Créteil Films de Femmes,Largest Ongoing Women's Film Festival in the World
1999 Live Report from Créteil: March 19, 1999

This year 52 films from the Antipodes are featured, a part of the 21st festival. Jane Campion,the only director from this area that has succeeded in mainstream cinema with a Palme d'or at Cannes and an Oscar award for Best Screenplay The Piano in 1993, was unable to attend because of postproduction on a movie project. But some of the people who worked with her are here-- actress Kerry Fox from An Angel at my Table (1990) and cinematographer Sally Bongers were presented at a panel that can in good humor be referred to as "The House of Jane", meaning the entourage of craftswomen and men who have worked with her on her pictures. This is not meant to slight Jane but let's face it: she is the only one who has made it from the Antipodes. Is there room for only one?Judging by the contributions at this festival there is a lot of talent from the area ripe for recognition.

I am interested in this question at this year's Créteil festival: is there an economically viable and sustainable women's cinema that is not just part of a lottery system of tickets to be pulled out of the Hollywood hat? Is Hollywood the goal-- or are other film cultures, evident in the pageant of Créteil? (Hollywood defined as big budget action pictures like "Titanic" with stars like Harrison Ford and Sharon Stone and lots of postproduction special effects.)

I do not see of course Jane Campion as part of this definition --her films are brilliant and intelligent and its wonderful they have theatrical distribution!

Could Créteil be part of this forum and venues like it in other global areas-- where films are premiered; discussed ; and which cater to a primarily women's public nurtured through distribution, exhibition and advertising--guaranteeing after the festival successful box office draws? Or is this too utopian?

When festivals premiere womens films around the world, women in droves" such as When Night is Falling and Lisa Cholodenko's High Art.

With that said, the 1999 festival has magnificently zeroed in on bringing a great cross culture of Australian and New Zeeland films to the festival. Rachel Perkin's Radiance was presented to an enthusiastic public: a story of three sisters who meet for a period of 20 hours in the house of their recently deceased mother. No one shows up for the funeral and later the secrets emerge which intrinsically bind these women together. Perkins explains that the film is considered by the critics 'art house' because the women and their mother are aboriginal and 'commercial'because it appeals to popular audiences.Perkins who is half aboriginal and comes from an activist background explained that aboriginals aren't special and like films of all sorts including Jackie Chan films and enjoy the usual interests such as football.She reported that two critics had claimed that the numerous awards this film has earned was due to juries who were trying to be 'politically correct'. That expression sure has a way of getting around and used to describe all sorts of phemomenon. But Perkin's seems undazed and resilient in light of this. Unfortunately she claims the white blokes write for leading papers. Radiance is her first feature and the first aboriginal film released in Australia. The 29 year old director of has been active in indigenous programs for both ABC TV and SBS TV.She admits that she's interested in Hollywood.But of course that depends on what you mean.There is a lot of good independent work out there too but without wide distribution remain ghettoized at film festivals! News Flash: Radiance Radiance won the coveted public prize at the festival!

Interesting to note was a chronicle of the very productive and remarkable . Sydney Women's Film Group that began in 1976-- with three members present at the festival. Retrospectives of this work brought to the screen an important part of women's cinema: Jennie Thornley, Margot Nash and Martha Ansara. Thornley's "Maidens" (1978) was a diary film tribute of this time. Nash's short "Shadow Panic" made in 1989 was inspired by the work of avant-garde filmmaker Maya Deren and a part of As If Productions: Anarcho Surrealist Insurrectionary Feminists". " Nash also made Vacant Possession in 1994 and is currently working on her second feature.

Ansara was cinematographer for Essie Coffey's classic documentary My Survival as an Aboriginal (1979) and together with Nash and Thornley was part of the women's movement of the 70's and the political activism characteristic of that period with collective projects. Secret Storm was made in 1978 by Ansara and concerns a young women questioning her role as mother.

Films were amazingly subsidized by the Austrialian government during this time although according to Ansara, globalization of media and the technological revolution have created an era of individualism in the 1990's. The filmmaker originally from the USA has spent 30 years in Australia. On opening nite at the festival she criticised the domination of Hollywood films at the box office but neverthlesss admitted that she likes Hollywood films,something which is paradoxically often a given. Realizing that film is a capital intensive enterprise few can deny the attraction of the promise of an Oscar. Two filmmakers who have done well at Créteil are Lizzie Borden who won the prix du public in 1983 for Born in Flames and Rose Troche who made Go Fish. Yet their next projects in Hollywood lacked their earlier visions. Ultimately Hollywood is always the yardstick that is held up to measure the future for a filmmaker and at Créteil, filmmakers often express this dream. Young filmmakers like Perkins and Erica Glynn are testimonies that women working in the new wave of aboriginal film are some of the most grounded and successful filmmakers in Australa. Getting films out and shown whether at Berlin, Cannes or Créteil is the goal.

Jeanne Moreau

Just a short word on the appearance of the great screen star Jeanne Moreau, the guest of this years festival. In Jacques Demy's Les Baie des Anges(1962) she plays a platinum blonde gambler in Cannes who goes from wealth to broke and back again. Most would agree that she is an extremely versatile and bold actress (and director)having worked with several famous directors. She related a story about one she would have loved to have worked with: Ingmar Bergman. On a boat during an unhappy love affair she wrote him every day believing he would understand her emotions. Upon arrival home she found a stack of letters from him. Later, they agreed to not work together as he would not learn French and she would not learn Swedish! (Why didn't they work in English?) But such are the unanswered questions that emerge in trying to comprehend the mystique of an actress who communicated not only through voice but through body language. If Bergman understood her as she thought it would have been funny to hear her question the existence of god as so many of his actors have had to do. A male reporter on stage fumbled a 'brilliant' questions only to surrender to Moreau's love affair with her public and gracious attention to their needs. She thanked each and every one of them and was a real hoot giving every bit of the generosity that she has extended to her work to her public.

Viva la Jeanne Moreau!

Finally, Viva la Jackie Buet, festival organiser for another superb festival. Her book Films de Femmes:Six Generations de Réalisatrices (Six Generation of Directors) was presented at the festival.

Moira Sullivan

International film lecturer and writer

Organiser of Cinefemme , forum of women's images in film and media