Wednesday, May 9, 2018

End of gladiator sport for male gaze at Cannes

By Moira Sullivan

The "71:e Festival de Cannes" from May 8-19 has changed its agenda from its praxis of most recent years. It is being held a week earlier this year starting on a Tuesday and ending on a Saturday to be able to add an additional gala event !  before the first weekend, circulate previews of new films to be released in France and for maximum visibility of the Palme d’Or awards on Saturday night.

The other change this year is a ban on streaming production companies from premiering their online films at Cannes in the in-competition section. Streaming film is not considered a "proper" form for an original art work shown outside the realm of theatrical distribution at Cannes. There is also a new publication embargo on film reviews from the official selection until the premieres with the cast and crew. Previously film critics have seen the films a couple of times before the production team and reviews circulating beforehand interfere with the films getting a so-called fresh start. The plebeian kickstart with reviews by 4000 journalists has given way to the elite star studded gala opening on the red carpet with critics placed in a smaller venue close by at the same time However, it is more about French theater owners insisting on a film having theatrical distribution first and waiting three years before going online. This is not how things are done in the US that knows the market demands instant gratification.

According to Cannes festival director Thierry Frémaux these changes herald a new era of Cannes. They are intended to make the time-honored festival optimally exclusive where new films are unveiled without anyone having seen the official selection apart from the cast and crew. But it is quite clear that it is also about French theater owners guarding their market and not losing exclusivity to online conglomerates.

Netflix is not silent on the matter and has made its interest known in purchasing the opening night film by Asghar Faradi, the Spanish drama Everybody Knows which could go to immediate online distribution. Faradi casts mega Spanish couple Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem on screen and off in a film about secrets from the past.

This publication embargo is predicated on the belief that revealing plot and narrative construction spoils a film. Yet, how a film is made is what gives a film its uniqueness. Most film critics do not write about the look and feel of a film, the stylistic content, so whereas you might learn beforehand what happens you don’t learn how it happens. Film critics who concentrate primarily on narrative content do not reveal the intricate design of the director. In this respect there are really no spoilers. A critic’s take on a film might conjure up an entirely different film than what is theatrically released.

This year the festival president is Cate Blanchett who has announced that films directed by women are still a paucity, making the festival a gladiator sport for the male gaze. Five women three actresses, one composer and one director constitute the majority of the official jury, but three male directors and one Chinese actor still prove that parity for directors is not there yet.

Several non-mainstream events cluster before the first weekend at small venues– The Swedish Institute and Women in Film & TV International (WIFTI) present Working For Change: 'Filmmaking In the New Landscape'. At the Irish Pavilion representatives from Eurimages and its "Gender Working Group", the BFI Film Fund, the New Zealand Film Commission and the South African Screen Federation will discuss The Fight of Inclusion by women working in film. Other parallel events include a panel on next moves for #MeToo and the Gender Equality movement in Cannes. Probably the most radical talk of them all will be held by Nina Menkes, filmmaker and teacher at California Institute of the Arts and USC who will talk about the embedded misrepresentation of women in film language. Her emphasis is on changing the way films are shot, edited, framed and cast as noted in the work of male directors – a system that depends on perpetuating empty stereotypes for women with zero agency, and the ability to influence the narrative outcome.

Three of the 18 films of the official selections directed by women Alice Rohrwacher (Happy as Lazzaro - a meeting about a young peasant and nobleman), Eva Husson (Girls of the Sun - about a female Kurdish military battalion), and Nadine Labaki (Capernaum about an impoverished boy who sues his parents for giving him life

© 2018 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 05/9/18
Movie Magazine International

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Busan International Short Film Festival Forum - Women and the Avantgarde

Speakers , Moderator and Debaters at BISFF Forum
By Moira Sullivan

From April 24 -29 the 35th Busan International Short Film Festival was held in South Korea orchestrated by Festival director Cha Minchol. There was an international and Korean competition and a special program called the Busan International Short Film Forum with a focus on women in the avantgarde. Special focus was on the work of US filmmaker Maya Deren who made films from 1940-1960. The program was entitled "Maya Deren’s Cinematic Universe". Her Chapbook - "An Anagram of Ideas on Art , Form and Film" was translated through a Republic of Korea art grant. This was done by Kim Byeongcheol (Dong-Eui Univ. Prof.) I was invited to speak on Maya Deren’s use of choreography for the camera. Also invited was Eleni Tranouli (a Greek Art Advisor/Researcher).l who spoke about interiors in Deren’s films. After presentations, some provocative questions were asked by Roh Chulhwan (lnha Univ. Prof.), Bang Hyejin (Art Critic) and Heo Eunhee (Dong-Eui Univ. Prof.) Considering that Maya Deren is relatively unknown in Korea this interplay of scholars with debaters on the points made in the lectures was dynamic and occurred in front of young South Korean Students and guests.

Pip Chodorov, an American experimental filmmaker who teaches film in Seoul and Busan and runs a film distribution company for avantgarde work in Paris (  led students in a presentation of films made in Super 8. The film and chemicals to process them were imported for this purpose and the students realized that one cannot erase Super8 film as is done with digital film and came to terms with the nature of the material in a profound way. Also part of the program were presentations on Asian women in avantgarde film.
Hwang Miyojo presented an overview of films directed by women in South Korea  (Korea National University of Arts Prof.).
Ryan Cheng ( Programmer of Kaohsiung Film Festival and Film Critic spoke about Taiwanese women in film. Trinh Le Minh Hang (Head of Vietnamese Skyline Media) spoke about Vietnamese women’s films.

Not only was her work discussed by scholars but filmmakers working in Maya Deren's spirit showed their work. Three filmmakers - Kano Shiho (Japan) , Camille Degeye (France) and  Emilija Skarnulyte (Lithuania) were invited to the forum.  Skarnulyte’s  Sironemelia was about a mermaid who visits a Cold War Arctic submarine base. The filmmaker will be interviewed later in the program. Sironemelia and three other Lithuanian shorts were also shown at the Corner Theater in Old Busan curated by Jurga Sabukaite who also showed her film Une Chambre à Soi. The films were followed by a discussion with Koreans who come to this tiny theater to see and study non-narrative work.
The work of Korean women in the Avantgarde at the forum included Kim Sukhyeon (Experimental Film), Kim Dongryung (Documentary) and Jeong Dahee (Animation).

The Busan Short Film Festival was held in the magnificent Busan Cinema Center with both an outdoor and indoor cinema in this multilayered gargantuan edifice. The Grand Prize winner of the festival this year was The Distance by Iranian filmmaker Yousef Kargar, a film about a friend of a man who dies in a scaffolding accident that returns home to tell his  parents, but complications arise. As winner of the grand prix, the film is automatically entered as a contender for next year’s academy awards.

© 2018 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 05/02/18
Movie Magazine International