approach was unique. The theme is certainly something that can inspire anyone on the worse, and remind of being grateful during the better days. A perfect mirror to the Western (or more fortunate) society, where things are taken for granted and any hardship results in negativity and victimizations. Whereas, to the ‘others’, the misfortune of the ‘spoiled’ could be their best day. Spoiled in this context, of course, means a different perspective.”
There were five other excellent movies on my list. There were five more reviews in my notebook. And even if they did not get the label of a ‘winner‘ this time, they all are winners. Why? Because anyone who has the guts to create anything is a winner. A winner over his or her own fears.
I am an open and steady promoter of gender equality (one might call me a feminist), but I like to believe that the strive for equality starts with respect. And having an insight to this Film Festival – seeing how men approached women in their films, how the number of women filmmakers aspired to reach that of men’s, and how the Director himself created a gender balanced Jury – gave us much from it. So yes, sometimes men do a lot more for women than we give them credit for!