Who Is Behind The Camera?

in 26th Flying Broom International Women's Film Festival

by Ayla Kanbur

The Flying Broom International Women’s Film Festival held its 26th edition in 2023. Some of us might think that there must have been lots of global changes for women in these 26 years since its inauguration, at least for the general consideration of equal opportunity in social and cultural life. At some points, we can assume that this contains a certain amount of truth, particularly in some countries under liberal regimes, as well as the representation of female characters in the cinema industry. Promoting female characters cannot be ignored thanks to the womens’ struggles that have been ongoing for decades in every direction. However, the industry’s own nature tends to keep up with cultural life and to consider the demands of the female audience, or to appeal to them somehow: through “strong female” characters, brave single mothers, warriors as skillful as muscular men and so on… Nevertheless, the assemblage of the films from the perspective of women directors at the 26th Flying Broom Women’s Film Festival says otherwise. The Festival with the sections of “Women of Iran Speak”, “Belmin Söylemez the Universe in the City”, “Untrodden Paths”, “System Crasher”, “In the Family”, “Beyond Pink and Blue” demonstrates that there are still more depths to explore and hidden corners to reconsider, ones which commercial cinema is still incapable to do so.

The focus on women-directed films in the Festival exposed the issues of not only socially marginalised groups, but also diverse ways by which we can comprehend the world, history, humanity, and society from the perspective of women. The films which would perhaps be difficult to meet a wide-reaching audience uncovered the deadlocks behind the fog of the popular flow. With the general theme of “More, no Less”, the festival covered all colours, countries, age and gender, in the same inclusivity in which the films competed for the FIPRESCI award under the title of “Different Colours”. Each one of the films was inventive and genuine in their subject matter, long-termed labour, as well as their styles, which were engaging the audience, helping them to experience the whole process.

One of them was Totem (Tótem, 2023) which came forward for the FIPRESCI award. The director Lila Avilés elaborates her narrative with the close look of her camera to the details and involves the audience in a preparation of a birthday celebration tangled with a death lurking behind closed doors. The curiosity of a child to see her father in the house is combined with the images of every bit of the nature surrounding the house, and the thin line between death and life.

The director Lea Glob, in parallel with the struggles of painter Apolonia Sokol, follows and stages every dimension of her life for nearly a decade. Sokol is such a person who strives to exist without compromising her art. With her family background formed by a multicultural environment and comprehending the world outside the norms, Sokol has to go through a meandering road. The director Glob doesn’t switch off her camera until Sokol’s journey reaches a recognition by the experts in art society. It is impossible for the director’s life in such a dedicated journey not to be intertwined with Sokol’s, and this also forms the film’s distinctive aesthetic. We also see these interchanging looks in the movie Duet by İdil Akkus, Ekin İlbag, as in Apolonia Apolonia (2022) Sokol is leading the camera at some points. It is beyond a reflexive style that the subject matter of the film draws herself, or the hero becomes the director’s eye through the frame. In both films the struggle for existence—one in the sport, the other in art—we can say women still have to block off hard barriers for their passion; while Duet highlights two girls disregarded by the politics of state power, Apolonia Apolonia exposes the deeply rooted prejudices and also investment-oriented art market. How to Save a Dead Friend by Marusya Syroechkovskaya, too, exhibits the youth left behind without any hope or any alternative to motivate them to find their own existence in the capitalist system of the time.

The films in the festival have demonstrated that women directors not only focus on their struggle, but also revise and remind the history of which the world must not forget for a better future. With invaluable experience of women in social struggle, Manuella Martelli turns her gaze to the Pinochet dictatorship period in which the audience may be chilled to the bone with the invisible brutality of it. The film 1976, reflects on Chile through an ignorant middle-class family and a mother who becomes aware of how the country has surrendered to the terror of fascism. Martelli tells her story by reminding the audience of the years of state terror spread to every part of life and to the minds of every single citizen, asking us who even can not dare to give medicine to help a wounded young boy. In the same vein, with The Eclipse, Natasha Urban reminds us of the violence of the latest Balkan war and massacre organised by Milosevic between two eclipses, plunging the whole region to the darkness between 1991-1999. Urban, by turning her film into a confrontation with the recent brutal history, she tries to awaken her family’s memory buried in now silent Serbian nature and lands.

In addition to documentaries and fictions in Festival, Jellyfish (El rostro de la medusa) by Melisa Liebenthal comes forward with her unique discussion about human face and identity. The narrative compares the human face formed by the similarities between animals and other living things. It triggers the mind of the audience with the impression of the human face that determines all our social relationships and even points out how problematic the relationship with ourselves is. Director Marija Kavtaradze raises another remarkable question for love and romantic relationships with her film Slow, asking “What if the man you love is asexual?

The films gathered in Flying Broom International Women Film Festival in 2023 enable us to indicate that the historical experiences of women struggle have underwritten the aesthetics of women directors, the way they look, the stylistic choices, and the questions they raise. Almost all films in the festival embrace the diversity in the world without being judgmental and try to resurface the underlying causal links. Directors do not only reveal the oppressive nature of power relations that their subjects are exposed to, but they also nearly transcend the distance between the object and subject of art, in case of the camera’s look.


Ayla Kanbur
Edited by Savina Petkova