Women CineMakers, Special Edition

Page 48

Women Cinemakers meets

Shantala Pèpe Lives and works in Brussels

My choreographic work explores themes of womanhood, the paradox of female power and vulnerability as well as the perception of female identity throughout history. I portray women figures in both my performances and films, making use of non-linear narrative strategies as a means to create evocative imagery and a sense of timelessness. I choose to make solo performances as a means to create an intimate and personal framework for this research. Embodied physical states, narrative soundscapes and contrasted lighting design: these are the building blocks of my performative language, which I combine in a concise and interactive way as a means to create powerful visual and metaphorical story telling that provides the viewer with a strong sensory and emotional experience rather than a conceptual one. The Magma Chamber draws its inspiration from a vision I had years ago. After a couple of years trying to make sense of it, it became clear to me that this was a vision of one of the darkest and most controversial female figures in history: the witch. My research led me to study female figures and representations in both myth and literature, their consistently ambivalent and often Manichean portrayal. I found that the witch had evolved from earlier archetypes of femininity and was perceived more and more negatively over time. In my film I sought to trace the reverse path, starting from the figure of the terrifying, possessed woman who is haunted by accusations and dominating voices, to the magician, the healer, the mother all the way to the enchantress as a means of retrieving her true innate power, her sensuality and sovereignty over her own body, face and voice. The film naturally evolved from the topic of witches to the question of female empowerment by confronting preconceived ideas and common imagery as a means of reclaiming freedom. The Magma Chamber is made of two very distinct parts which portray these ideas in performative actions and aesthetical choices: a closing door, a confined body cut in half, a faceless character hidden behind long hair which is uncovered in the final scene, the character’s frontal actions and gaze. We chose filming techniques used to make horror movies as a means to build tension and suspense, as well as long shot camera movements which were choreographed in order to captivate the audience’s attention. Lighting was designed once the performative material had been created while the film’s sound score was composed over a long period of time once the film had been fully edited.

An interview by Francis L. Quettier and Dora S. Tennant womencinemaker@berlin.com

Hello Shantala and welcome to

WomenCinemakers: you are a versatile artist working in the fields of dance, choreography and film-making, a broad-ranging and multifaceted artistic practice we invite our readers to discover by visiting your website http://www.shantalapepe.net. We would like to start this

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