Film Festivals continued

Film Festivals continued

Femmedia, 1998 Women's Film Festival

The Swedish Women's Film Organisation (Svenska Kvinnors Filmförbund, or SKFF) has been around since the 1980's and is composed of women working in film within the industry and independently in Sweden. Script writers, directors , distributors and various technical professionals belong to the organisation. On several occasions, SKFF has presented film festivals where directors such as Mai Zetterling of Sweden and Chantal Akerman of Belgium were guests. For 1998 ,the year in which Stockholm was the cultural captital of Europe, SKFF acquired funding for Femmedia, an international film and video festival with 64 productions made by women. An outstanding festival of high quality, Femmedia was organised by Marjut Ervasti who has previously put together several Gay Film Festivals in Stockholm ( unfortunately the male dominated Stockholm Gay Pride week has never used the title 'Lesbian and Gay Film Festival. This usage was hard won in the beginning in San Francisco and it will take decades before it will win here.)

What was unique about the festival

was of course, the lack of corporate sponsors as the festival was lucky enough to be funded entirely by cultural grants. The idea came to fruition after discussions about a women's film festival began to emerge in 1995. Then 1997 Finland put on a festival called Nordic Glory where a team was set up to bring such a festival to Stockholm. There were only two Swedish films at the festival and neither were made by women who would like to be called 'women's film directors'. To be identified as a woman this or that seems to be a stigma , a product of negative media which systematically is associated with feminism. Practically speaking though, to be identified as a 'woman's film director'carries with it the risk that a film may become marginalized and therefore not distributed in the major markets.

Kajsa Hedström, of the Swedish distributor Folkets Bio ,

the only female buyer among Swedish distributors claims that major female film directors will not premiere their films at festivals such as Créteil in order to avoid the stamp of being a woman's film. So acted Agnes Varda and Patricia Rozema , according to Hedström.But this seems to be an statement that is typical for buyers who do not have an awareness of the culture of women's film and who consider this a negative label. A film made by a woman has to be 200% better than a film made by a male director to be selected at the large (male) festivals. Plus, it is tough to get a film selected at Créteil and it is not automatically in the pipeline that a big name alone can guarantee screenings. Perhaps buyers have to select their festivals according to budgets and ideological priorities. The label 'good film' has a certain connotation which is nebulous but most male directors seem to satisfy the criteria for this and the festivals are a reflection of this. Women's festivals have totally different criteria which involves a consciousness that is rare at most large commercial festivals.

Olga, a documentary film about loneliness by Beata Korvar

was discussed at a panel on women's film production. Korvar called this a film "about a 'person' made by a person'" . Olga concerns the bitter life of a senior citizen from Poland who lives in her own apartment and receives care from the Stockholm social services. A major source of tension for Olga is the fact that she is an immigrant to Sweden and in old age feels increasingly more isolated because of living in a foreign culture with another language. The cinematography by Korvar was quite interesting with many subjective close ups typical and refreshing in films made by women, but OK, it is a film made by a 'person'.

The other film , Jordmån (Earthmoon) by Lisa Hagstrand was a documentary about a freeway plan which would disrupt ancient relics of interest to archeologists. Interesting juxtaposition of ancient versus modern development. Lisa Hagstrand was also principal photographer for Christina Olofssonn's I rollerna tre (Three Roles) about Harriet Andersson, Bibi Andersson and Gunnel Lindblom, three Swedish actresses who are united in Le Mazel, France the home of deceased film director Mai Zetterling who featured them in Flickorna made in Sweden in 1968.

The panel discussions of the festival

brought to Sweden international testimonies that it is possible to make and distribute women's films. Sweden usually defends its marginality by claiming that it is after all a little country yet in mainstream culture the world always comes to Sweden to enrich its cultural practice.The appearance of Laura Hudson of England's Cinenova (formally C.O.W.--Cinema of Women and Circles) and Debra Zimmerman and Erika Vogt of Women Make Movies in New York, distribution houses which exclusively feature films by women presented outstanding proof that such enterprises do successfully survive. Git Sheynius of Stockholm Film Festival and independent film producer Lisbeth Gabrielsson who has been a major player in the promotion of films made by women were also present on the panel.

Eight features were presented at Femmedia:

Stella Does Tricks,(Coky Giedroyc GB, 1996); Rimbaud, Verlaine, (Agnieszka Holland, France 1996);The Sticky Fingers of Time,(Hilary Brougher, USA 1996); La Bouche de Jean-Pierre,(Lucile Hadzilalilovic, France, 1996); War Zone (Maggie Hadleigh-West, USA, 1996); Wild Cards, Patti Kaplan, USA, 1996); and I'll Be Your Mirror(Edmund Coulthard and Nan Goldin, USA, 1997).

Other venues of the festival included a trilogy of films of religious rituals by Finnish director Pirjo Honkasolo; the innovative avantgarde work of Vivian Ostrovsky from Paris;films made by women on the Balkan war; and films from the Baltic States. These latter filmmakers exist in a tremendously sexist country and their 'spokeman' explained how difficult it was for female directors to be visible and get funding.Further contributions were Swedish video art, animated films and shorts.

The work of Belgian filmmaker Chantal Akerman

was perhaps the most magnificent aspect of Femmedia where the following films were featured. Many spectators had never seen her work: Blow Up My Town,a film made by the director at the age of 18, Room 1 and 2,films made during Akerman's residence in New York in 1972 and through her collaboration with cinematographer Babette Mangolte ( also cinematographer for early films by Yvonne Rainer) the classic Jeanne Dielman:three days in the life of a Belgium housewife, Rendez-vous d'Anna, a narrative on a travelling independent film director, Je Tu Il Elle a young lesbian woman's loneliness in a big city, and Chantal Akerman by Akerman herself made as a presentation of her own work in a series of portraits to feature international film directors. The filmmaker who was to have been present at the festival ironically missed her plane in the true spirit of 'rendez-vous d'Chantal'.

Email: Cinefemme