BARBARA BARGIEL HOLLY BRITTON ASHLEY GEORGE LEIRE EGANA BONNIE CURTIS ALICE D. COOPER ANGIE BAGGETT MARIKA KRAJNIEWSKA PRISCILA ALEGRE CINEMA DANCE THEATRE CINEMA
Building on the success of the fifth edition, CinĂŠWomen continues showcasing video practice from around the world. As the ultimate mirror-medium of our times, video is all around us. Despite the proliferation of mainstream cinema, independent films continue to be made â€“radical, poetic, and dreamlike films, whose directors work on the edge of the mainstream film industry, never restricting themself to any single field, yet inviting the eye and the mind to travel further. Cinema is no longer the monolithic system based on large capital investiment: in the last decade the technological advances have dramatically changed the economic conditions of cinema production. Revolutions arise from obstinacy. It is not by chance that today one of the protagonists of the digital revolution in cinema is a talented and courageous woman director, Elle Schneider, co-founder along with Joe Rubinstein of the Digital Bolex Project, who after developing a cult-camera harking back to 16mm film aesthetic -a significant leap towards the democratization of technology- is now promoting an application process for a grant for producers employing women in their camera troupes. Only eight percent of 2014's top-grossing films were directed by women: it's time to reverse this trend. However, cinema is not only technology, but ideas, experimentation, and above all dialogue, networking, interaction. Creating and supporting a fertile ground for innovation and dialogue does not necessarily require compromise. Honoring the influence of women in video art and cinema, our womenartconnect.com editorial board is proud to present a selection of powerful and surreal visions from nine uncompromising outsiders. In these pages you will encounter details on a new wave of filmmakers and videoartists marching away from the Hollywood stereotype, with films like Hema by Ashley George; the visionary world of Barbara Bargiel; Hunger, an astonishing film by the talented Marika Krajniewska; the black humor of W For Bites by Leire Ergana and much more.
COVER Production Still from Herstory. Barbara Bargiel
TOP Still from W For Bites, Leire Ergana LEFT Still from Demà, Priscila Alegre
Edition curated by
wac* VIDEO ART CINEMA THEATRE DANCE
leire egana Titolo che Bites inizia per W For (UK,
With its gorgeous widescreen compositions, W For Bites is a very clever satire on job interviews: Spanish director Leire Egana finds absurdity in the mundane, careening from the humorous to the surreal. We are pleased to present Leire Egana for this year's CinĂŠWomen Edition. Leire, tell us about your trajectory as a filmmaker. What inspired you to express yourself in this medium? Iâ€™ve always liked stories, both in a passive and active way. Already as a kid I was passionate of writing short stories and illustrations that would accompany them. As my interest in films grew, I started writing scripts, which I found them to be a complete storytelling experience. In college I studied Law and Political Sciences,
which provided me with a perspective that has shaped the films I have been writing so far. I am constantly struggling between taking life seriously and laughing at it, so I guess thatâ€™s how I landed on absurdity and surrealism. Seamlessly shifting between fantasy and reality, W For Bites is a surreal and grotesque comedy. Can you tell us what attracted you to this particular story? The story is an absurd satire about a job interview in a fast food corporation. When I wrote it I was studying in central London, where there are fast food chains every square meter. Many of the employees are south and eastern europeans that, in despite of being
highly qualified, they had had to emigrate from their countries and give up any aspiration of working in their fields. I was very concerned of this exodus, but the tip of the iceberg was to discover the interview process of these companies and the way this affected to the self-esteem of the already desperate job-seekers. To being with, I found job titles in the UK mesmerising. A dish washer is called a ‘gastronomical hygiene technician’, saying bin man is not politically correct anymore so they have rename it as ‘recycling operative’, call centre workers have the confusing title of ‘Front Line Customer Support Facilitators’, a ‘Sanitation consultant’ is a toilet cleaner, and, of course, there is the job they are applying for in W for Bites: “Brand Ambassador”. Some interviews are also renamed as ‘auditions’. Thus, the candidates are
called to come on a set day and they collectively go through a series of games that are supposed to determine their skills and competences. Surprisingly, these tests are not very different from the ones that I developed in my short film as it is completely real that in some interviews candidates are asked to draw a “happy face”. In the end, the CV has no relevance and the reason of getting the job turns out to be a mystery. With all these ingredients, doing a surreal and grotesque comedy would have come natural to anyone. You did a terrific job making W For Bites a very grotesque film. From the first time we watched it, we thought of Dusan Makavejev's cinema: throughout the film you
find absurdity in the mundane. Can you introduce our readers to this peculiar aspect of your work?
community and their standards. So, finding absurdity was paradoxically the most logical thing to do.
I understand why you can see a connection. I think absurdity provides a very good tool to look at ourselves and the world in a different way: in particular to laugh at social conventions that make life unnecessarily more difficult or less human. Many of the artists and artistic movements that have used absurdity to comment on something by causing confusion or laughter in the public have made a great critique, because even if it was not apparent at the moment, they gave some clues for a change by modifying the significance of commonplaces. In my case, I come from a small town in a valley and ever since I was a kid, I would sometimes feel trapped by the
Customer Service is marked by an elegant and provocative use of temps mort. You capture the action with a funny, artful detachment. How did you develop the script and the structure of your short film? Part of the critique that I wanted to do with this film are the “masks” that we put to disguise our personality or what we are thinking/feeling, constantly trying to fit in with what can be socially or politically correct. We all wear a “costume” in a certain moment, but I felt this custom was more pronounced in London where, when trying to be too polite, people
would lose honesty in human interactions. I think is what a british friend of mine called as â€œpassiveaggressivityâ€?. In the film the customer service are indeed wearing these masks and, likewise, they ask the candidates to draw a happy face in a piece of board and put them on if they want to continue with the job interview process. Strikingly again, what I developed in the film was quite connected to reality as in the mentioned collective auditions, candidates are told that they are not only there to apply for a job but also to have a fun day. The rest came with the casting of two excellent actress who embodied the companyâ€™s face in the film, the original mockery music composed by Enzo Bellomo, and the editor, Arielle Apfel, with whom we came
up with the device of extending their robotic smiles and place them in the right moments to trigger out the comedy. What do you hope viewers will take away from the film? I hope viewers enjoy watching the film, taking the seriousness of the portrayed situation just enough to identify the critique and then laughing at its nonsense. We have been deeply impressed by the extremely natural feel of your cinematography. What was your lighting setup? Lighting for W for Bites was a bit of a challenge because of the wide shots and numerous characters, since we wanted the lighting be discreet. We wanted the
strangeness to stem from the framing, the situations and the performances. That is why we decided to go for a high-key look. But instead of using a soft overhead source which is a common way of lighting office spaces, the Director of Photography, Jackie Teboul, decided to shape the faces with a rather hard source and to fill from camera side. Her idea was to give some unsettling quality to the picture while maintaining an appearance of normality. The audience should feel something is wrong and aggressive but without being able to tell why. In exteriors it was mainly a question of making the most out of the natural light. We were lucky to have a sunny day that helped keeping a certain continuity using the sun as a backlight. We have previously mentioned
Dusan Makavejev, a Yugoslavian art-house filmmaker known for his provocative films. Who among international artists and directors influenced your work? As a kid, I got fascinated by Alice in Wonderland. I was not completely aware of what Lewis Carroll was trying to convey with his ridiculous world, but I realise it was probably my first approach to the genre. I am a big admirer of Fellini’s work as well as other artists. However, for W for Bites I was thinking of Jacques Tati’s “Mon oncle” and “Playtime”, Luis Buñuel’s “Exterminating angel” and “The phantom of liberty”, and plays of Theatre of the Absurd (ex. Eugène Ionesco’s “The bald singer” or Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot”). All these masterpieces make a critique of the
ludicrousness of social conventions, so I greatly connect with their sense of humour. They were also important references I discussed with my collaborators to understand the delicate balance we had to achieve between reality and absurdity. For more than half a century women have been discouraged from getting behind the camera, however in the last decades there are signs that something is changing. What's your view on the future of women in cinema? My impression is that although we are in the trend of low budget filmmaking and crowdfunding campaigns, Cinema is still a privileged medium of expression, since it is still too expensive to
make and distribute films. In my opinion, the moment that making films becomes more accessible for everyone, we will all benefit from any sort of discrimination. As you mention, there have been some changes in the last two decades concerning the presence of women behind the camera and the kind of stories we are telling. Nonetheless, in my view, technological evolution is happening faster than gender equality and the biggest barrier women are fighting for is invisibility. As an example, I would like to mention the example of a filmmaker I greatly admire: Agnès Varda. She’s a filmmaker with a prolific career, that has even been considered for some film critiques as “the grandmother of the Nouvelle Vague”, and who
hasn’t been acknowledged until this last decade, finally receiving the Honorary Palme d’Or at the 2015 Cannes Film festival (the first woman to receive this award). For me this is a very clear example of the invisbility I was talking about, because this french woman has been doing films in France since the ‘50s and still, she has gone unnoticed by her own country for a lifetime. Thus, platforms that talk about women, such as CinéWomen, are very helpful to speed up the change. Thanks for your time and thought, Leire. We wish you all the best with your career. What's next for Leire Egana? Have you a particular film in mind?
Actually, I am just finishing the postproduction of my graduation film from The London Film School: “Infestations”. On a similar style as W for Bites, the story is a satire about the absurd attitude towards the outsider/the foreigner/the intruder… The idea came from my preoccupation to the racist attitudes that our politicians are transmitting to our population in regards to the mass immigration coming from the Mediterranean. I am also directing The northern line webseries in collaboration with its talented creator, Jessica Burn, and I am hoping that more opportunities will come along.
