Safe Space of Flying Broom

in 25th Flying Broom International Women's Film Festival

by Elena Rubashevska

With the multitude of platforms and tools that we have at our disposal in the modern world, it seems logical that practically any topic can be discussed openly, with maturity, and with no shaming (especially in what we used to label as the ‘civilized Western society’). Yet, when it comes to practical matters, we are soon discovering that in many respects we are staying in the ‘stone age’, clinging to cliché concepts, misleading vocabulary that we use for granted, and false images imposed by social ‘standards’ that vary from culture to culture but execute the same restricting and oppressing functions. Approaching these topics still induces perplexity and awkwardness, revealing our ignorance of basic differences that we have due to our genders. To deal with that, we have to have goodwill, common sense, empathy, and – last but not least – a safe space. And it’s hard to think of a more efficient way to encourage dialogue than sharing the experience of watching movies. Flying Broom International Women’s Film Festival provides its guests with exactly such a safe space, offering them a diverse world wide selection of films on the most controversial, painful, and thus silenced topics related to the female agenda.

One of the most frequent critical points that might be heard regarding women’s film festivals is that a good movie cannot be defined by gender quota, automatically implying that any selection based on gender criteria will lead to the dropping of artistic quality. Yet such an argument can hardly be used toward other specialized film festivals such as those devoted to human rights or ecological problems. The main task of the festivals with a special focus is to bring the spotlight to a specific topic and make us delve deeper into certain problems with no distractions, and stay devoted to finding answers with no derivative manipulations. In this context, the movie, keeping its artistic level (first condition for any film festival), goes beyond its primitive entertaining function and expands to the territory of becoming leverage for real social changes.

Flying Broom is a very democratic film festival that encompasses different continents, cultures, and genres. There are no prizes given: the point of screening movies is not to make them compete (which would mean prioritizing one topic over another and thus contributing to creating trends that often lead to discrimination), but to encourage discussions that take place during Q&As and extend into real life with afterparties that resemble well-moderated panel discussions rather than typical festival leisure time.

Being devoted to the female agenda, the festival stays away from militant feminism and keeps self-criticism on a very healthy and rational level, never descending to the cheap manipulations and giving space to the men’s (and other genders’) perspectives. Flying Broom gathers an international audience with different cultural, social, and economical backgrounds, and sometimes finding ourselves on the same page might be a challenging task. It is very interesting to observe how with the help of movies, transfer psychology starts to operate and spur the courage to approach intimidating and tricky matters. Discussing obstacles faced by movie characters allows us to reach a safe space where we can ruminate on our own barriers.

However, the question of the role of the festivals like Flying Broom (in the broader festival industry context) and the programming of such festivals become especially acute these days. With the film industry hit first by COVID-19, and now suffering more and more from the economic crises, the prospering of the festivals depends on the politics and private sponsors to a very palpable extent, and in this fact, a threat is hidden of the decrease of the content quality offered by smaller festivals. With less funding for promotion and fewer guests attending, sometimes programmers compromise on inviting films from major film festivals like Cannes and Berlinale to attract the public, even if those movies do not fit into the festival’s concept. Overshadowed by them, other films can go unnoticed; so, by giving up on the films that reflect the philosophy of the festival, the festival loses its identity and a chance of getting more sponsors and viewers. This vicious circle becomes ominous indeed, and the tools for dealing with the problem are yet to be found. We do hope that festivals like Flying Broom will prefer to keep their authenticity and will aim for quality, not big but shallow titles, even at the cost of reducing their scale and grandeur.

Elena Rubashevska
Edited by Savina Petkova