There was a serendipitous turn of events here in London early this March. The team at London’s Birds Eye View Film Festival were only days into their annual celebration of women film-makers when the news from Hollywood was announced: Kathryn Bigelow had become the first woman in history to receive an Academy Award for Best Director, for her film The Hurt Locker.
While 2009 was an outstanding year for women film-makers, with public acclaim for Jane Campion’s Bright Star, Sam Taylor-Wood’s Nowhere Boy and Lone Scherfig’s An Education flying through the roof at the end of the year, Bigelow’s win has already got us forecasting great things for 2010, and once again BEV was running with the torch. With women making up just 6% of directors and 12% of screenwriters in the film industry, Birds Eye View’s annual festival aims to promote and support budding Bigelows around the world, creating exposure, funding projects and, of course, giving audiences the chance to enjoy the world through a female film-maker’s eyes.
This year’s line-up saw another eclectic mix of first-class films from Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut Whip It, to the UK premiere of Entre Nos, Paola Mendoza and Gloria La Morte’s compelling tale of a Colombian family’s survival on the streets of New York. In addition to the poignant selection of world documentaries, shorts and retrospectives, BEV was back once again with its celebration of film from across the arts. Featuring some of London’s top fashion- and music- video directors in conversation post-screening, BEV’s Fashion Loves Film and Music Loves Video nights were a highlight of the festival. A loyal fan, Sublime was there once again to see what was on offer.
Sweet-natured Muna and her teenage son Fadi abandon their troubled homeland in Palestine to start a new life with relatives in Illinois. Optimistic and uneducated in the hostile atmosphere of post-9/11 USA, they approach their new surroundings with open arms, only to find that the vision of the American dream isn’t all it’s made out to be. Facing countless job rejections and racial disputes as the tension between the US and Palestine increases, the pair labour on, determined for acceptance as individuals. Played by Israeli Nisreen Faour, Muna’s charming humility and likeable naivety add a light-hearted spin to an otherwise rather gloomy comment on modern-day racial tensions.
SHE IS THE MATADOR
A heart-warming documentary highlighting the struggles of two women: Mari Paz Vegas, the world’s only female matador, and Eva Florencia, a young Italian-born neophyte, who are striving to gain respect within the macho-dominated world of Spanish bullfighting. Followed by documentary-makers Celeste Carrasco and Gemma Cubero del Barrio, Eva and Mari Paz reveal the long history of restrictions imposed on women in bullfighting, from a ban in 1908 to the celebration of long-established matador Cristina Sanchez before her retirement from the ring in 1999, due to compromising gender attitudes. Through the eyes of these women, Spain’s most controversial tradition transcends its status as a ‘blood sport’ into something profoundly spiritual and poetic. Painting a picture of moonlit jousts, Eva describes the bull as ‘gatekeeper’ to her dreams, while Mari Paz refers to the ritualistic performance as ‘something beyond cruelty ... a connection between man and beast’. An artistic and beautiful celebration of the art of bullfighting, She is the Matador makes for both an informative and engaging watch.
FASHION LOVES FILM
Curated by London-based film-maker Kathryn Ferguson Fashion Loves Film, a section dedicated to the emerging genre of fashion film, saw its third season at this year’s Birds Eye View Festival. Gradually gaining interest from designers and magazines alike, fashion film is becoming a whole new dimension within the changing landscape of fashion communication. While the debate between the future of printed media versus online platforms burns on, the yet-to-be-defined concept of fashion film appears to be blossoming somewhere between the two.
Combining the interactivity offered by digital platforms, and elevating the impact of the visual in print, four-dimensional media offers a multi-sensory appeal that has the potential to connect with a much wider audience. Photographer and director Mel Bles explains: ‘With directing, you can really take a step back and get into this great relationship with the model.’ Shown at the festival, her short film for young designer Craig Lawrence’s AW/09 collection was an eerie, experimental dramatisation
of the form-fitting, overstretched and raw-edged knitwear that throws one’s mind back to 2002’s The Ring. Combining darkened shots of fast-moving thunderclouds and silhouetted branches, all reflected in rippling water, with the twitchy, angular movements of model Anastasia Kuznetsova, Bles communicates a union between body and design that simply cannot be paralleled in print.
Other offerings involved a notable amount of oversexed, lewd imagery, or super-cool soundtracks to which dancers and models pirouetted, leaped, stomped and glided their way through the frames. At the other end of the spectrum, Wendy Bevan’s Reaching for the Moon took a softer approach, using old-fashioned Super 8 to create a setting akin to that of silent movies and circus acts. The multifarious and wide-ranging examples of fashion film shown at this year’s festival demonstrate its growing status: as yet uncategorised, it is without rules, restrictions or compromise. It is purely an experiment, and as video director Sarah Chatfield describes: ‘It’s fun, it’s last-minute, it’s an adrenaline rush.’