For more information visit www.leireegana.com
marika krajniewska Titolo che inizia per Hunger (Poland,
With its masterfully executed scenes and expressive camera work, Hunger is a psychologically acute meditation on the horror of Ukrainian FamineGenocide. With her characteristic, intimate Tarkovskyan style, Marika Krajniewska captures with harrowing authenticity the pathos and loneliness of a life in a occupied country. We are honored to present the talented Marika Krajniewska for this year's CinéWomen Edition. Marika, tell us about your trajectory as a filmmaker. What inspired you to express yourself in this medium? Since several years I have been deeply involved in writing. I am an author of several books published in Poland. I write about people, their fate and lives. A large part of my artistic portfolio is devoted to the historical events, particularly those related to the World War II – however, that’s not everything. My books, despite the tough nature of covered topics, bring me a lot of joy and
satisfaction. The writing process itself is very important to me. I create my works with the use of images. This means that it is my imagination where I see the scene which I am focused on first. Then I describe that scene, as if I was redrawing the thing I have already seen. Through constant search for the new ways of development and shaping my art, I have started to write film scripts. I may say it without any doubt – I love this activity. It is very joyful for me. I have many topics planned to cover. When I have written the “Hunger” script, I had shown it to my friends and they said: do this movie! How? I asked – I am not a filmmaker. And how did you become a writer – as my friends replied to my doubts with another question. And this is how my first movie-related adventure stated. It was a successful and satisfactory adventure, throughout which I was able to gain a lot of experience. All of the above was
interview possible thanks to the team gathered around the movie. Not only did these people, mainly with cinematic experience, help me to realize the movie, they also taught me how to be a director. Of course, this is still a steep learning curve. I am still developing myself. Only hard-work and constant learning may give you the best effect. Creating a movie is magic – and all of the above was realized by a team of enthusiasts. Without passion and enthusiasm, good effects are unachievable. And I have some passion in me, and I like the sorcery. We want to take a closer look at the genesis of your film: how did you come up with the idea for Hunger? The Holodomor stories have been with me since the early childhood. I was
born in St. Petersburg (which had been known earlier as Leningrad). I was lucky enough to have lived there until I was twelve. During the summer holidays I used to visit my grandparents in Ukraine. I have never treated the two countries as separate organisms – culturally, politically and militarily. After the fall of the Soviet Union I moved to Poland – and this is where I live today. I left my two motherlands behind – Russia and Ukraine – when I was 12 years old. I was too young to understand some things. However, once I changed my place of stay, I did not change my mentality – I never forgot. And memory is important – at least for me. I often think that even though I was born in 1979, I am still a war-child. Why? Well, I was raised hearing the stories told by my grandparents, who tried hard to
save themselves, in the times of omnipresent annihilation. Here I mean 1930’s and 1940’s. My portfolio includes a volume of short stories, entitled “Five”, including the stories of the people living in those tough times. And the volume includes a story which was used to create the screenplay for Hunger. We have appreciated your reflective, interior style of filmmaking. Hunger features an elegantly structured storytelling: each shot is carefully orchestrated to work within the overall structure. How did you develop the script for this film? My film tells a story of a woman who was left alone, and had to face the hunger herself. I do not care about the reasons for her situation. However, I
care about the world in which the protagonist lives and in which she must take decisions, she would not even have thought of. The script is indeed, very thoroughly thought-over. So are the shots. I wanted to tell a simple story, in order to reveal an important truth, which I have known from the stories told by my grandparents. The truth which touched me, subjective truth, truth of my own. I immediately knew that the story should include some fairy-tale elements. I was thinking of The Little Matchstick Girl, a short story which now is very often forgotten. Tomek Walasek, my camera operator, decided to include, beside the screenplay shots, some shots that would come straight from a fairy tale, so that we could explore the inner world of the protagonists.
Can you describe the shooting of Hunger? First and foremost – this was my first time. However – I want more. Looking back – and production of the movie covered a wide time-span – I may state that I was quite brave to have started the whole project. At the time I had no budget nor connections, nor knowledge. What did I have? I had a ready story written in a form of a script, and deep belief that I would be able to transform it into a movie. I have just realized how determined I had to be, and how convinced I had to be, to execute the whole project. Yes, I really believed in that story. And the Universe seemed to believe in that story with me – it provided me with a proper team of helpful people. Actors, contractors, family, friends,
companies which provided us with the equipment, catering, accommodation and many other tools of trade, required to finalize the work. The whole movie was shot in ca. 7 days.. I even remember that we were full of food after the lunchbreak, and that during the shooting process, some sounds were coming straight from our digestive tracts. Thanks to the cooperation with a young team of talented filmmakers, I had a feeling that I am in right place, at the right time. It is those people who let me feel like a film director. Thanks to the team, I believed in myself on the set. The only tough moment on the set was related to the fact that I had to fuse the role of a mother, with the role of a film director. I wanted my daughter to star in the movie, thus there were some situations in which I had to
make decisions of prolonging the work on set as a director, however – as a mother, I wanted to let my child get some rest. This is a valuable experience too. Now it turns out that Maja, my daughter, perfectly copes with acting. The scenes we have recorded were very emotional. Everybody felt the serious atmosphere of the set.
was not favorable most of the time. Most of the shots were recorded during the summer, not in the winter. The operator and the lightning engineer worked really hard to create winter, in the middle of the summer.
Hunger features a brilliant cinematography, marked by a sapient use of cold tones and static figures. How did you conceive the visual style of this film?
I love films in which the dialogues are quantitatively limited. When I was writing the script I knew that dialogue would be almost absent in my movie. The concept of a Little Matchstick Girl is self-explanatory. Image speaks for itself. There is nothing to add. Composition was very crucial for me. We have recorded a lot of material, half of which did not make it to the final movie. The material we had would be sufficient to create at least three variants of the movie – and each
I wanted the movie to be relatively free. Hence the employment of static characters, which thanks to lack of the proper dynamics, expose their inner self in front of us. Cold tones were to replicate the raw and tragic character of the Ukrainian 1930’s. The weather
Your film is clever and well-built. What technical aspects did you focus on in your work?
one of these would be completely different. We have even created one alternative version. However – it was not my story. I wanted to faithfully transfer the script’s assumptions into the movie. I’ve made it. Hunger is a mind-bending meditation on war. What do you want people to remember after seeing your movie? Only the fact that it is worth to remember our ancestry – people, thanks to whom we are here. And the fact that every one of us has his/her own story and his/her own truth. We have mentioned Tarkovsky, can you tell us your biggest influences in cinema and how they have affected your work? My art is of a mixed character. It
features the Polish words, the Polish matter, ad the Russian spirit. Both in case of the literature, as well as in case of the movies. Andrey Zvyagintsev and Vera Storozheva have shown me that minimalistic forms may contain a rich message. And this is the thing about the cinema, I love the most. On the other hand, Xavier Dolan is my inspiration when it comes to the art of creating consistent connections based on subtlety. These people are probably the best teachers I had. For more than half a century women have been discouraged from getting behind the camera, however in the last decades there are signs that something is changing. What's your view on the future of women in cinema? Women ofter have a different style which is a natural consequence of
their thoughts, actions and needs. And we are lucky to be different from the men – thanks to these differences, the world is more varied and interesting. And it is the same about cinema. I love the thrill the female directors give. I love the world, seen from a feminine perspective. The above does not mean that masculine cinema is worse. No, not at all. It’s different. Sometimes I need the former one, sometimes the latter one. However, I love the female directors who are not trying hard to create masculine cinematography. And this type is very rare. I think that this may be the result of what you have mentioned: it is tougher for the women. Thanks for your time and thought, Marika. We wish you all the best with your career. What's next for Marika Krajniewska?
Thank you for the Wishes! I am thinking of two feature films. One is a dark story, based on actual events. It tells a tale of a young man who, together with his friend, kidnaps the local drug addicts who do not get any attention, and they try to help them to overcome the addiction. However, I am not focused on drugs. It’s a well covered topic, both in film, as well as in literature. I am interested in the inter-personal relationships. The other film is a bitter-sweet comedy about elderly women who steal the ashes of their late friend, and decide to travel to the grave of Elvis Presley, since this was one of the dreams pursued by the friend. The comedy is inspired by life, and by the true stories of the elderly. I believe I will be able to achieve my goal – however the road is not going to be easy.
priscila alegre Titolo che(Finland, inizia per DemĂ
A fascinating look at a woman lost in her own mind, Demà questions the notion of individuality itself. Priscila Alegre delicately weaves present and future, personal pain and hope in her film: with its stunning tapestry of sounds and images, Demà is movie poetry. We are pleased to present Priscila Alegre for this year's CinéWomen Edition. Priscila, tell us about your trajectory as a filmmaker. What inspired you to express yourself in this medium? First of all I wanted to thank you for letting me be part of this festival, it's been a satisfying experience for me. My trajectory as a professional film maker started around 2010 when I finished Film School, I presented my "final piece" in the medium of documentary. I directed mainly short documentaries and tv programs, but with "Demà" I wanted to explore new things, experiment with my own barriers, push myself to express myself in new languages. I would say, what inspired me was the fact that I had to deal with a deep fear of myself growing, developing, maturing and accepting that I will have to grow up and reach adulthood. And this was a contradiction as I promised myself when I was a child that I would never grow up. We want to take a closer look at the genesis of your film: how did you come up with the idea for Demà?
Demà it's a very deep personal autobiographical experience for me. I really had the feeling that I wouldn’t live past the age of 25 and I really wanted to share it with others. I thought that if I let this feeling go free, it might help, and it did indeed. I had the idea of putting two poems, I wrote a couple of years ago, together in the style of a short movie. And how these things go producing a really personal story, it’s really hard, especially if you are not used to it. So I pushed myself to participate in the "Kino Movement." At that time I was living in Helsinki, so "KINO EUPHORIA" was my perfect option (I have to say that attending kino changed my life, if you are a film maker, or something to do with film production, you have to go to some kino kabaret). I pitched my idea, found my team (an amazing team that I met that very same day) and 3 days later, Demà had a premiere in Andorra Cinema, Helsinki. We have been deeply impressed with your enigmatic approach to narrative form. How did you develop the 'script' and structure of Demà? As I was saying, I had a really clear Idea of what I wanted by producing a visual poem. But in the process of "Kino Kabaret" you have to be fast and effective. In three days the project had to be edited and ready for the screening, so I adapted the script, all
together with my amazing team who were really comprehensive, receptive, and helpful. In the beginning it was supposed to be shot to be like the â€˜last day' of the main character - her last birthday all shot and documented as it was her last day. I'm not so sure if you had this impression or if some other idea came to your mind, but yes, we tried to give the 3 basic parts of a short movie. Introduction and presentation, whatâ€™s happening with her life and the resolution: tomorrow is today. Actually, this last sentence helped me a lot to deal with my personal "tragedy", and next week I will tattoo this sentence close to my heart too. From the first time we watched your film we thought of Victor Erice's work. Who among international artists and directors influenced your work? I have to say that because this interview is a written interview I had time to google Victor Erice's work because, unfortunately,
I had never watched any of his films or short movies. Even though I knew it was an important personality in Spanish cinema. This would be an amazing compliment and it would be really satisfying, to, one day, make a movie that elegant, deep and powerful. Beyond the shadow of a doubt, nowadays everybody is so influenced with many transmedia, cultures, and languages... Nothing is pure anymore. So I guess I was influenced all my life by everything that was around me. Nevertheless, in the past 7-8 years I've been particularly attracted to Japanese cinema (Kinji Fukasaku, Kar Wai Wong) and how North Korean film makers can manipulate the whole society and system with their cinema. On the other hand, my favourite film directors come from Catalunya or Spain. I always loved Almodovar especially in his latest career, AmenĂĄbar, the great Isabel Coixet and the illustrious Julio Medem (thanks to his "Lovers of the artic circle" I became
obsessed about Finland and wanted to move there). Even though I have mentioned a lot of romanticism, I am a surrealism lover, also. Did you rehearse a lot with the shots you prepared in advance? Not really, because we had a clear idea of what it would look like. The main actress (Marina Stanger) was really professional and understood the mood and how she needed to act from the very beginning, so it was very easy. It was really fulfilling since none of our members in the team knew each other and everything flowed like a river. From the very first stage, Marina felt really attached to the project and she felt recognised in the script, so it came naturally to her. What challenges did you face while making DemĂ ? The fact that we had to shoot and edit in
three days was the biggest challenge. We had a really tight shooting plan and we had to change one location because of the timing, and the shooting time of the lake scene was supposed to be night time, which was impossible due to being shot in Helsinki in mid July; there's no night time in the summer. But we were really happy with the result and the challenge was happily accomplished. Another personal challenge for me was that I had to face my deep personal contradictions and the fact that I had to undress my soul and let all these intimate thoughts become free and visible to all. And DemĂ features a very expressive cinematography marked by an elegant use of close-up shots and cold colors. How did you develop your visual style? I'm really flattered with this question. Thanks a lot for that! I'm a really romantic person so, personally what's more important for me in the visual style is the
photography and colour correction, and in film making, music creates the atmosphere, the content comes naturally itself. My cinematographer (Perttu InkilĂ¤) forced me to use a tripod in most of the shots, and I'm really humbled for that because I like the "European style"avoiding tripods - but I admit it was the correct choice, and this makes it look how it looks: stable, elegant, relaxing and fluent. Basically, the way it was developed was in the shooting, with Perttu, loving the scenes and with my greatest young editor Natasha Lopatina loving the project. What I said to all my team during the production is that you have to do everything that you do with love. Thatâ€™s really important, even if you hate, hate with love and this will bring peace, harmony and the project as it is. Do everything with love, people!
