The Woman of WOW
The World of Women's Cinema Film Festival is an annual event recognizing the significant amount of female talents found in the sphere of cinema. It is a pretty serious event with sponsors such as the Australian Cinematography Society, International heavyweight Panavision and the Hong Kong Economic & Trade Office. So, when I rocked up with my little moleskin and fountain pen, I felt a little out of my depth. I recoiled trying to figure out who were the corporate sponsors and who were the film people – for some reason the division meant something in this specific circumstance. Film people always connect but the sea of suit's and ties caught me a little off-guard. I thought my giant turtle shell glasses and oversized black blazer (all part of my film critic fantasy - fake it till you make it right?) would act like some cosmic magnet. The only magnetic pull I attracted, however, was to a half-baked session of small talk with a film school graduate. "Fucking great!" I said in reference to his big time motivations to be the next Michel Gondry - while simultaneously thinking the same words with a healthy and necessary application of sarcasm. There is only one Michel Gondry, you moron.
I left film school to be a writer and here I am talking to film kids who went to film school about film school. I had to change tact.
As I looked around - searching for someone to talk about some film... any film - I made eye contact with a big set of blue eyes. Their owner must have sensed my discomfort around the abundance of kitten heels and tweed. She bounded towards me. We started chatting. A love of women's cinema connected us immediately – duh, no surprise at this event. As the conversation lead on I confided in my new friend. "Tamara, isn't this event unbelievable?" I said, pointing around at Dendy theatre. With a glass of Ascella Pure Organic wine in my hand, I started to feel right at home. Maybe it was the wine, maybe it was the familiar smell of popcorn, but it clicked at that moment. As my own words echoed in my own ears…Tamara?
My blossoming new friendship - straight out of a Woody Allen film - was with Tamara Popper. The Tamara Popper - the World of Women's Cinema Film Festivals Director, Programmer & Curator.
Mainstream screen time may not be privileged to many contemporary female stories, however, Festival Director Tamara Popper has found a platform for them. She told me all about it in an artfully conversational way. Her balance of passion and ease mesmerized me. When I get passionate I unflatteringly lose my words; Tamara only gained oral momentum as her thoughts sped up. She was a perfect metaphor for the festival - only gaining momentum as the ideas grew.
I have always been deeply concerned with the world of women's cinema and yet, I have never actually attended a festival devoted entirely to the female film endeavor. For some strange reason - despite my background in women's cinema - I entered the festival with the premonition that the filmmakers and festival authorities would be bra burning, estrogen fueled new wave feminists straight out of my 1970's fantasy. Yet bitter sweetly, they were not. These individuals were not the staunch members of the womanist sisterhood (that I had secretly hoped for), but they were, in fact, a whole other - even more compelling - subset of characters. For the most part, the women of WOW were just women who identified the disparity between the proliferation of male and female stories and content and wanted to make a change. Just women trying to match the huge amount of patriarchal content found in the world. Just women sharing stories that mainstream media reject – because they aren’t male enough.
Festivals like this bring into alignment the severity of patriarchy – why can I view such unbelievable cinematic feats only within the confines of this festival? Sure, Bends by Flora Lau went to Cannes Film Festival – a massive platform – but why isn’t it screening at my local cinema? As I sat in the theatre watching Bends (my favourite film of the festival – highly recommend) I felt a huge pang of injustice. This film is artistic, thought provoking and manageable for any audience member and yet – due its female direction – it is grouped into the female subcategory of film. Festivals like this remind us of the long way we have to go in terms of proliferating the female narrative. While I did not agree with all of the representations of women in all of the pieces I saw at the festival I believe that to be just as valuable – disagreement and conflict are just as important as alignment and consensus.
The festival was a resounding pleasure – a true example of getting the balance between entertainment and art right. Actually, my only issue with the entire festival was the use of the “WOW” pun one too many times. Yes, guys – WOW is the acronym for your festival and also an exclamation of amazement and awe. WOW!
By Danielle Pearce