A Volunteers View: Take One Action volunteer, Serena Scateni examines the place of women in the film industry, and how TOA is placing female directors at the heart of the programme this year.
In the aftermath of the outburst of the Weinstein scandal and the rise of the MeToo movement (roughly) around the world, awareness of female rights and demands to see those rights respected were already creeping beneath the surface of a taken-for-granted patriarchy.
When it seemed that there shouldn’t even have been any need for equal wages and opportunities, Edinburgh had already a couple of legs up on everyone else. It was in 1972 that the Edinburgh International Film Festival came up with a Women’s Film Festival as part of the main event – like a festival inside a festival, possibly the first feminist meta-festival ever conceived. One year later, EIFF opened its doors to the first female Festival Director not only in the UK but in the world. Her name was Lynda Myles and she ran the festival from 1973 to 1980. Not a bad couple of achievements we got here!
Looking at the broader picture though, as unimpressive as it may seem, it appears that unequal gender representation still taints some of the most respectful major film festivals in Europe. It was slightly more than a couple of weeks ago that the Hollywood Reporter pointed out the pretty obvious and disgraceful imbalance in the number of films in the competition lineup of the 75th Venice Film Festival – among 21 titles, only one is by a female director. With festivals like Cannes and Berlin quickly catching up presenting a more varied and inclusive programme, it is time to finally drop the petty excuse of “I could not come across any worthy title by a female director”. In the UK alone there would be a great number of (sadly) lesser-known film festivals, organisations, and collectives to prove it wrong. Take One Action is one of those. This year programme not only does feature 11 titles out of 17 directed by a woman but also includes a strand dedicated exclusively to celebrate women’s empowerment. Let’s have a quick look at the films.
As soon as the festival kicks off, make sure to clear your agenda as you have an appointment with Ilhan Omar, a member of the Minnesota House of Representative. Time for Ilhan – an intimate documentary by Norah Shapiro – follows Ilhan’s journey as she runs for office as a state representative. The film, already selected for the Tribeca Film Festival, gives a diverse insight into the American politics showing that there must be room for both dialogue and inclusion.
Be prepared to meet the fierce Silvana, who is going to blow any prejudice away. The power trio Mika Gustafson, Olivia Kastebring, and Christina Tsiobanelis brings you a compelling documentary – Silvana – exploring both the person and the persona of this empowered Swedish artist. Her lyrics take on issues of feminism, anti-racism, and LGBTQ+ rights to shake and inspire young minds.
As hard as it can be, talking about abuse has never been so necessary. Lawrence Jackman and Attiya Khan tackle the issue head-on by presenting a different perspective on the matter in their A Better Man. For two years, Attiya has been abused by Steve. Twenty years later she decides that she needs to confront him to have a better chance at healing and moving on.
Although men are usually the one actively working in mines, women and children alike are involved in the conversation. Strike a Rock by Aliki Saragas follows Thumeka Magwangqana and Primrose Sonti as they both pursue their agendas in the political arena and in the community of Marikana they both belong to. Whereas in the high quarters of the government and the industry corruption and hypocrisy are swept under the rug, Marikana’s women struggle to be heard and respected.
Take One Action film festival dedicates its closing night to the screening of Naila and the Uprising. Director Julia Bacha leads us on a journey to Palestine combining animation, archive footage, and interviews with some of the women who took part in the nonviolent resistance that happened in the country.
If you got inspired by any of these empowering stories, just go along with TOA’s motto: take a seat, take a stand. We will be there, waiting for you to make the difference.
Discover the films:
A Better Man is shown in Edinburgh’s Filmhouse on Monday 17th September, 20:30.
By Serena Scateni , TOA Volunteer