Forget fiction: this was an evening about real women, women and reality. The film directors, the characters they create, and the people they inspire, more than numbers in quotas and names low down on credits. Feminist Cinema Berlin – Tel Aviv was a night of short-form cinema as authentic as the lingering smell of hot popcorn.
Three of the shorts are directed by Israeli women. Mishori & Goldberg’s V (2014) gives the viewer a look into a physically and emotionally abusive relationship, whilst Maya Sarfaty’s Over Time (2014) and Leeron Revah’s No Free Lunch (2014) explore complex power dynamics.
The latter is particularly stimulating. Revah encourages the viewer to examine how moral codes interact. How much can we justify someone’s actions on the basis of their background? No Free Lunch is also a pertinent reminder of how much women are forced to adapt their behaviour to get by, in a male-dominated world.
The theme of victimhood is an important one, but it makes for heavy watching. So it’s refreshing when the two Berlin-directed films take new turns. Homework (2016) by Annike Pinske explores a father-daughter relationship, whilst Victoria Schulz’ Ianus (2016) is about motherhood: a young mum is torn between her new responsibilities and her old freedom.
Standout take on motherhood
For me, it’s this piece that stands out amongst the rest. Though the concept is simple, the execution is both beautiful and convincing. Schulz’ own experience in motherhood is palpable in the rawness of the film’s emotions. As it progresses, the protagonist comes to need a new identity. The partying of her youth is no longer compatible with her life, and yet there must be more than this, than just being mother.
In the end, she finds liberation in isolation, through music, dance and spontaneity. Ianus is an emotive but firm challenge to the idea that motherhood as a role should unquestioningly take first priority.
Women in Film
Women are hugely underrepresented in the film industry, both in the number of female directors and the number of female protagonists. In 2016, women accounted for 7% of directors in the top 250 domestic grossing films, a 2% decrease on the 1998 figure. Similarly, they comprised only 29% of protagonists (from the last year’s “Celluloid Ceiling” report by Dr Martha Lauzen).
Feminist Cinema Berlin – Tel Aviv rejects that trend. A range of identities are represented: an ambitious career-driven woman, a police officer, a mother, a carer and a daughter. These are not female characters as imagined by men; they are multidimensional characters who wrestle with the restrictions they face as women. And their roles do not capture their full selves: these are complex characters shaped by unique experiences.
Just like the whole Berlin Feminist Film Week, this well-curated evening of short film strives to make female directors and female subjects more visible. And the result isn’t just thought-provoking – it’s thoroughly entertaining, just like film should be.
Text by Molly Scull. Edited by Jem Bosatta. Photos by Jem Bosatta/Nina Kunz.