for myself, but as an unselfish action. I wanted to share the positivity of life, even when you think you are in a moment of life where you would love everything to end, or you are just tired of fighting. Keep going, take a deep breath and keep breathing, smiling, living, sharing, tomorrow is today. This is what I would hope the viewers would take away from this film, not really as a "karpe diem" itself, but as something more, "to see further than our noses" as we say in Spanish. Don't get stuck at one hurdle, because I really believe we build our own barriers, so let's break them and keep swimming forward in this amazing river called life. "DemĂ " is about love, loving others, loving yourself, loving to selfimprove, loving life, loving that special someone, loving nature, loving to share your deepest fears, loving to love.
What do you hope viewers will take away from the film?
For more than half a century women have been discouraged from getting behind the camera, however in the last decades there are signs that
Well, it was something I really tried to do
something is changing. What's your view on the future of women in cinema? I don't consider myself a feminist woman, however I consider myself a woman, a person. Just a person. I don't understand why people have to be discriminated just because of who they are. In such wise, present times of technology, globalisation and the era of infinite information, there are undoubtedly many changes, and one of those is that we can direct movies (and plenty of other things.) But I still think there are many factors that need to change in this issue. Society has to be a little bit more open minded to encourage more woman to direct movies. If you consider yourself a woman that has been born to share how you see life though any kind of art, you should do it. But I think, in this subject, sometimes we still have to fight a little bit more. And for sure, the future of women in cinema is just starting! Many great women film
directors are arising, and more will come. Thanks for your time and thought, Priscila. We wish you all the best with your filmmaker career. What's next for Priscila Alegre? Thanks to all your team for letting me be part of this great experience. I have no idea what will come next for "Alegre Priscila" but one thing is for sure: I will keep making movies! The genre I feel more comfortable with has always been documentary film making. In "Demà" it was a great challenge for myself to bare my soul and share it openly to the world. At the moment I've been doing short documentaries mainly about people, social critics and anthology subjects, but I have to confess that after my "Demà" experience, it was so fulfilling, satisfying and liberating that I may have to use some of my other poems to put together another visual short movie.
alice d. cooper Ace (UK, 2013, 6’)
Photo by Haydee Velasco Flores of Kyle Cox, Adam Parsons and A.D. Cooper
Featuring vivid performances and a gentle naturalism reminding us of Cristian Mungiu's cinema, Ace is a stunning film to watch. With her characteristic vĂŠritĂŠ style, Alice D. Cooper escapes from
traditional narrative form and moves beyond notions of theatricality, into the realm of real experience. The plot of Ace is very simple, yet the implications of its characters’ actions and emotions are profound. We are proud to present Alice D. Cooper for this year's CinéWomen Edition. Alice, tell us about your trajectory as a filmmaker. What inspired you to express yourself in this medium? Film has always fascinated me as a story telling medium especially as a shared experience in the cinema. Take me somewhere new, introduce me to interesting people, make me care about them, and let the tale unfold. Whether it’s for brands, fact or fiction, I love a good story well told. I’ve always been a writer but worked mostly in
advertising and journalism. For some time, I’d been writing short and feature length film projects as well as creating scripts for sports entertainment shows. My film scripts of all lengths were getting optioned and winning awards, but the films never seemed to get made. So when I had the chance to bring one of my short scripts to life as a director, I didn’t hesitate. That was in 2010 and the resulting film was a whimsical comedy called Feet. It’s still being chosen for festivals and showcases in 2015. See the film at https://vimeo.com/78898488. How did you become involved with Ace and what attracted you to this film? I wrote this script in response to a comment about another of my films called The view from the window. That’s
a very static, emotionally-internalized film set in a hospital. Apparently there was “too much talking in it”. I love dialogue, especially if it’s economical, sharp and laced with subtext. So it was a challenge to see if I could tell a story without relying on the spoken word. As I live in London, I also wanted to do something real, something that reflected life in an urban space rather than the whimsical or comedy films that I had done previously.
something to do with it. He’s always very keen to try new things so when I develop a visual idea, it’s because I haven’t seen it before. We put Go-Pro cameras on the boys’ bicycles in Ace to give a real close up sense of speed and movement, of their point of view on a bike. On Feet, shot on a Canon 5D, there are many shots of walking feet shot with the camera on the end of a magic arm and held at ankle height.
We have deeply appreciated your observational style, as well as your elegant use of wide-angle shots. How did you develop your filmmaking style?
My attitude is always let’s mix it up a bit, avoid the clichés, change the perspective. I’llgo to Derk and say I’ve got this idea. Can you make it work? I’m not especially technical but I know exactly what I want and when I’ve got it.
I’m told I have a style but I don’t see it myself. I’ve worked with the same cinematographer, Derk Russell, on several films so perhaps that has
Ace captures hidden emotional reactions with a delicate, artful detachment. What's your writing process like?
As I come from an advertising copywriting background, I’m used to being economical with words. Can the script be improved by editing? Nearly always. Every word in a short script should be interrogated and if it doesn’t earn its place, it’s deleted. I think if you get bored in a short, it’s a poor film. In the case of Ace, I initially wrote the script with dialogue so that I knew exactly what was supposed to happen in each scene. Then I worked out how every sentiment and emotion could be conveyed visually and hopefully more effectively. I then wrote it again with the dialogue. Children never stop talking usually, so the fact that they don't speak in this film made it all the more interesting. When we watched Ace we immediately thought of Cristian
Mungiu's cinema. Can you tell us your biggest influences in cinema and how they have affected your work? Probably four directors influence both my taste in stories and how they’re shot. John Ford: particularly how he films a wide landscape with the horizon either low in the frame or very high in the frame. David Lean: for the scale and scope of the stories but also his attention to the tiny visual cues and sounds that tell you everything about a situation or an emotion. Terrence Malick: his use of lingering natural metaphors and enigmatic stories. Daniel Aronofsky: equally effective in emotional and dramatic scenes as his dynamic action sequences. I also really rate Susanna White as a director although she’s better known for her television work in the UK and USA.
What challenges did you face while making Ace? It was a very low-budget shoot, and we filmed on location under and around a major motorway flyover in West London. Many cyclists and pedestrians used this route, and we were constantly stopping to let these people through. A new challenge was working with children. Under UK laws, children’s working hours are strictly limited so we had to schedule their shots carefully. It’s very easy for them to lose concentration and wander off while the camera is moved, so I made them tell me jokes and riddles during gaps in filming. I also gave them every opportunity to be involved with the workings of the sets and to understand the role of each crewmember. Their clothes had to be
scheduled carefully as we shot out of sequence and making sure the right day’s clothes were worn was always a concern. They particularly enjoyed the spitting scene. Somehow the old man’s home had to be created. Our genius set designer Humphrey Jaeger transformed an empty house into somewhere that captured a lifetime of memories. A machine gun had to be found, and it’s not that cheap or easy to hire a replica. In the end I bought one and later sold it back. This had to be kept very secret and safe in transit to avoid any alarm to the public or police. Our veteran actor Moray Watson had never been on a mobility scooter before and at the age of 85, he was very nervous of it. Within a minute, he was asking if it would go faster. He was also a little deaf so once he’d driven away, it was very hard to get him to come back
especially when he had his hat on. Usefully we turned the mobility scooter into an impromptu motorized dolly for the camera to create the action shots in the tunnel. As there was no dialogue, we recorded no sync sound at all. It was a grave error creating a lot more work as we then needed to Foley all the kids’ yells and other sounds afterwards. I was enormously fortunate to have sound designer and legend John Wood creating the sound scape, and Billy Mahoney mixing it to perfection. In post production, there were a lot of unknown unknowns. Things that I didn’t know that I didn’t know. We shot on 4K which has its own particular editing needs. The sound mix was a Dolby 5.1 as well as stereo. It was a big learning curve, but all useful for the next project. We want to catch this occasion to ask you to express your view on the
future of women in cinema. For more than half a century women have been discouraged from getting behind the camera, however in the last decades there are signs that something is changing. What's your view on the future of women in cinema? Women directors bring stories to the screen that appeal to both male and female audiences. How they tell those stories is strikingly different to how men tell stories, and it’s that difference that should be recognized and applauded. As team leaders, women directors are more empathetic, more considerate, perfectly able to multi-task and maintain a supportive and creative atmosphere on set. Like many areas of commerce, women in cinema don’t get equal opportunities or pay, and there is a ground swell of opinion worldwide to change the low percentages of women
on both sides of the camera. Quotas aren’t necessarily the answer but surely in 2015, it’s time to stop discriminating against women. We are all just film makers. What’s more important is that the film is well made, well presented, engaging and if at all possible a critical and commercial success. Certainly the roles available to actresses of all ages needs to be more widespread, while the portrayal of women has to be real, and let’s avoid the clichéd female characters – women can be just as strong, dynamic, engaging and dangerous as men. Let’s see an equality of good roles for men and women. Let’s make films that appeal, entertain, move and amuse, and allow the best director to create the film irrespective of their gender. Thanks for your time and thoughts, Alice. We wish you all the best with your filmmaker career. What's next for Alice D. Cooper?
