Wednesday, June 29, 2011

QWOCMAP discusses social justice feminism in 7th film festival edition

By Moira Sullivan
Pratibha Parmar
The Queer Women of Color Film Festival, otherwise known as QWOCMAP, now in its 7th year continues to be an exceptional venue and one of the best festivals of women’s film I have attended. There are many reasons for this. For starters, it is free to the public with no admission charge. The organizers provide scrumptious food for the audience too in the cinema lounge. The entire festival is predicated on turning out a program of short films made by women, who have been trained to create a story and develop a script, shoot the film and edit it. These films are then presented at the festival for the public. The enthusiasm for the work is intoxicating and the support for these filmmakers is genuine.

Festival organizer T. Kebo Drew and Madeleine Lim report that this year’s festival was the same, even after many years of organizing it. Madeline Lim has held workshops since 2000 using film as an art form and tool for social change. About 120 films have been created for the QWOCMAP festival. Whereas other festivals charge admission and recruit corporate sponsors to pay for the event, this festival does not and remains a grassroots community forum for queer women of color.

This year there were 38 films presented with a Q& A with the filmmakers. Some of the films this year include La Petite Salon by Caroline Le (2010) on a Vietnamese mother’s expectations for her daughter, Making it Home on a woman who discovers that coming out to her mother helps her to be more of a part of the LGBT community and AIN'T I A WOMAN by Kebo Drew about black femmes and transgender women.

The festival included a panel discussion with writer/play write Jewelle Gomez, British South East Asian Filmmaker Pratibha Parmer, Dr Ericka Huggins, women’s studies professor, performance artist and writer Canyon Sam, Olga Talamante, the Executive Director of the Chicana/Latina Foundation. A roundtable discussion with queer women of color activists discussed social justice feminism. A selection of the films was presented at the Frameline Film Festival. 

Next year the organizers plan to take the festival to the YBCA Center in downtown San Francisco. The festival this year was full to the brim, and over 300 women waited to get in for one of the coveted seats. So, the 8th festival will be held in a spacious forum and is sure to be an exciting venue.

© 2011 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 06/29/12
Movie Magazine International

Friday, June 10, 2011

Medea, Pier Paolo Pasolini (Italy 1969).

By Moira Sullivan
Maria Callas as Medea.
Medea by Pier Paolo Pasolini was made in 1969. The scenography was done is by Dante Ferretti, and it was his first movie. And I mention this because Ferretti not only did the scenography for a few other Pasolini films, but also for Interview with a Vampire, Shutter Island, Sweeney Todd and The Aviator. For the last two films he received Oscars.

To see Medea is a rare treat, because of the art direction but also because of the direction and script by the late director Pasolini. It stars one of his long-term friends Maria Callas as Medea, who is just brilliant.  Nothing is usual in a Pasolini film from the quaint costumes, which consist of elaborate costumes with jewelry and intricate cloth,  to the special way he tells stories.  The film was shot in Italy, Syria and Turkey.

The story begins with a centaur (played by the late French actor Laurent Terzieff) who speaks to a young boy at age 5, 13 and as a young man. He is not his father or mother, says the centaur in his final speech before he sends the boy named Jason on his way, played by Giuseppe Gentile.
 “All is sacred. There is nothing natural in Nature, my lad, remember that!”  
The speech is an allegory for modern life in which contact with our mythical roots is vanishing. But for this Pasolini gives no credit to any higher power “In fact, there is no god!” says the centaur. He is told to go to a distant land where which has been usurped by his uncle King Kresus. He sends him on a mission to recover the Golden Fleece. It is in the possession of Medea, a priestess who he convinces to come with him and marry him, after she kills her brother. Her land is one where human sacrifices are used to improve the crops. On return, he tells his uncle that the Fleece is worthless in his land. 

Medea turns out to be too old fashioned for Jason who is soon betrothed to the King’s daughter. Medea’s handmaidens implore her to use her magic to take revenge on Jason, and she kills their two children, his new wife and her father the king.  Though this should come as no surprise to Jason since this is the way of her land and the way of Medea. 

There is nothing subtle about the film. It is crude and powerful.  The story is shown rather than told, and the longest spoken dialogue is that of the centaur. 

© 2011 - Moira Sullivan- Air Date: 06/10/11
Movie Magazine International

MERRY GO ROUND, Jacques Rivette (France 1981).

By Moira Sullivan 
Joe Dallesandro and Maria Schneider at dinner.
Merry Go Round by Jacques Rivette is a film that uses the instrument of the camera and editing to create a mystical thriller. In this film we see the young Maria Schneider as she actually looked in real life without the artificial clothing and makeup she is known for in Last Tango in Paris. Maria is a tiny, thin woman, with lots of wavy brown hair, dressed in jeans, t-shirts and moccasins, the kind with fringe on the sides from the 70’s. Schneider picked her leading man for the film, Joe Dallesandro, who reported that Maria in real life was his friend. But according to Jacques Rivette, the relationship between the two on the set became increasingly hostile. 
Merry Go Round has a short scene with the present French Minister of Culture and Communication Frederic Mitterrand who plays a courier. Later Mitterrand would present Schneider with an outstanding tribute when she was inducted in the Order of Arts and Letters (Ordre des Arts et Lettres) six months before her death this February. 
The totally improvisational story has a loosely constructed plot about how Leó, played by Maria and Ben (Dallesandro) meet in a hotel—a rendezvous pre- arranged by Leó’s sister Elisabeth (Danièle Gegauff) who never shows up. To the story is that Leó and Elizabeth’s father has died and four million dollars of his estate is unaccounted for. Now and then throughout the film there are cutaways to a sax player and bassist playing improvisational music. Leó and Ben then wander through the French countryside looking for Elisabeth and the missing money.  Ben tries to seduce Leó but she is immune. So there is no romance between the two. Instead they find an abandoned house and eat a lot of gourmet canned goods from the absent owner. They assemble the goods on a long dinner table. The dinner party is one of the most visually stunning scenes of the film where the two actors both at opposite ends of the table with a huge candelabrum in the center, peering at one another. 

In the course of the film an unknown woman pursues Ben through the forest, not to mention a knight in shining armor. Later we see Ben trying to shoot at the women on sand dunes. The woman at first looks like Leo with shorter hair. Elisabeth is kidnapped then rescued by Leo and later shot. It is not clear what happens to the money or if the father is actually dead.  The entire premise of the films is to dispense with the conventional use of plot, yet there is a random pattern that you can’t help trying to assemble as a spectator. 

Maria and Dallesandro totally steal the film and the rest of the cast serve as distractions of little substance. If Maria Schneider had had her way Merry Go Round would have been the kind of film she would have liked as her first to give her a softer start in art cinema.

© 2011 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 06/10/11
Movie Magazine International