"Each Has a Different Color" and Common Sense
by Ceyda Asar
The 16th Flying Broom International Women’s Film Festival was held between May 9 and 16. The film section entitled “Each Has a Different Color” was made up of twelve films from all around the world. The selection was outstanding, since each film had a genuine story, unique language and remarkable performances, and most were elaborately directed. Even though this section did not have a unique theme, it was possible to discern some common themes and perceptions among these women directors.
Life During Wartime
One of the common themes, whether a hidden agenda or the absolute core of the story, was motherhood. Seven of the twelve films dealt with mother-and-child relations from a different perspective, and sometimes went beyond this by depicting a protagonist taking the place of a mother who was dead or departed, underpinning a ‘coming-of-age’ story taking place in a world of war.
In this sense, another theme that allied the films was the tenseness of war. Either the films took place during the war or they were predicated on the after-effects of war on a young generation. Ginger & Rosa looks back to 1962 in London. The Cuban Missile Crisis is escalating and the possibility of a nuclear war is very close. House with a Turret (Dom s bashenkoy) takes place in the final winter of the Second World War. The characters of Children of Sarajevo (Djeca) are two orphans whose parents have been killed in the Bosnian war. Lore takes place in 1945 in the last days of World War II. When I Saw You (Lamma shoftak) takes us to 1967 to the border of Palestine and a refugee camp.
In some of these films, depending on the region in which the story takes place, the war is quite nearby and the ground is still warm with people’s blood. However, in some others, such as in Children of Sarajevo, the war is over, yet going on inside the character’s mind. Director Aida Begic utilises sound design to surround us with edgy voices reminding us of wartime.
In Bloom (Grzeli nateli dgeebi) transports us to 1992, Georgia. Its characters are also marked by civil war psychology, though we do not witness the war that is taking place in the province of Abkhazia first-hand. Surrounded by chaos, fourteen-year-old girls try to cope with their problems by holding a gun, and their childhood begins to fade rapidly. Ginger & Rosa revolves around the fear of nuclear holocaust in ’60s London, when the idea of freedom is on the rise and the conservative family bond is beginning to collapse in an activist teenager’s world in which childhood is dissolving rapidly.
In terms of childhood, most of the characters in the films mentioned above have to become adults earlier than they had imagined. The depiction of these ‘child adults’, who have suffered enough, provides a portrait of the dark, desperate, harsh world we live in regardless of the period the story takes place.
Yet, this wild world is not usually depicted via violent images. On the contrary, most of the women directors do not to tell it in a straightforward manner. They often prefer to use a lapse of time and do not feel the need to convey what happened previously in a linear form. They mostly prefer to be in the present time and employ a flow of the characters’ subliminal perception. Since most of the protagonists are adolescents, the way they comprehend the world around them is not through deep thoughts or mature reactions. In this sense, dream and daydream scenes, poems, inner voices, silent looks and close-ups without dialogue play an indispensable role for these women directors. Most of the protagonists are captured in a ‘child adult’ zone where it is too early to become an adult, yet too late to go back to adolescence. The more people want them to be reasonable, the more their inner conflict arises. Feelings and reason, rebellion and obedience confront each other, which creates well-structured dramas with a detailed artistic language. Three films especially — Ginger & Rosa by Sally Potter, In Bloom byNana Ekvtimishvili and Simon Groband Lore by Cate Shortland — were the best of the festival, dealing with comparable concepts in different ways. The performances by the young actresses were also outstanding, especially Elle Fanning in Ginger & Rosa, Magdalena Berus in Baby Blues (Bejbi blues), Saskia Rosendhalin Lore, and Lika Babluani and Mariam Bokeria in In Bloom.