I’ve just filmed a short documentary about the piece of paper that ended World War 2 – a little moment of unknown history, and that project is now in the edit. I’m staging a one-woman theatre show as an expansion of my 2014 short film A Small Dot On The Western Front. There are some test commercials on the slate and a micro-short about beards, and I’m quoting on filming more corporates. At the same time, I am writing a feature script set in the 1920s about the change to talking movies (already shortlisted for an award), and I’m waiting on the contract to write a historical biopic. I may shoot another drama short this autumn for another production company and from a script that I haven’t written. That’s all besides the low-budget feature that I am developing as my longer-form directorial debut. More information at www.hurcheonfilms.com
barbara bargiel Herstory (UK, 2015)
With its radical and disturbing take on narrative, Herstory is kaleidoscope of dreams and visions. Its plot seems simple, yet it encompasses an entire world: rather than focusing on acute or dramatic moments, the talented Barbara Bargiel relies on simple gestures, toying with the devices of narrative cinema, and seamlessly shifting between reality and imagination. We are pleased to present Barbara Bargiel for this year's CinéWomen Edition. Barbara, tell us about your trajectory as a filmmaker. What inspired you to express yourself in this medium? As a teenager and very young adult, I used to imagine I will be a film director, and that my life will be exciting. I watched lots of films as a teen, and read directors’ biographies. Then my route took different directions. I have always had multiple interests, and found it hard to stick to one thing. My fingers have to be dipped in different pies/ projects otherwise I feel I am not learning, and am not challenged. Initially, I trained to be a photographer, then started dancing, making performances and installations. After, I got involved in theatre. So, I decided to become a scenographer, as I love working with people in unusual locations and creating spaces. Then during my theatre design training I started making films. I my believe I only became a filmmaker after completing my second short film Herstory (2014). Although I have created other videos in the past, they had a decorative or scenographic purpose. Herstory was made only last year, but it is my first film with a bigger crew. I both directed and produced it. If you were
to ask me today who I see myself as, I would answer: director, but in a few days, weeks, or years I may call myself something else. I do not like boxes, and I like thinking of myself as “a wounded creator’’, always searching, striving, hitting the wall, not being satisfied but also learning. Despite my short carrier in film, my films started slowly getting the international attention and have been compared to Jarman and Lynch. My Video Poison (2012) was selected in 2014 for the NAA Festival in Portugal, and most recently I was lucky to be selected by your magazine, Cinéwoman Cahier. Thank you. Going back to the question, what inspires me to express myself in film is that I can incorporate all my interests when making films. My love of, and never-forgotten passion, for lens-based media – photography. Dance. Scenography ephemera/ its atmosphere. Working with people and finding beauty in an individual. Simple gestures. Unique locations and lighting. Since 2013, I also became interested in sound, especially the experience of listening and communicating. Around that time I started singing too, and created one sound performance during my scenographic training that explored acoustics and listening. I am really interested in creating visual language, which has a certain dream-like quality, but is not necessarily a total fiction – in fact, the opposite, one that is deeply rooted in live experience/reality. I am particularly interested in psychologically heavy material, as in my opinion it is more human, and less likely to be spoken about. As artists, we have this wonderful power to talk about or give a voice to difficult
subjects, even if in a “decorated/coded way”. I am interested in using this power through play and metaphor. We want to take a closer look at the genesis of Herstory: what attracted you to this project? I was invited to make a film about the process for the film salon organized by Mama Lovely (aka Christina Lovely). I was very much excited, as this is the way I work. I wanted to make the film like a scenography/design, which is purely process-based. For a good few months, I had been thinking already about the idea of making a work from hair, so this was perfect. I tend to be attracted to normally discarded material or an object, because I see it as still functional and usable. I am a collector at heart, I get attached to objects/things, as well as people, and like to keep them. Hair material has multiple meanings for me, it is a symbol for passing time, but also a symbol of something spare/nonnecessary/non-important, which can be cut off or thrown away. It has some sort of deadly quality too, when stored for longer. I have experimented with this material. Like,
undergoes afterlife changes, as its texture and aliveness slowly disappears. In the hairdressing salon it is more common to find female hair cut offs. They come in chunks, and of different colours. As if they were characters. When stored for longer, it is almost like they start speaking to you… I experimented with this material for a good few weeks before shooting final footage. So, what really inspired me to make this film was a material, not a script or story. We have been deeply impressed with the structure of the film which immediately reminded us of Alain Robbe-Grillet's cinema of the 1970s. Did the story unfold before the camera, or were you already aware of these various pieces of the puzzle? The whole film is like a jigsaw puzzle. Each puzzle piece: Material, Actors, Cameras, Editing, Sound, Location, even the Weather, was the result of planning but was also an accident. All I had at the beginning was a pile of hair from my local hairdresser Gio (Bellie Fuori). She collected different kinds of hair for me, and somehow I ended up with three piles: red, dark and blonde hair. Then, I started drawing an initial storyboard by
simply placing the material in different locations…. The story really unfolded/came together in editing, but also during each day of shooting. The actors developed the story by improvising, but also the locations, and camera affected the narrative. When editing, I was working with fragmented narratives. I wanted to create suspensions, flashbacks, and this element of ellipses – a missing portion of the story or narrative that I wanted a viewer to imagine for themselves when I create any work. I think this is what you are suggesting is the similarity to Romeo Nouvea, Alain Robbe-Grillet’s cinema style. At the time of making the film, I did not know about Robbe-Grillet’s films. I never studied film. However, I really believe that how I work as an artist, creating participatory/sensorial installations and performances, has a great influence on my films. At the time of shooting I had freshly finished my Masters Degree in Scenography, where I researched on the senses and openness of work: Scenography, Play and Spaces Between was the title of my dissertation. One of the readings, which I sourced out was Umberto Eco: The Open Work (1989), and another was the McLuhan essay: Inside the Five Senses Sensorium. The latter mentioned the Tactile Eye and how the progress of technology
affected the understanding and the function of sound within contemporary architecture. Surely, this research was somehow influencing how I made Herstory. Sound, for sure, was a big part of the whole post-production process as well. I was very insistent about getting strong sound. James Kelly, a sound designer from Cork, Ireland, created the sound. I met him through an ad on a filmmaking website. We never met. We worked over email. He had experience of making this strong science-fiction style sound, close to instrumental composition. I really was interested in the type of sound that creates drama, and suspense, and sometimes, as I was describing to him – the flying effect, or metal… I was lucky he was patient, and listened to my every request. I wish I had a budget, because I could really then push the sound even more, by using more real instruments and effects. But you know, that was all we could all do at the time, working for free without a budget. Now, looking back, I wish I had heard earlier about the Nouveau Roman movement. My films, as well, as my art, share a great similarity to Alain Robbe-Grillet’s style of films. The supposedly fragmented narrative, playing with sound, past and present, as well as trying to
create work that can be universal, it is also found in my works. After watching Last Night in Marlenbad, and The Man Who Lies, I learned that to show the multiple options of interpretation, to kind of allow the viewer to make their own sense of the film, or perhaps to show different options, is similar to what I intend with my projects. Sound for sure creates a sense of mystery. However, I feel I do my works in a different way. When I create, I try to find the links between supposedly not connected characters, locations, time, and sounds and try to find a relationship between them all. I am not entirely sure if the viewer can see this. My aim is always to connect with the viewer on the deeper psychological level, the sensorial, bodily, and not necessarily logical. I try to achieve this through playing with the audience’s perception by showing the story, but not really; by playing sound in the expected places, but not always. I want the viewer to imagine these spaces in between and fill them in with their personal memory and imagine what really happened. I want to make film about people for people. Herstory features a stunning work of editing. In your Director's statement you said "Visually, Herstory is a construction and (de) (re) construction of images". Can you comment on this peculiar aspect of
your film? Yes, in the editing itself I have not created any effects, however, I was looking at visual ways to create suspense, and the feeling of flashback. The kind of suspense where you can play with the viewer’s expectation in relation to narrative and sound. It also looks like part of narrative has been skipped, or is missing, but it was my attempt to connect with the viewer and hope they will fill in the gaps by thinking about their own life, present and past. The sound in this film shows more than the actual visuals. Although the visuals are somehow attractive and mysterious, the sound really tells more. The hearable, and not-hearable parts were created with the hope of creating the perspective of watching, like I was asking the viewer to come closer to listen, and to move away while watching loud parts. I thought about the viewer’s own experience through her/his own point of view, guided by hearing and perhaps touching or feeling touched, if you like. Construction | Deconstruction | Reconstruction was the way the whole film was created. I worked by constructing the images out of hair, yet if I did not mention to you that I used hair, you would have struggled to figure it out. That is why I say deconstruction. I made this choice in editing, and it made sense there. I applied a massive reduction to the initial material. I
decided it will be only used fragmentarily, as a scary effect/puppet that will only appear for a second in a different part of the film. Reconstruction was the attempt at construction of the photographic images I was getting in my imagination about the shoot and characters, then totally reconstructing them, by allowing myself to work intuitively and playing with construction, by asking the crew to improvise, to contribute and by allowing for accidents to happen. So, yes, the process I worked with was the swerving between construction, deconstruction and reconstruction of images, but also playing with the expectations of the sound. The mixing of fictional with realistic. How did you conceive the visual style of your film? What were some of your aesthetic decisions? The film was made as a process, so it was led by the visual reduction and development. The cinematographic effects like the foggy texture, flashing lights, rain, were all recorded on the camera. I produce digital film the same way I used to work as a photographer, when I worked with analog. The effects are created with the lens, and playing with the camera settings. I experiment on the shoot, like I had an analog negative camera in my hands, and I know that I can play with what is happening in the space
between the real image and the lens. This proximity/space volume between is where the play happens for me. In the same way, I am aiming to play with the space of the finished artwork and the artwork viewer. The aesthetic decisions in the process of making, and displaying/ presenting a film or an artwork are, for me, the spaces in between aesthetics. Herstory is made without a script. Can you describe the shooting of your film? Yes. The shooting was organized and happened within two to three weeks. When I started, I had no budget, no equipment, and no crew. I made this film from nothing. Within 2.5 months, next to my full time job, working nights, using time off from work, which I had after my accident in the previous month, I made everything happen. I worked in pain, and exhaustion. The shooting itself was simply improvised and part of it was an accident. All I had at the beginning was a pile of hair from Gio. Then I would go and film it. The next step was to watch the footage, I always do it, sometimes on the shoot. People tell me it is a waste of time, but I think watching and listening is very important part in making/directing films. New ideas for the shoot would come from watching initial footage. I repeated this a few times, each time bringing
new material. Suddenly, I started realizing that everything gets clearer step by step. This working process brought to existence three characters: an actress with blonde hair, one with red hair and a brunette. Two of them where then still not continuously chosen, but the girl with red hair appeared vividly in my imagination. I needed to find her. The other two actresses just happened to be at the right place at the right time. It was a pure accident. I am so lucky. Lottie Bowater was my camera woman on a couple of shoots, and as I had this strong image of the dancer in my head, on the second day of shooting she brought her mum, Julie Hills. It turned out that this was just perfect. Julie, a trained dancer, did without any effort exactly what I wanted. It was just a perfect coincidence. The same thing happened, as Lottie ended up in the shoot. Lottie is a musician and emerging documentary director, but used to be a model in the past. I had no clue. I had noticed this incredible honesty and beauty in her, when we were shooting closeups of hair one night at the carpark. The wind blew her dark hair in the red street lamp light, and that was it! I knew, I wanted her in the film.
