As well as the screenings of 56 films over its five-day run, the Female Eye Film Festival also includes round-table discussions and script readings. “Female Filmmakers & Success” got the discourse ball rolling as a double-quartet of seasoned directors and industry professionals (including Kit Redmond, Gail Harvey, Richard Wilson and Sascha Schneider) pondered pre-determined, debate-stirring topics with the four tables of delegates. The overall question succinctly summed up the others: What do women filmmakers need to start doing; stop doing; continue doing in order to be more successful? With as many solutions as participants, the only issue upon which all could agree was the age-old conundrum: What does success look like?
As has often been alluded to in these pages, “How’s the XYZ Symphony doing?” “Great—it’s in the black!” is an increasingly dangerous yardstick for any artistic endeavour.
With the summations just about to begin, I slipped across the street for a covey of shorts, set to apply some non-financial, highly subjective criteria to four films that put the females most certainly under our eyes.
A Tax on Pochsy, (2008) 18 min.
The extended version of The Audit (both of which began their artistic life on the stage, cross-reference below), not surprisingly, covers much more ground and reinforces the wisdom of selecting glorious black-and-white, allowing Hines to employ a wider balance of imagery as she unleashes her stand-up “auditry?” with a heady mix of outright humour interspersed with some discomforting societal zingers. Employing a delivery that has a marvellous resonance with Georgia Engel’s dumb-but-perhaps-not-quite-so-much-as-you’d-like-to-think, the proud blood donor must be encouraged to bring her considerable talents and timing into the service of a larger form.
Fateful, (2009) 12 min.
A discreetly soothing piano and supportive strings flow in and out of Boland’s tale of young love found in a blur of booze and pot, then walking home to begin a precocious and caring relationship filled with silliness and bliss, only to be permanently shattered, leaving just snippets of memory to rekindle any modicum of comfort, much less joy. He wanted to know me” are perhaps the most wanted words any lover could utter to define the metamorphosis of two humans merging into a single being. That even that wasn’t enough to bring some sense of inner peace to her lover’s “serious and sad eyes” speaks silent volumes to those who are driven from the planet far before their time.
Lejos del Mar, (2009) 21 min.
Beautiful women vanish; everyone looks, everywhere; “Wait by the phone, it will ring,” say the authorities; but what if the news sends the despairing mother far beyond the realm of normalcy? With all manner of music (from the town band as flautas are cooked to a ballade/prayer for the lost women: “How beautiful it would be if no one hurts yourldquo;) to some spectacular edits that personify the dreary mass production of computer innards where mother, daughter and sometime lover all work, Mata deftly balances the faceless commerce that gives the working poor just enough subsistence to be pushed about by the greedy few before disappearing into nowhere land.
The Line, (2009) 24 min.
Schwartzman courageously turns the camera on herself, chronicling her personal metamorphosis from typical Philadelphia good girl, then to self-described slut, drug fiend and drinker when “liberated” during her college days in New York City. Fearing her worsening lack of control might cause her to jump off the 59th Street Bridge, she relocates to Jerusalem, learning how to cover and respect her body rather than demean and abuse it in the storied city.
On the rebound from an unrequited love-of-her-life (all of her friends and lovers have been captured on film to add eerie depth to this one-person reality show), she ends up in bed with an office co-worker only to be unwontedly sodomized, after which the perpetrator who later admits “I’m always doing bad things” snores while Schwartzman writhes in pain and humiliation.
The remainder of the film, somewhat akin to Five Minutes of Heaven (cross-reference below) is driven by the desire to confront her accuser, hoping to exorcise her own demon and, perhaps, put another one behind bars.
With a hidden camera and microphone recording the encounter, an uncomfortable feeling of entrapment works its way into the mix. With alcohol and despair having played no small part in the desperate coupling in the first instance, the universal sense of outrage is tempered with befuddled memories of our own. Ironically, the tale is so personal that it might have been better served by engaging a disinterested third party to add the necessary degree of balance and show this complex tale with all of its ugly truth.
Looking back to the earlier panel, all of these films achieved some amount of success, but we could argue for hours just what its component parts were in every case. Which, of course, is proof of the filmmakers’ success on its own. JWR