While women have occupied the silver screen since the dawn of cinema, female filmmakers have largely been underrepresented in the film industry. From the Silent Era with Alice Guy-Blaché — believed to be the first female film director with her 1896 feature, La Fée aux Choux; to Dorothy Arzner in the Classical Hollywood Era, a period plagued by the implementation of the Hays Code that designated topics such as abortion and birth control as taboo, which resulted in their censorship; to the realm of experimental and avant-garde cinema, from which legendary filmmakers like Maya Deren and Carolee Schneeman emerged.
With these precursory entrances into the industry, female filmmakers have been able to pave their creative direction into a wider range of genres nested in mainstream cinema, including science fiction, horror, and action: all genres in which male directors have historically prevailed.
This year, VIFF presents an exciting array of films directed by women. Here are a few to get you started:
Varda by Agnès
Delivered as a patchwork quilt of various lectures she gave across France, Varda crafts a narrative journey of her life as a photographer, filmmaker, and artist to offer humbling insights on cinema, life, and human nature. Punctuated with production footage, interviews, and more, this is a must-see for cinephiles who need a comprehensive introduction and seasoned Varda fanatics alike.
Jocelyn DeBoer & Dawn Luebbe
The American dream is blindingly bright in this creepy but jovial depiction of the suburbs that pulses with colour palettes that would make Wes Anderson do a double take. Straight-teethed adults flaunt braces as accessory, a child metamorphoses into a golden retriever, and a man acquires a taste for pool water. But when Jill (Jocelyn DeBoer, director) hands over her baby to Lisa (Dawn Luebbe, also director), things start to unhinge into a murderous chaos… that is, if the serial killer doesn’t get them first.
Judy & Punch
In this fable-like feature sparkling with equal amounts of magic, farce, satire, and feminism, skilled puppeteer Judy (Mia Wasikowska) has had enough of being overshadowed by Punch: her drunkard, less talented husband and puppeteer partner. After a bout of especially volcanic alcoholism that leads to an unforgivable tragedy that pushes her over the edge, Judy sets out to exact her revenge.
Purchase your tickets for Saturday, September 28, 2019 at 4:00 PM or Tuesday, October 8, 2019 at 9:15 PM.
Spring Tide (Chunchao)
Intergenerational trauma unfolds over three generations of Chinese women: grandmother (Elaine Jin) is a domineering leader for her patriotic generation that sing revolutionary songs in praise of Mao in her cramped home and orchestrates potential mates for her daughter. Her daughter, Jianbo (Lei Hao) is an emotionally repressed journalist, subject to the constant amendments made by her conservative editor and her authoritative mother. Despite these household turbulences, Jianbo’s daughter Wanting (Qu Junxi) is a free-spirited, glimmer of hope.
An intimate portrait of women in the family; how do their respective ways of escaping reality reveal their different contexts?
I Was at Home, but…
Two years after the death of his father, 13-year-old Phillip (Jakob Lassalle) runs away from home. One week and a foot injury later, he returns home, disheveled and changed, to his brittle mother, Astrid (Maren Eggert) and younger sister, Cleo (Clara Moeller). His return provokes a string of frictions in the household as overwrought Astrid tries to guess what set off her son’s behaviour, only to be faced with deeper existential questions.
Berlin School writer/filmmaker Angela Schanelec uses nonlinear editing and lengthy scenes without dialogue to capture the many and unusual manifestations of grief in this elusive work of arthouse cinema.
Moroccan writer/director Maryam Touzani’s debut feature follows the homeless, single, and pregnant Samia (Nisrin Erradi) and the widow that takes her in, Abla (Lubna Azabal) living on and navigating their lives without men in patriarchal Morocco. The story unfolds their inner struggles and emotions in a measured pace, capturing intimacy that feels organic, not engineered.