Then, I needed a couple coming together in the park. I didn’t know why, but I thought dancing it would be a good idea. I knew I wanted a female and a male to meet in the park and to be intimate in some way, but I did not know yet in what way. Shooting with Joanna Drake (Joe) and Justin Groves was a pure experiment. I had a cinematographer/operator Sara Ross-Samko, who found me on social media, straight from the US. Joe and Justin were from the Casting Pro website. I had only met Sara a few days before. I only had email exchanges with Joe and Justin before the shoot. When I saw their online profiles, I was really impressed with their showreels. Joe really struck me. She is so so talented. She can act so naturally, and so trustworthy. She can make a very boring role really interesting. Justin amazed me by his always-changing persona, like he was fluid: he can become anybody, a teenager one day, then an old man. It is incredible. I thought he was much older when I met him. They were my first professional actors I worked with, they were great, they understood what I am after right away. During preparations – costume, styling – it started raining. Sara was very confident,
and convinced me that rain would be a great idea. The actors agreed. All three of them did a great job. Sara even caught a cold after that, I felt bad. We were soaked.
Whatever I noticed was interesting, whether a simple gesture, a word or a look. I would do my best to really filter it, make it look natural and to stand out.
Shooting with Kate Warner â€“ a friend, painter, and red haired lady, happened last. Kate only happened as a coincidence. She offered help because the actress with the red hair I found pulled out from the shoot on the day. Kate was brilliant, silent and beautiful. Her stance was just right. I did not have to speak much. She is not an actress, but she would be very good one, if she ever decides to pursue this career. This was also the last day of shooting. I knew that I had got everything I needed. The shoot with Kate was a lovely, calm and easy closure to the shooting of the whole film.
I did not want to give them too many directions, I wanted them to be free and feel free to interpret the emotions/ feelings I asked them to act/show in they own way. Not bounded by what the camera sees, or how they look, I wanted them to play in the space, like it was a stage for them. I also wanted them to think small and not complicated.
Your actors did an excellent job making this film a very human one. How did you work with them? When I direct it is very important to me to be as intimate as possible with my actors. I always want to make them comfortable and want to get the best out of them. I want them to be themselves, and really get their pure, natural self out. I asked them many times to repeat things, but also observed them.
I am deeply interested in being human, not perfect, but humble, complicated but with incredible strength, even aggressive but with a reason. I am also interested in psychology and peopleâ€™s natural behavior, which is deeply rooted to their true self. Herstory was your first directorial experience. What was the most challenging thing about making this film? The most challenging thing was managing the shoot, when there was more actors, camera people, crew and gear. I was running back and forth between the camera image and the
real action, to make sure it was the best. I also learned that what looks better on the screen does not necessarily look that great in reality, and vice versa. So the challenge was not having enough crew members, or professional enough equipment which would have made it easier to manage the shoot. Also, the lack of budget cost me lots of hard work, and compromising on different aspects of production and postproduction, which could have made this film much better in quality. We have previously mentioned Alain Robbe-Grillet, yet your filmmaking style is closer to Gaspar Noe ad Leos Carax. Who among international artists influenced your work? For sure it is Gaspar Noe, and his often wrenching narratives. He makes films with heavy psychological content. When you watch his films, the viscerality of the story and visuals can make your shiver, even feel sick and disgusted – like the real world is sometimes. I truly belive that all artists, especially filmmakers, have a stormy past or are “affected” if you like, and truly, I am not an exception. That is why I want to
understand and connect with the world/viewer, or speak about the world / people and about their heavy psychological content. This level of connection is for sure, not light and easy, but it is honest, richer and truthful. It creates stronger intimacy, and honesty about the word and the story. This is where many people’s real life is. My greatest influences for sure are: Kieslowski, Tarkovsky, Lynch, early Aronovsky, as well as Bunuel. I still have embedded in the tissue of my brain some beautiful shoot from Persona and Pi. I love the magical and surrealistic atmosphere of The Mirror, and Stalker. Mulholland Drive and Inland Empire’s twisted narratives make me think and try to fix it or make a new story each time I watch them. I would say that not only directors influenced my work, but also the artist Matthew Barney, choreographer Sasha Waltz, fashion designer Yamamoto, and music. I think the influence is something that is a mixture of what one watches on TV screen, sees in the theatre and opera, in exhibitions and in live music concerts. It is also a mixture of what one has experienced, and produced as a creative practitioner. I was/am: artist, photographer,
scenographer, dancer and even singer. I read Sartre, Nietzsche and Eco as a teenager; as child I listened to punk rock, then as a young adult I did mathematics. You know, even breathing, doing yoga, or even walking on the street is an inspiration for me as well. For more than half a century women have been discouraged from getting behind the camera, however in the last decades there are signs that something is changing. What's your view on the future of women in cinema and animation? I hope there will be more females working behind the camera, and with other equipment-based professions such as lighting, sound, computers and of course directing. I usually work with females as operators, it is because I believe they can understand me better, especially, what I am trying to do, and what I am talking about. They can see how I see, they are great at multitasking and seeing a bigger picture. All my films are always made with female operators: for my last films it was not only me, it was Sara Ross- Samko and Lottie Bowater. For Poison, it was Daniela Sbrisny,
myself, Eva Ott and Tania. Lottie already accompanied me twice on the film set. She is good, especially with putting up with all my demands and seeing the big picture. Woman are creative and reliable, as well as technically savvy. Woman are more likely to experiment and think outside of the box, when it comes down to the equipment, lighting and technology. Women are more adaptable and can swerve between things. Thanks for your time and thought, Barbara. We wish you all the best with your career. What's next for Barbara Bargiel? Have you a particular film in mind? Yes, I would really like to make a longer film now, perhaps 20 minutes long, or a feature, with a good story, big crew and a budget. This would really be my dream. But thinking in small steps, I have this idea for live music to be a part of my film, you know. I want musicians to become actors, maybe even dancers. I like senses and classical music… I like the body in space…and architecture ….but I still don’t know what exactly this will develop into. Time will tell.
