Sunday, March 7, 2010

International Women's Day: Women in Berlin

Until women reach a 50-50 parity with men directors, my mission continues to count the women directors in upcoming and recent film festivals (and an occasional informal glance at what’s selling in the markets). Women’s films in Berlin reflect women’s place in the world both in content and in the numbers of women represented as directors, producers, writers, etc. John Cooper of Sundance stresses the increasing and possibly 50-50 parity of women producers, but I am looking at the directors. As March is Women’s History Month (and all the other months are Men’s History Month according to Gloria Steinem’s L.A. Times Article of March 4, 2010) this blog is in honor of all women everywhere.

Congratulations to Kathryn Bigelow for winning the Academy Awards for Best Director and Best Picture.  LA Times puts into perspective the fact that the Best Director Oscar went to Kathryn Bigelow and that in the world of directors "...Although successful female directors appear to have gained higher profiles of late, the actual percentage of top films directed by women has remained static for 25 years at 7% to 9%, according to an annual study of women writers, directors, and producers of the 250 top-grossing films of the year by the Center for the Study of Women in Film and Television at San Diego State University.  'We're running in place. There's been no progress since 1987', said Martha Lauzen, the center's executive director.

I have learned much during this festival cycle of Sundance, Rotterdam and Berlin from the lesbian filmmaking community. The lesbian community regards cinema from a historical point of view and their films, as I learned in The Owls (which stands for Older, Wiser Lesbians) are made (and seen) in the historical perspective of speaking up, and progressing from being ghettoized and to becoming mainstream…a progression applauded in The Kids Are All Right, one of the most acclaimed films both in its Sundance premiere and here in Berlin. The Owls’ broken narrative sheds illuminating light on the broad spectrum of lesbian “types” from femme to transmale as opposed to butch, etc. I think this inner reflection is definitely a female trait which in this film reaches a glorious compendium of naming as many types as there as there are individuals. I was charmed by the film and its storytelling techniques. As a companion piece to the picture it paints of modern day lesbianism, the newly restored 30 year old feature showing in the Forum Word is Out: Stories of Some of Our Lives dovetails with this theme.

Wieland Speck, head programmer of the Panorama at the Berlinale has this to say of The Owls by Cheryl Dunye: a very interesting American filmmaker. Dunye works to some extent with a Brechtian V-Effekt (distancing effect) and, using a split screen, thereby repeatedly intervening in the dramatic process. The story is interrupted, the actresses reflect upon the characters and their life situations, but also on the current situation of lesbians in the US. In this story about an all-women band, they’ve survived everything imaginable, the glamour has faded, and relationships are disintegrating. Something new has to happen. And so a tragic story from the past related to the band resurfaces – here too you see the movement towards the past. These and other paths back into history are perhaps due to a certain zeitgeist, which is a little scared of the future, but which doesn’t want to remain passive.

To continue into the Berlinale counts, in Competition and Special Sreenings, women directors are represented by a mere 7 out of 30 or 35% if I am correct in attributing the female gender to these directors: Jasmila Zbanic’s On the Path from Bosnia, Natalia Smirnoff’s Argentinean Rompecabezas (Puzzle), Pernille Fischer Christensen’s A Family from Denmark, Doris Dorie’s The Hairdresser (Die Friseuse), Anusha Rizvi makes her feature directorial debut on Peepli Live, the story of a poor farmer who announces he will kill himself so his family can benefit from a controversial compensation scheme, Please Give by Nicole Holefcener and The Kids Are All Right by Lisa Choldenko. These last three screened in Berlinale competition as well as at Sundance. Revolucion features 2 women directors out of the 10 chosen -- Marianna Chenillo ('Nora's Will') and Patricia Riggen ('Under the Same Moon'). Nicht so viel (Not many)…

The Forum (15 out of 68 titles = 23%): Los Angelina Sharon Lockhart’s Double Tide about a female clam digger in Maine, Lockhart’s 4th film about work, American Laura Poitras’s The Oath which also played in Sundance, Chinese Yang Rui’s Fan shan (Crossing the Mountain), Finland’s Anastasia Lapsui and Markku Lehmuskallio’s Seven Songs from the Tundra, France’s Chantal Akerman’s D’est, Tatjana Turanskyj’s Eine flexible frau (The Drifter), Imani by Uganda’s Caroline Kamya, Orly by Germany’s Angela Schanelec about two people meeting in the Paris airport, Argentinean Ines de Oliveira Cezar’s El recuento de los danos (The Counting of the Damages), Gamma Bak’s Schnupfen im Kopf (Head Cold) the staged video diary that Gamma Bak filmed in 1993 at her kitchen table, two years before she underwent her first psychotic episode. Five more episodes follow. Yang Yonghi, a Korean-Japanese with an M.A. in Media from The New School in New York City, tells the story of her family, a story that takes place between North Korea and Japan, in Sona, the Other Myself. Other films by women include Sunny Land by Berliner and Bennington and Humboldt Universities graduate Marietta Kesting and Aljoscha Weskott, Brandeis and Edinburgh educated, Debra Granik’s Winter Bone, acquired during Sundance by Roadside Attractions for the US and in time for EFM by Fortissimo, the still apt Mariposa Film Group’s Word is Out: Stories of Some of Our Lives, the lives of 26 lesbians and gay men in December 1977, a year before Harvey Milk was shot dead and just acquired by Rialto for US, and finally, Claire Denis’ Beau Travail.

