We are honoured to publish this reflection as part of Take One Action’s ‘Beyond the Review‘ initiative, supported by the Year of Stories 2022 Community Stories Fund. In August 2022, we hosted a two-part workshop – delivered by by gal-dem’s First Person editor, film critic and author Katie Goh – that invited participants to explore the way personal writing and film criticism can meet. Born out of the workshops, these commissions invite a reflection on the connections between local struggles and global realities in the TOAFF22 programme, while showcasing the talent and insight of the authors and supporting the development of their own practice.
For this instalment, Rosalie Faithfull has written a reflection on our short film programme To Remember, To Reclaim: Archives for Future Love, screening online as part of #TOAFF22 (find out more here).
Exploring women’s relationships to (home)land – how they reclaim their place in ongoing histories… talks of the collective struggle for equality and justice. However, a more subtle and personal thread connects this programme of short films. The subtext of isolation is constant, creating a longing in the viewer for true connection, with nature and with other human beings.
The five films take us across the world, telling women’s stories but with themes that transcend gender. In London, despite their love feeling like it can conquer all, an African couple face the prospect of separation at the hands of the immigration service. In Columbia, an indigenous transgender woman shows gentle persistence in her quest to access electricity and running water in the face of community exclusion. In Scotland, a young woman reconnects with the Syrian cousin she once knew, their relationship erased by the trauma of war. On the edge of a Scottish loch, a wild swimmer doesn’t let her disability prevent her from enjoying solitude in nature; and an African film-maker uses stop motion collage to come to terms with the guilt and shame instilled by her repressive colonial boarding school.
These diverse stories all share the same unhurried pace: what seems like a standard narrative is interrupted half-way through by a beautiful unexpected musical sequence; a director dares to devote half her film to the roaming camcorder footage she took as a teenager. The editing and choice of footage asks us to dwell within the story worlds, to soak in the plight of the protagonists as much as journey with them. Each film has a subtle but emotive soundtrack as effective as the voice-overs and dialogue.
It’s a reflective programme that raises questions about injustice without necessarily providing the answers. Sometimes inequality is overcome, sometimes it’s not, but every story is not only profound but beautiful and together the films create a sense of poignant sadness tinged with hope.
The political issues in each narrative are clear: immigration policy; water rights; the legacy of colonialism. However, what the viewer takes away more than anything is a profound sense of the isolation of these women. Each character is prevented from meaningfully connecting either with their loved ones, their community, or themselves. Even the wild swimmer, clearly free to connect with nature, is filmed from above, alone in wide open water, independent but isolated. We’re led to ask; does she swim alone out of choice?
So intense is this feeling of disconnection that it creates that same need for connection within us. Having myself lost touch with a cousin who lives abroad, the Syrian story was especially meaningful to me. Whether intended or not, this is the most powerful message of these films. After all, aren’t injustice and inequality at heart about a severing of connections between us, between ourselves and nature, between ourselves and God? And only if we re-find and remake these connections will we go some way to overcoming inequality and injustice.