ashley george Hema (USA, 2015)
Hema is an intimate exploration of the female body's special connection with the ebb and flow of the universe, and it's crucial involvement in the direct replenishment, nourishment and care for natural rebirth and growth. The title of this work is a play on 'hemoglobin', the red protein responsible for moving oxygen through the blood of vertebrates. Much like hemoglobin directly influences the successful function of our lifeblood, it is my view that women are direct influencers on the successful function of reproducing in both the maternal-spiritual sense as well as the physical act. Our bodies are powerful vessels and this work intends to highlight the magical elements within the female body through the eyes of a queer woman who lives in a physical-spiritual place of empowerment, confidence and pride in mind and body. By focusing on this character's fetishization of the menstruation process, Hema seeks to empower women to be universally proud of the miracle nature provides the female form as it cycles through existence, and to share this recognition of power with other women in their lives as they see fit. A woman's body is a temple as much as the male body is, however, this film is purely created for women as a reminder to not feel negatively about our relationship with blood. The act of menstruation is a potent
part of being a woman and it's so much more than just a biological cycle for childbirth. Taboos on menstruation are common and have led to a passive, social shunning which harbors feelings of guilt, shame, and uncleanliness in the minds of women around the globe. Historically, humans once attached an element of the sacred to menstrual blood however, with Taoists and Ancient Egyptians mixing menstrual fluid with red wine to increase spiritual power and the Greeks spreading it across the land as fertilizer in the Spring. These views have changed over time, as everything does, but it's vital that women accept the mysterious connections with the moon, lunar cycles and the tides of the oceans. Our bodies are connected, we are universally powerful, and we are the lifeblood -- and for this, we should celebrate. Hema is a mind-bending reflection on authenticity. With unforgettable imagery, Ashley George explores notions of the body and identity investigating the intimate ritual of menstruation. Throughout the film the viewer is asked to follow the logic of sensation. Ashley moves into the realm of real experience, realizing a stunning tapestry of sounds and images. We are pleased to present Ashley George for this CinĂŠWomen
Edition. Ashley, tell us about your trajectory as a filmmaker. What inspired you to express yourself in this medium? Thank you for this opportunity to discuss my work! I’ve always been obsessed with film and moving images, the stories they tell and the people that make them, that live inside of them. Film has always mirrored an accessible fantasy world for me—a place where I can really explore alternate perceptions of reality and the basic fundamentals of being a human, especially the emotion and transformation we experience in the real world. When I was a little girl I’d sit in front of a huge television box and soak in films and music videos for hours and hours. If I wasn’t sitting, I was dancing… Fantasies I didn’t even know I had were introduced to me on the big screen and it made my
childhood that much more of a thrill ride. Movies made my simple, suburban life so much more exciting. It was like huge lightbulbs were constantly going off inside of my little juvenile mind, so I fell in love with visual storytelling as a very young, very curious little girl. In May 2007 I was 22 and moved to San Francisco. I was the definition of a wandering soul and didn’t really know what I wanted to do but what I did know was that I wanted to learn how to more creatively express myself and make films. In January 2009 I joined a small film collective called Scary Cow that was a group of 160 then and now has 285 active members. Being in this collective taught me the ropes about producing films, assembling teams. This collective was basically my film production school. Around that same time I started studying
for my BA in Cinema at San Francisco State University and instantly fell in love with experimental films, especially work from Maya Deren and Kenneth Anger. Experimental film taught me that you don’t have to follow any particular guidelines about length, genre, aesthetic. The films from Anger and Deren had such an intense mix of ritual, fantasy, a dreamy quality. Studying film history and theory helped me find my own voice and inspired me to express my own personal thoughts in a visual medium and here I am now focusing on self-exploration and assembling my own inner ramblings on film. When I make films I feel like I’m bringing to the surface these elements of myself that I’ve needed to explore. Film’s my therapy and I’m grateful to have found a way to explore my persona. In your work you push your themes of
sexual independence to their boiling point. Can you introduce our readers to this fundamental idea behind Hema? I started working on Hema after joining a team of queer artists that were developing a feature film anthology based on the handkerchief (hanky) code. This anthology HANKY CODE: THE MOVIE was produced by Periwinkle Cinema out of San Francisco and had filmmakers from around the globe choose colors and make a film on that color’s corresponding fetish according to the code. There were no rules and we had the freedom to do whatever we wanted to do; I think you could even make your own color/fetish combo. I chose to explore a queer woman’s fascination with blood and body and that’s how Hema began. The title character is a powerful sexual figure and,
like the title character in my first film Luma, is a largely solitary, independently happy individual. While she enjoys independence and self-intimacy, in this film I explore the concept that all women are essentially connected to the universe through the ritual of menstruation and that we could find power in sharing this connection physically. Women are so insanely beautiful—our bodies are incredible. We can menstruate and find sexual pleasure in this ritual solo but we don’t have to, and Hema experiments with her own sexual independence by seeking out a partner to embrace her fascination with menses with her. Hema aside, the concept of independence is a huge part of my work in general and I’m constantly trying to challenge myself as an individual to be confident in myself and my own sexual power. I’ve always identified as a very independent person and I try to be in all aspects of my life but that doesn’t mean that I want to be totally alone and
Hema doesn’t want to be totally alone either. Hema explores my idea of sex as an act of extension—a transformation consisting of two bodies uniting to form a singular ecstatic unit. So, the fundamental call to action stemming from Hema’s sexual independence is to feel empowered and sexy solo because you are a beautiful and powerful individual but also be open to sharing this empowerment with others when you can. You’re more than just a physical body that bleeds—you’re connected to the moon, the oceans, the universe. You’re magic and if you can and want to, share it. Surrealism might be a deeply subjective practice, but by definition it is also a hyperrealist one. Your cinema is marked by a stunning mix of realism and surrealism. How did you develop your filmmaking style? My style comes from my fascination with
diversity in expression—in the eyes—and I’m really in love with the little things, simple things. The purity in a subtle glance, the soft touch of a hand on a shoulder. I’m very easily engaged and amused. With that said, I find equal beauty in pure silence and stillness of everyday life as I do in quirky, unique and fantastical creations, so this contributes to my blend of realism and surrealism. How far can we mend, blend, bend the way we see ourselves in a way that we can relate to in a meaningful way? How can we learn more about ourselves by playing with signs, symbols and things we identify with? I admit I live in a bit of a fantasy world— I’m an avid dreamer—so I inject my dreamy renditions of my reality into my films. Maybe it’s my escape mechanism. There’s a really powerful thing about stillness and I try to stylistically play with the concept of stillness. It’s so deep and
oceanic, trance-like… The depth of a powerful close-up has limitless opportunities for translation and I think that’s so beautiful. If you can relate or create your own interpretation of an image from one of my films, then I feel I’ve succeeded. After all, I just want to make you feel something. When I’m shooting I always have a script because it helps me stay focused and grounded but things change really often and I have to trust myself to go with what feels right in the moment. It’s all about aesthetics and mood and making sure that whatever I’m capturing mirrors the vision in my mind as closely as possible because I’m literally trying to push reality into another stratosphere and create my own video dream space. What challenges did you face while making your short Hema?
Besides being locked out of studio on the first day of shooting in the freezing New York winter snow, the shoot went really smoothly. My cast and crew were very professional and passionate about making this film and joined me in creating an imaginative, empowering piece that’s a bit different from other projects they’ve worked on. Hema is a film with naked, ecstatic women covered in blood getting each other off. If I had a juvenile, immature crew things would have went a whole lot differently but they were really supportive of my concept and really helped me pull it together and make it a fun experience. I feel really lucky to have had such a great group of people that took Hema seriously. We didn’t have much money so it was definitely a passion project but I think that as long as you have a strong vision brewing up in your head and heart as a director, and that you can
communicate that vision well, you’re good to go. My actresses were seriously amazing. I could have easily had an uncomfortable time casting Hema and the lover but it really just happened so easily and naturally. I was in awe at the natural chemistry between Alma (Sauerbrey) and Shannon (Whalen). Both are really intuitive, honest and openminded women and it was a huge gift to have had them interested in being a part of this piece. Making Hema was a pretty humbling process really. If anything, the hardest part was confronting my own difficulties with expressing the intimate imagery in my head. I’m not a shy person but it wasn’t completely natural directing a more sexual piece. I had to get out of my element a little bit, but all’s good. In these last years the line between video art and cinema is growing more and more vague. When we watched Hema we immediately thought of
Peter Greenaway's words "Only cinema narrows its concern down to its content, that is to its story. It should, instead, concern itself with its form, its structure." Who were some of your chief influences? The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover is seriously one of the most intensely weird, beautifully shot films I’ve ever seen. Greenaway is a master. I’ll never forget the first time I saw that film in an Images in Eroticism class at SFSU… Anyhow, my list of chief influences isn’t small. My number one, always and forever, is Maya Deren. What I would give to be able to make something with her… Maybe in another life? One can dream! She’s just super deep and knew how to really dig into your psyche. I believe it to be a rare occasion when one experiences greater wonder and contemplation than someone experiencing one of her films. She’s smooth. Perfect. I love her. I just
want to feel something when I watch films or consume any medium really. A few other artists that really get me feeling and thinking are Alejandro Jodorowsky, Kenneth Anger (of course), Herzog, Catherine Breillat, Gaspar Noe, Fellini, Michel Gondry, Carolee Schneeman, Barbara Hammer. I love Aranofsky’s Requiem for a Dream, Lisa Cholodenko’s High Art, Fassbinder’s Ali: Fear Eats The Soul. These films and directors really get my heart beating, head spinning and fast. Your idea of visual art as the ultimate expression therapy is very interesting, can you introduce our readers to this fascinating concept? Creating art is a process of stepping outside of myself a bit. It’s really nice to collaborate with others and visualize thoughts and emotions. Every shot in Hema and Luma were purposely constructed like I was mirror-imaging the
vision in my mind—from color to character expression to sounds and textures. When I feel I’ve nailed the look it’s like I’ve won the lottery or something. It’s just a really therapeutic process for me—having the experience of turning my dreams and thoughts into a reality. I’m a believer in cinetrance. It’s one thing to consume a finished piece and it’s a whole other experience actually producing it. I approach directing as my own therapeutic cine-trance. It’s my altered, higher state—turning my set into my own underwater deprivation tank experience. I feel like this quote on floating and meditation from Dr. John C. Lilly echoes my feelings exactly: “In the province of the mind, in the inside reality, what one believes to be true either is true or becomes true within certain limits. These limits are to be discovered experimentally and experientially. When so determined these limits are found to be
further beliefs to be transcended.” Visual art helps me discover my own limits and explore and experiment with them with the goal of transcending. For more than half a century women have been discouraged from getting behind the camera, however in the last decades there are signs that something is changing. What's your view on the future of women in cinema? I think the future of women in cinema is positive, improving... We have trailblazing women out there paving a path. While we’ve been working on this path for a really long time, women are always finding new ways to get their voices out there. Look at Rose McGowan, Lena Dunham, Jill Soloway—cool chicks with loud, meaningful voices and opinions that are helping to revolutionize women’s place in the arts, and everywhere really.
Essentially, women need to continue making art, expanding the community and be honest and open with ourselves about what we want. Hire women! Make a point to find women to work with. Be empowered because you can be. Your voice is important. And not that men don’t feel but women we just experience life differently and that’s special and something we should share with the world. I’m not exaggerating when I say I believe women are magical. Everyone’s got a bit of magic in them and it comes in all shapes, sizes, identities. Women have a strong influence and we do have power. We do amazing things every day. We need to keep going and not give up. Things are changing slowly, but they’re changing and we’ve got this. Thanks for your time and thought, Ashley. We wish you all the best with your filmmaker career. What's next for Ashley George?
Right now I’m working on my MA in Media Studies at The New School in NYC—and focusing on interactive art and design. I'm working on an installation that experiments with live storytelling using sound, visuals, smell and body movement that help recreate personal experiences that others can enter and become a part of on a sensory level. Lots of work to do on this, but very excited about progress. I'm also currently working on my first narrative short about a teenage girl who has a a physically intimate relationship with her best girlfriend. The film centers around the one afternoon she chooses to lose her virginity to a guy as a means of naively making sense of her blurry sexuality and this act puts her relationship with her friend on the spot. Shooting in January and hopefully on film --- stay tuned at www.triplegemmy.com.
angie baggett Forever Hollywood (USA, 2015)
Forever Hollywood is a smartlywritten, elegantly executed genre-piece. How Angie Baggett constructs the film is incredibly mature and knowing; she clearly understands genre, subverting all the cliches of mainstream cinema and injecting new blood into horror films. We are pleased to present Angie Baggett for this year's CinéWomen Edition. Angie, tell us about your trajectory as a filmmaker. What inspired you to express yourself in this medium?