Panorama (9 of 54 films = 17%): Film Unfinished by Yael Hersonski was in Sundance FF and is in Panorama Documentary, Cuchillo de Palo by Renate Costa, The Owls by Cheryl Dunye, Missing Man by Anna Fenchenko, Budrus by Julia Bacha, Lucy Walker’s audience winner Waste Land, Fucking Different Sao Paulo by Monica Palazzo, Joana Galvao and Max Julien, Death by Instalments by Ilona Ziok, Blank City by CĂ©line Danhier, USA

Generation(s) The percentages are too small to calculate:

Pudana – Last of the Line (Sukunsa Viimeinen) by Anastsia Lapsui, Markku Lehmuskallio of Finland in Generation Kplus, A Brand New Life from South Korea and France by Ounie Lecomte, Bran Nue Dae by Rachel Perkins, Dutch director Ellen Smit’s EEP!, La Pivellina by Tizza Covi & Rainer Frimmel

Perspektive Deutsches Kino: Portraits of German Alcoholics by Carolin Schmitz, Cindy Does Not Love Me by Hannah Schweier, Desert Flower by Sherry Hormann

Market Screenings: A quick and informal glimpse at the market screenings: Stefanie Sycholt’s Themba from Germany and South Africa being sold by Sola Media, Sweden’s Teresa Fabik’s Starring Maja (Preinsessa), Lola Doillon In Your Hands being sold by Elle Driver, Sherry White’s Crackie being sold by Shoreline, Paz Fabrega’s Agua Fria being sold by Films Boutique, Dominque Monfery’s Eleonore’s Secret sold by Films Distribution, Adriana Magg’s Grown Up Movie Star, Luca (?) Guadagnino’s Io Sono L’Amore (I Am Love) (The Works sold it to Cineart for Benelux), Susanne Bier’s Vengeance (Trust Nordisk sold to Cineart), Andrea Arnold’s Wuthering Heights (Hanway to Cineart), Anahi Berneri’s It’s Your Fault (Por Tu Culpa), Dania Paquini and Max Giwa’s Street Dance 3D, Urzulla Antoniak’s Nothing Personal, Charlotte Sieling’s Above the Street Below the Water being sold by The Match Factory, Bettina Oberli’s The Murder Farm, Simone Laine’s Michel Ciment, The Art of Sharing MoviesChildren Of Glory, directed by Krisztina Goda and produced by Andrew G Vajna, an epic story of the 1856 revolution in Hungary. Visit licensed Picture Me to Strand Releasing for US. a documentary by Ole Schell and Sara Ziff, and is also selling Ramona Diaz’s Don’t Stop Believing: Everyman’s Journey. Wide is selling Valerie Minetto’s Mine, My Life Behind The Scenes, Ines Compan’s Open-Sky is a Mosaique Films and Le Hamac Rouge production about the Kolla natives of Argentina and their battle against a Canadian silver-mining company, In addition, Wide screened a 60-minute rough cut version of Laure Charpentier’s Gigola, with a cast including Lou Doillon, Eduardo Noriega, and Marisa Berenson. The drama focuses on a well-known character from 1960s Pigalle, an area of Paris, and is based on Charpentier’s controversial bestseller of the same name. Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini’s The Extra Man. Leila, from director Audrey Estrougo, sold in Bulgaria (Pro Films), Hungary (DMC), Czech Republic (Hollywood Classics), South Africa (Video Vision) and Korea (Mars), among several others. Pierre Salvadori’s Full Treatment sold in Switzerland (Frenetic), Spain (Golem), Portugal (Lusomondo), the Baltic States (Acme) and China (Champs Lis), Donatella Maiorca’s Sea Purple (Viola di mare), She a Chinese by Xiaolu Guo, Rai Trade’s Ten Winters (Dieci inverni) by Isabella Ragonese, Michele Riondino, Glan Blackhall, France’s Mes Cheres Etudes by Emmanuelle Bercot, Cuban Rebeca Chavez’ City in Red, Canada’s Danishka Esterhazy’s Black Field, Dorothee van den Berghe’s My Queen Karo, Spain’s Mascares by Elisabet Cabeza,

Birgitte Berman’s Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist and Rebel is seeking a sales agent. I would suggest Lightning or Arrow as both deal with mainstream and spiritual themes. Cinemavault would also be good.

Coming up: Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnau (Persepolis)’s Waiting for Azrael by Celluloid Dreams, Studio Babelserg and Clou Partners, all under the umbrella of new European production powerhouse TheManipulators.
More soon on the Berlinale Co-Production Market, but for now: Alicia Scherson’s The Future.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this very comprehensive and lucid article on women and world filmmaking. It is very helpful to be aware and see the actual stats.
    Rose-Marie Couture