Another common issue thread was that these women directors took a stand by staying away from mother stereotypes. A mother can be a cowardly Nazi supporter (Lore), a 17-year-old girl who gets pregnant merely for the sake of love and possessing the baby like a fashion accessory (Baby Blues by Katarzyna Roslaniec), a selfish mother flirting with her daughter’s boyfriend or a Russian homeless woman dragging her little girl through the streets of Paris (Marussia by Eva Pervolovici). These mothers can be similar to Medea in their evil and selfishness, and self-sacrificing and holy at the same time. These female directors are not ordinary feminists in terms of being against patriarchal patterns since they do not use a patriarchal language at all. They are trying to create a new language of motherhood where each mother is portrayed individually regardless of their social conditions and the traditions of the country they live in. As mentioned above, when the mother is gone or does not possess the qualities of being a ‘good’ mother, adolescents take the place of the mother and roles begin to shift, which brings the classical approach to ‘motherhood’ to another level.
So, why do these directors focus on wartime, and have a need to recall it? Is it just for the sake of drama, as war tragedies always have a profound impact if made successfully? Since the common theme of war and memory practices was observed repeatedly, maybe it’s possible to make a wider analysis by referring to Huyssen. As Andreas Huyssen states, today we seem to suffer from a hypertrophy of memory not history. He states that we are living in a fast time; time has been accelerated. The increase of population, the widespread and fast attacks of means of communication, the effects of cultural globalization have made us want to slow down and feel anxious about the ‘speed of change’. According to Huyssen, our perception of time and space is changing with new technologies. Thus, he suggests that remembering has become a hypertrophy to be able to cope with this speed: “The faster we are pushed into a global future that does not inspire confidence the stronger we feel the desire to slow down, the more we turn to memory to comfort…” Huyssen recalls Kluge’s words about “the attack of the present on the rest of the time” and clarifies that memory has become a cultural obsession. He observes this with reference to museums and the arts across the globe. He states that “since the 1980s the focus has shifted from present futures to present pasts”. He gives examples of the boost of retro fashions, the proliferation of personal video recorders that bring into existence more and more footage which forms a new popular style of ‘self-musealization’. He also draws attention to the postmodern historical novel, which uses past facts, history and fiction together.
What he analyzes can be an answer for European culture, especially in relation to the Holocaust and the effects of World War II in different countries but when it comes to Georgia, Palestine and Bosnia, the memory practice is oriented from the recent and still powerful pain and agony which makes it impossible for people to forget, despite the need to remember.
The Outsiders of the Selection and the Humor
In the selection, there were also exceptional films that had nothing to do with war and post-war experiences or motherhood — contemporary stories produced by European filmmakers such as Silent City by Threes Anna, Three Worlds (Trois mondes) by Catherine Corsini, Morning Star (L’etoile du jour) by Sophie Blondyand Queen of Montreuil by Solveig Anspach.
Silent City, resembling Lost in Translation, deals with the loneliness and the difference between East and West from the point of view of a European filmmaker. Despite a predictable plot, familiar scenes and endorsement of the notion that a woman’s social role is to be seductive for men, Silent City’s way of usinghumor made it stand out from all the other films that had a dark atmosphere. However, when compared with Queen of Montreuil, Silent City’s humor is weak. Queen of Montreuil is a piece of art that combines mourning and humor, emotions and creativity, difference and propinquity within outstanding performances by women.
Even though there are exceptions, women directors tend to have a blood bond with each other in terms of their being fascinated by dreams. Five of the films — either having just one scene or using dreams as a repetitive tool of narration — use ‘dream scenes’, their narration not telling the story as a distant and political observer. On the contrary, they get to their intimate characters and to their dreams (or daydreams, or dreams through poems) as closely as they can. Looking at the whole picture and the whole selection, perhaps a question should be asked: “What do the women directors (not the characters) dream of?” The answer can be generalized as peace, freedom and love — as it has always been for destructive mankind. Yet, these women directors visualize their dreams with innovative direction and unusual, mostly wise and courageous women characters within powerful, character-based dramas.
Edited by Carmen Gray
© FIPRESCI 2013