Thank you for the honor of being among the selected CineWomen Cahiers! I was inspired to be a filmmaker because I believe that there is power in story. Stories shape our truth and help develop who we are as individuals and as a society. I have always liked reading because I could examine others’ stories and characters in an intimate way, using them to evaluate my beliefs, to reflect on my fears, and to challenge the world around me. This enjoyment extends to film where I often critique the story or characters and think “I would have done it differently”. This is especially true for books I had read that have been adapted to film. When I decided to pursue film, I initially wanted to be a cinematographer. I love the artistic aspects of framing a shot, lighting, and using color to influence the audience’s mood. However, only a portion of the story can be told with these things. I wanted to tell the whole story and that starts with a script. I discovered I enjoy writing and I chose to pursue screenwriting as my MFA focus but I still want to tell the whole story. This means putting together a team that can see
the same creative vision for the script and bring it to life in a powerful and honest way and that is why and how I began directing and producing. Plus it happens to be the most invigorating and fun thing a person can do! We want to take a closer look at the genesis of your film: how did you come up with the idea for Forever Hollywood? Forever Hollywood came about because my writing partner, Julia Watson, and I were gearing up for a filmmaking contest. We had decided to participate in the San Diego 48 hour film festival after meeting on a different film project but we had never written together before. With the 48 you draw a genre, write a short script, and produce a finished project within 48 hours. We decided to test the
waters and see how quickly we could turn out a script together before the actual contest. We put several genres in a hat and drew horror. Within a couple of hours, the initial script for Forever Hollywood was born. Later, we came back to the script, decided we loved it, polished it, and began the preproduction process. The film’s strength lies in its plot. What’s your writing process like? My writing process varies but usually begins with a concept or question, “what if…” What if astral projection allowed for time travel? What if aliens were microscopic and lived inside human hosts? What if a producer sent a group of actors into the woods to die for his movie? Once I entertain the concept, and decide I like it, I begin by outlining the basic story. “If that were
true, then these things would happen.” The real writing begins with the characters. I take a great deal of time deciding on and developing my characters. I watch clips of other similar characters, I research personality types and flaws, I draw from people I have known and once I have the characters well defined, telling the story becomes their job. I do a detailed outline of each beat of the movie and use note cards so that the scenes can be fluid- easily removed, reinserted, or rearranged. How the script plays out is completely dependent on the characters and once you know them, they guide the decisions. If Forever Hollywood had been written with Albert, the producer, going into the woods with the actors, the story would have been vastly different. But Albert, being selfserving, would never go into the
woods- it’s dirty and dangerous! Each character’s personality governs the flow of the story and that is why writing the characters and knowing what they would do in any given situation is the essential component to writing my scripts. But I will say, sometimes characters step outside the box and surprise me! Forever Hollywood is clever and well-built, with an excellent cinematography. We have been deeply impressed by the way you use common locations reminding us of Dogme95 movement. Can you describe your approach to lighting? We actually used different lighting in Forever Hollywood than I had used before. Lighting for this film was unreal- purposely over brightened in some scenes- in line with
expressionism where feeling was more important than creating a sense of realness. I wanted to create an obtrusive, bright, and showy context using high key lighting to make things feel expansive rather than closed in. This was often used in classic comedies from the 1930â€™s and provides a paradox to the horror theme in the film. This followed in line with the satirical tone of the project. Your film reveals an interesting balance between dark comedy and pure horror, like in the films of Christopher Schlingensief: irony in the film also helps to create colourful tragicomedy rather than tragedy. Can you introduce our readers to this idea behind Forever Hollywood? In tragicomedies the topic is serious
and dramatic, but is interlaced with comedy to create a lighter tonality and to break tension throughout the story. Often the comedy decreases as the drama rises, coming to a head at the end. Forever Hollywood tackles the subject of the treatment of up and coming actors by the movie industryoften seeing them as expendable and exploiting them to line the pockets of executives. Forever Hollywood takes an even more pointed look at the treatment of female actors in the industry, seeing them as sexual objects or eliminating strong females who upset what is seen as the natural order of things in the industry. By subverting the stereotypical character types and usual horror tropes, Forever Hollywood offers satire and irony to make a serious and challenging topic seem absurd and at times even laughable- but non the less horrific.
We have previously mentioned the films of Christopher Schlingensief. Can you tell us your biggest influences in art and how they have affected your work? I have so many different influences in art- this may take a while to answer! One of my favorite artist is Hieronymus Bosch. I remember during high school I went on a field trip to an art museum and I came across one of his paintings. All of the other students moved on quickly, but I was entranced- the longer I looked the more things I saw. History, pain, fear, happiness, sadness, tragedy, beauty, and ugliness were all intertwined and emotion plagued me as I stood there. I loved it and hated it but could not look away. I want to inspire emotion and intensity like that. Influences in film and storytelling include Fritz Lang, Rod Sterling, Tod
Browning, Alfred Hitchcock, George Romero, Stanley Kubrick, Wes Craven, David Fincher, and John Hughes, among others. I like the themes and tone of Lang and Sterling. I still remember Twilight Zone episodes like “The Old Man in the Cave”, “The Midnight Sun”, and “Eye of the Beholder” even though it has been years since I have seen them. They explored humanity and science-fiction in an eerily accurate way. I like the folklore aspects of Tod Browning’s work. I like the honesty that Hitchcock put into his films. Romero always offered layers, things you could look for and read between the lines. He pushed boundaries. The same can be said of Kubrick, Craven, and Fincher. They also explored themes of madness and subconscious, which I find intriguing. I picked up a lot about character portrayal from Hughes. A
professor in my screenwriting program once asked me about my two favorite movies from when I was a teen. I told him I loved Nightmare on Elm Street and The Breakfast Club. He told me every movie ever I make or write will be a cross pollination between the two in varying degrees. I thought that sounded crazy. However unintentional, when I survey my scripts, I find out he ended up being right.
like CGI, score, editing, colorization, and sound. I think it is great to have the means and technology to complete a project with people who have never met, but at the same time keeping the creative vision in tact throughout the process can be challenging.
What was the most challenging thing about making this film?
For more than half a century women have been discouraged from getting behind the camera, however in the last decade there are signs that something is changing. What is your view on the future of women filmmakers?
The most challenging and rewarding thing about making any film is seeing the vision you had become a reality. With Forever Hollywood, there was a geographically dispersed team that had to coordinate and work together on the aspects of post-production,
I think the future of women filmmakers is promising. It definitely feels like a shift is happening, I am meeting and talking to more and more women who are becoming active in the film industry- it is very encouraging! As I said there is power
in story and my films will be inherently different just because of the voice I lend to them as a woman. Having diverse voices in film will lead to change and growth and new truths to explore. Doesn’t that sound exciting!? It’s like reading the same book with a new set of eyes, a new perspective, and seeing different colors and stories unfold that you never noticed before. If we use art to reflect on our understanding of the world and ourselves, having women’s voice be seen and heard in film can only lead to a more complete understanding of our world, ourselves, and our society as a whole. Thanks for sharing your time, Angie, we wish you all the best with your filmmaker career. What's next for Angie Baggett? Have you a particular film in mind?
I have a few script projects in the works, but the largest one is set up to be a feature length franchised trilogy. It is another socially conscious horrorcomedy called “Meat”. A secret university lab works to clone meat products with the goal of ending world hunger, but a small group of student activists set out to make a statement by setting these lab animals free. In the midst of their mission, something goes horribly wrong with some of the animal test subjects and a zombie virus that only effects animals breaks out in the lab- and beyond, hence: “The meek MEAT shall inherit the Earth!” Please feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn at: www.linkedin.com/in/akbaggett
holly britton Beautiful Me (USA, 2015)
Many times we hear that our voices need to be heard. However, when you are not from the “majority” these voices usually go unheard. There is a wall that stands allowing us to believe that we are set into majority or minority in all cases. Therefore, breaking that silent barrier that holds our voices back is the first step of improving any situation or condition that the “minority” resides. By breaking the silence barrier we are soon able to realize that we all fit into a minority category, even if we are part of the majority.
Shot with elegance and sensitivity, Beautiful Me is a psychologically penetrating
work. The story is simple, yet the implications of its characters’ actions and emotions are profound: silent and hidden behind her camera, Holly Britton creates an incisive portrait of a young teenage girl, an intimate character study. We are proud to present Holly Britton for this year's CinéWomen Edition. Holly, tell us about your trajectory as a filmmaker. What inspired you to express yourself in this medium? My love for the performing arts and films began when I was a young child. I recall attending a play when I was in fifth grade and saying that is what I wanted to do, entertain. I performed in a couple plays in my junior high school and again at my junior college. The more I experience I gained the more I fell
in love with the arts. As I was transition to an upper university I wanted to expand my skill set and changed my major to communications with a focus in filmmaking. Since switching I have learned how to express ideas and stories that would be a difficult to do in another medium. I have completed on music video in the summer of 2014 and most recently the short film Beautiful Me. We want to take a closer look at the genesis of your film: how did you come up with the idea for Beautiful Me? The general idea for the story about switching the norm of society came to me at a random moment in time. However developing the story took several different tactics. I started by recalling what my high school experience was like, when it came to viewing the bullying, how that effected
myself on the emotional level. I combined these stories and feelings, as well as experiences from others that I do know that have had experiences similar to Samanthaâ€™s in the story, to come up with the first draft. The draft was reviewed and edited with the suggestions of the team Arika Rogers and Manuel Veregas and assistance from Tim Manning. Beautiful Me features outstanding performances by Jamie Williams and Brendan Sullivan. How did you collaborate with them on this film? What is your preparation with actors in terms of rehearsal? I had known Jamie Williams and Brendan Sullivan prior to casting/shooting Beautiful Me. Although I had not worked yet with them, I knew that these were the
individuals who would be wonderful in these roles. We still held auditions for the roles and with the team the cast was selected, with Jamie and Brendan still best suited for the roles. As soon as roles were decided scripts were sent out for them to begin studying. Because this was a class orientated project rehearsal times were limited, and unattainable due to schedule conflicts. Rehearsing the scenes occurred as a once or twice run through before actually recording. Adjustments would be made in the practice runs and then we would begin shooting. Your observational style seems to be perfectly fitting as a counterpart of the emotional rollercoaster Samantha live through. We have been deeply fascinated by your clear story-telling. How did you
develop your filmmaking style? When developing as a filmmaker I realize that the more realistic the story seems the more likely I will connect to the film. I find this to be true as well for others which is why I try to remain realistic and believable in my approach to storytelling. I began with just writing scripts and when I did not like the feel, or if it felt unrealistic, I would change my method. For me, trial and error was the majority influencer on my style building. Although I am still early in my education and career, I will continue to build and adapt my style as I discover what works best for each story. What do you hope viewers will take away from the film? I hope that my audience will be able to
take a few things away from Beautiful Me. In society when everything is changing at a rate that is hard to keep up, we can sometimes forget about the humanity that still resides in others. We are not robots who can continue forward without being effect by others in some sort of way whether that is emotionally, physically, or mentally. Along with this, we do not know what others may be going through at any given moment even if they demonstrate a happy face. As a society people should be in general considerate of others in the way they would want to be considered.
This is probably the most difficult question to answer. When it comes to films I know I, myself, am a huge fan of Steven Spielberg, Christopher Nolan, Tim Burton, Lasse HallstrĂśm, and many more. It are these directors that have been a reoccurring preference for as long as I can remember. Their ability to see a clear image but staying true to their own style is probably the most influential things someone can take from another. Sometimes I think many people attempt to try and be similar to another who has been successful that they forget to be free to express their own ideas.
