Film Festivals: Cineffable,

Annual Lesbian Film Festival Held in Paris at Halloween, 1998 Report

During Halloween this past fall, Cineffable, the largest annual festival of lesbian films in Europe was held in Paris. (28 October-1 November 1998) This festival is strong testimony that films do not have to be block busters with spinoffs (books, CD’s and fanfare) nor need huge budgets. The films presented show that the possibilities of world cinema are not only confined to predictable safe stories assured of a box office draw. All of these directors active in film and television in their countries have created intelligent and provocative films which demonstrate that lesbian iconography is multifacted. Living up to the promotion of the 1997 festival , the organisers declare ”lesbians resist all definitions and they are how they wish to be seen alone and with others, in bed and elsewhere”.

Lisa Cholendenko’s High Art ( elsewhere reviewed in this issue) was the debut film of the festival , one of fifteen films chosen to be distributed in France after Cannes 1997. Another entry,Sleeping Beauty , a short film made by Jamie Babbit features High Art star Radha Mitchell in another twist as an old flame to a cosmetician who works for a mortician. Laying the final touches to a female rock star corpse for a music video, the cosmetician decides to abandon her high school hopeless love, falling for the set female technician on the shoot. Another noteworthy film featured was The Brandon Teena Story by Susan Muska and Gréta Ólafsdóttír (USA, 1998) about a young midwestern woman awaiting a sex change operation who was raped and later murdered after her identity as a woman was revealed by local law officers on a bad check rap. Her murderers got the death penalty but the crime revealed the scary proviancialism of this midwestern town where former friends unable to come to terms with why she posed as a man posthumously revise their stories about Brandon Teena.

A high quality film festival, Cineffable was organised this year by fifty volunteers of women with many notable features which make for a successful festival. First of all, Cineffable is active during the year arranging smaller screenings and parties. Not only does this help to raise funds for film exhibition but it provides a loyal public during the actual festival. Modeled in part after Créteil Festival du Films du Femmes, festival patrons become members of the organisation. Prior to each screening, a short film is shown with the festival icon where this year all films were subtitled in French for the first time. Notable themes from these are presented with well attended debates after screenings. Several events were arranged this year along this year’s themes : lesbians and: Judaism , justice, aging, relationships, the law and sexuality. Festival facilities are spacious enough for the patrons with lounge activities and a small bar. Nearby is a tent set up with women venders, festival posters and vegetarian food. Cineffable has a well organised web page with festival information a year in advance. (

Publicity in the form of flyers and festival brochure is modest with advertisement bought by women’s cultural centers, cafés and Lesbia, a national magazine which can be bought at local newstands around France.Cineffable, Annual Lesbian Film Festival Held in Paris at Halloween.

A look at the public prizes awarded after the festival screenings reveals the depth and vision of this years entrants :

Best Long documentary: Reno Finds Her Mom by Lydia Deal Pilcher ( USA, 1997, 16 mm color 90’) . This two time documentary filmmaker has previously made films on self- defense and civil disobedience. The film is a document about the search by a performer for her biological mother and chronicles the adoption process in USA.

Best Feature film: Alles Wird Gut --All Will Be Well , by Angelina Maccarone (Germany, 1997,16 mm color, 97’ ) A meeting between, Nabou a black German lesbian and Kim, a straight black office worker. Their slowly emerging love is explored in contrapoint to the racism of contemporary Germany . Maccarone works for German television and has previously co-directed two films.

Best Short documentary: After the Second Date (USA,1996, color video,25’) Kathyrn L. Beranich, a television director from Los Angeles has made a colorful document on New York lesbians who look at dating, monogamy, sex and love.

Best Short fiction film: Traveling Companion (USA 1997, Paula Goldberg,35 mm color 17’) This is Goldberg’s first short who is an actress and director working in Hollywood. A woman looks for a travelling companion to Italy though a series of interesting interviews with several women at a local café.

Special prizes were awarded also by CEL in Marseille (Centre Evolutif Lilith ) One went to Sweden’s Väninnor by Nina Bergström and Cecilia Neant-Falk (Sweden 1996, 35 color 53’ ) If you have not already seen this documentary it features five 70 year old women who tell about their lives in a portrait of contemporary Sweden with rare footage of the women’s movement in Sweden of the late 1970’s.

Special mention was given to : Sheboom: Dance with the Devils . (Scotland 1995,video, color, 21’) Here Glasgow’s ’Lesbian Samba Band’ is featured celebrating the fiesta of dragons and devils in Barcelona. Director of 14 films, Lucinda Broadbent won the Ist prize at Scottish Film Festival with this film.

The Lesbia magazine Prize went to Perverted Justice (England 1996, video color 50’ ) by Donna Clarke who worked in collaboration with Amnesty International to make this film. Of the 1% of women who receive the death penalty in the USA, 40% are lesbian who are also predominanently poor or women of color. This shocking document tackles the homophomia, racism and sexism of the US legal system.

Special mention was given to: Haine comme Normal (France,1997,35 mm color 5’) by Karine Nuris. In her debut short , two women are assaulted by men when their car comes to a red light. In an extraordinary fantasy, Nuris shows what could happen under different circumstances.

Ten years of success have been witnessed by the makers of Cineffable which is the festival you will want to enter your new film for world premiere. Most of the films have independent distibution by the directors themselves. Several have premiered at Berlin, Créteil, and the San Francisco Gay and Lesbian Film Festival. This is a festival par excellence of lesbian shorts, documentaries and features which warrants an annual visit as a marketplace and quality festival. It profoundly demonstrates that lesbian filmmaking is synonymous with sophisticated and qualitative cinematography and editing by professional women directors.

Coming women’s film festivals in Europe this spring:

VII Festival de Cinéma Lesbien Immaginaria
Nosadella room , 19 Nosadella
Bologne, Italy
25-28 february 1999

Créteil Festival International de Films de Femmes

March 12-21 1999
Maison des Arts
Place Salvador Allende
F-94000 Créteil
tel 33 1 49803898
fax 33 1 43990410

©Moira Sullivan, 1998 Cineffable, Annual Lesbian Film Festival Held in Paris at Halloween

Film Festival reviews