When we watched Beautiful Me we immediately thought of Bruno Dumont's cinema. Can you tell us your biggest influences in art and how they have affected your work?
From a visual point, Beautiful Me features an elegant cinematography. What technical aspects do you mainly focus on in your work?
For my own work, lighting is a key aspect of cinematography. The feel for a particular emotion or mood toward a character or an event can be dramatically effected by the lighting that is set for the scene. From my experience, lighting is also one of the most difficult aspects to also keep consistent throughout a filming process. Especially with it came to shooting Beautiful Me, lighting was difficult at some points because we shot everything during the early morning to mid-day time frame, including the night scenes, on different days. However Tim Manning, the cinematographer was very wonderful at producing the image I was looking for without having to adjust much from my initial description. For more than half a century women have been discouraged from getting behind the camera, however in the last decades there are signs that
something is changing. What's your view on the future of women in cinema? I think women are beginning to make a more dominant presence in the cinematic world and will continue to grow. We do primarily see males in the field but females will soon be demonstrating the spotlight is for all individuals who have a story to tell. Thanks for sharing your time, Holly, we wish you all the best with your filmmaker career. What's next for Holly Britton ? Have you a particular film in mind? This is the time in my filmmaking career where I am still early in the learning process and plan to complete my Masters in Fine Arts as I build my skills further. At this moment I know later this month I will begin working on a
bonnie curtis Fixated, 2015
With unforgettable imagery, Bonnie Curtis creates a surreal study of female sexuality and sensuality, focusing in particular the representation of women in the media. Seamlessly shifting between fantasy and reality, Bonnie mixes notions of surrealism with a deep interest in abstract Freudian psychological models: Fixated is a whirlwind of provocative imagery. We are proud to present Bonnie Curtis for this year's CinĂŠWomen Edition. Bonnie, can you tell us about your trajectory as a filmmaker? I developed an interest for filmmaking when I took a dance and film subject in my last year of university. I had a great teacher who introduced me to the infinite possibilities of film. During this time I realized I had an eye for creating dark and disturbing visuals in post-production. Recently I have created a couple of short experimental videos with unused footage from Fixated to play with different ideas and intents. I would like to adapt live performance works into dance films in addition to experimental films and installation pieces. My long-term goal is to cultivate a collection of works that combine installation, film and dance in a live performance setting. In Fixated you explore stereotypical views of female sexuality and sensuality. How did you come up with the idea for this work? I came up with the idea for Fixated when I was working on a live performance piece called Berggasse 19, which explored Freudian
developmental theory. I was developing a dance film for university and was contemplating creating a documentary about the creative process for Berggasse 19 as I had a lot of development and rehearsal footage that I wanted to use. One day I decided to play around with some development footage of myself in Final Cut to see what the program was capable of. I showed my teacher, who was impressed and convinced me to steer towards that idea rather than a documentary. I decided to develop my idea based on the themes in Berggasse 19 and to use costuming from the work. The piece explored our primal desire for sex and aggression, incorporating gender stereotypes into the work. The genders swapped characteristics; females became aggressive, dominant and sought sexual gratification while the male adopted feminine characteristics, being the source of fixation and attention from the females. He, representing the female body, was objectified, prized, and degraded by his society. I decided to take this theme of objectification and explore it further in Fixated. Fixated careens from the grotesque to the surreal, featuring a multi-disciplinary, eclectic approach to filmmaking. It's not by chance that your artist practice ranges from choreography to cinema. Can you tell us how your work as performer and choreographer has affected your cinematic imagery? Being a performer, your role is to convey the choreographerâ€™s artistic intent. The choreographer makes sure you have an understanding of all the little nuances that are
important to the work. In a live performance environment, you are limited in controlling the audience’s attention to these nuances. With film, you have greater control of where the audience’s focus is. Live performance cannot achieve the same imagery as film, where you can distort and manipulate the image to suit your purpose. While this is a similar approach in dance, manipulating movement to suit your purpose, you are constrained by the limits of the body and what the viewer’s eye picks up. Film is only constrained by your imagination and editing ability. You can control what the audience sees and where their focus is. I wanted to create something that could only work on film. Surrealism and psychoanalysis are two fundamental ideas behind Fixated. Can you tell us how the work of Salvador Dalì and Sigmund Freud have affected your film? Freud’s theories were the main stimulus for Fixated. His theories proposed an unconscious mind that influenced our
conscious behavior, which was driven by a sexual, primal energy. According to Freud, we are unconsciously fixated on sexual desire and gratification. I wanted to explore this unconscious fixation and how it impacts our perception of certain imagery. I wanted to focus on the source of sexual fixation for many, the female body. By manipulating and distorting the stereotypical image of an attractive female: young, slim with long, flowing hair, the viewer’s perception is altered. The source of fixation and arousal is no longer typical, provoking a different response from the viewer, reiterating the Freud’s theory of unconscious sexual fixations. Freud’s theories also inspired Salvador Dalì. His film ‘Un Chien Andalou’ with Luis Buñuel is something I took inspiration from. The imagery in the film is disturbing and elicits an emotional response from the audience. The frequent use of hands as a motif throughout the film is very interesting from a psychoanalytic standpoint. What is the significance of the hands and what do they represent? I wanted to explore how motif repetition and manipulation of
perception would affect the audience. Stylistically, the film owes much to the surreal world of Alejandro Jodorowsky, as well as Pipilotti Rist's foray into the dark world of sexual obsession. How did you develop your filmmaking style? Both Jodorowsky and Rist create art that is confronting. They challenge the viewer to rethink their views on life and humanity. As an artist, this is my drive to create, confronting the viewer and forcing them to think. I want them to wonder why they are uncomfortable with what they are seeing, what part of their unconscious is inhibiting their growth? As a filmmaker, and artist, I will constantly be experimenting and developing my style. This will be a lifelong practice. However, I do think my interest in horror and music videos has influenced my style. One of my favourite music videos is the video created by Floria Sigismondi for Marilyn Manson. The dark, disturbing, grotesque imagery is something that has stuck with me for nearly 20 years. I
am fascinated with the taboo and darker aspects of humanity, which I think is prevalent in my work. Coming from a dance background has definitely influenced my filmmaking. I am driven by music and the impact it has on movement. When creating Fixated, I wanted the music to accentuate the movement so by coordinating with the musical accents, you highlight not only the music but the movement as well. I was inspired by modern pop music videos, which convey the sexualized female body as a source of fixation. Combining sexualized movement with a child-like costume in a grimy, barren room creates an uncomfortable scenario for the viewer. I like making people uncomfortable and this comes across in my artistic practice. Could you take us through your creative process when starting a new project? I seem to be drawn to topics or themes that have impacted my life in some way or another. One work I created was taken from the behavior of my younger brothers who have autism. This was a way for me to
'Fixated’, based on Freudian theory, explores the interaction between camera and subject through the unconscious perception of sexuality and sensuality. The work uses stereotypical views of the female body to create a distorted image of feminine sexuality, focusing on areas that are synonymous with female gender and femininity. Whilst working on the stage production ‘Berggasse 19’, which focused on Freudian developmental theory, the idea of ‘Fixated’ developed. Freud’s theories proposed an unconscious mind that influenced our conscious behaviour, which was driven by a sexual, primal energy. According to Freud, we are unconsciously fixated on sexual desire and gratification. While his theories are controversial and disputed, there remains an element of truth to his theories. ‘Fixated’ aims to explore this unconscious fixation and how it effects our perception of certain imagery. ‘Fixated’ focuses on the source of sexual fixation for many, the female body. By taking the stereotypical image of an attractive female: young, slim with long, flowing hair, and manipulating to the point of utter distortion, the viewer’s perception is altered. The source of fixation and arousal is no longer typical, provoking a different response from the viewer, reiterating the Freudian theory of unconscious sexual fixations.
understand them better. When I begin a new project I like to research the concept before I begin any work, I want to know everything I can about it. I want to completely immerse myself in the information, although at times this is overwhelming. When you’re processing new information, which at times, can be confronting and intense, you question why you began this endeavor to begin with. At the time it is not a pleasant experience but you learn the most about yourself when you aren’t comfortable. Quite often I ‘psychoanalyse’ the people I work with and myself to gain a better understanding of who we are as humans. As my work centers on darker themes of humanity, I try to learn as much as I can about people and how their personalities have developed. Once I feel I have enough information to accurately convey my idea, I begin creating. When choreographing, I always go into the studio with a plan of what I would like to explore. Quite often I do not get through everything on my list as I get sidetracked with something else that has sprung out of nowhere. That is the true pleasure of
creating any art, the deviations from your plan that create something much greater than you could have imagined. The goal of any project is to have experienced something that reveals a part of me that was once hidden. I want to challenge myself, and my collaborators, to learn about who they are in the process of making something beautiful that represents that growth. You have performed for ‘Platform Shorts’ in the prestigious Sydney Fringe Festival: can you describe this experience? Performing for Platform Shorts was an experience I will never forget. I was in the first year of my Bachelor of Dance degree and I was eager to get out and perform. I was so excited to be given the opportunity to begin my career so early in my professional training. It was a fantastic environment to be a part of. Everyone involved was very supportive of each other, which is lovely to experience. I met some amazing artists who have helped me in my progression as an artist. I am thankful to be involved in
Platform Shorts again this year. I received a space residency to develop a new work, which is about violence against women. The work is being presented at a showing in early August and will be assessed and selected for participation in the Sydney Fringe Festival show in September. For more than half a century women have been discouraged from getting behind the camera, however in the last decades there are signs that something is changing. What's your view on the future of women in cinema? I hope the future for women overall changes, which it will with perseverance and determination. Because of the dominance of men in the film industry, women are generally portrayed from the view of the heterosexual male in film. Although this is changing as more people are getting involved in the push for gender equality. There has been a surge in festivals and companies focused on female-driven cinema. Storylines and casting are beginning to reflect this change. People often forget that women have
developed many of the greatest technical and artistic innovations in cinema. One day the achievements and contributions of women to cinema wonâ€™t be something that is overshadowed by gender. Thanks for sharing your time, Bonnie, we wish you all the best with your filmmaker career. What's next for Bonnie Curtis? Have you a particular film in mind? Thatâ€™s a good question. I have a couple of ideas but the project I will start working on next is a piece about the experience of human touch. I would like to stage this as a live performance piece and also adapt it to a film. I have discovered that many people are uncomfortable with being touched by others. Our modern society is impacted greatly by the invention of the Internet and reduction in face-to-face contact. The experience of touch is an interesting concept to explore. It has infinite possibilities. To stay updated, visit www.bonniecurtisprojects.com