Each Has a Different Color

in 14th Flying Broom International Women's Film Festival

by Gözde Onaran

The competition films of the Flying Broom International Women’s Film Festival were gathered under the title “Each Has a Different Color”: they were films directed by women from all over the world. Some of these films dealt specifically with women’s issues. One of them was Payback (directed by Tamineh Milani) which questions how women in Iran get involved in criminal activities and takes a satirical look at men’s hypocrisy. It is the story of four women who meet in prison and decide that it is time to take revenge on men. Yasmina Reza’s Girls (Chicas) and Belma Bas’s Zephyr (Zefir) both deal with the relations — at times troubling — among different generations of women. The two films have quite different styles and approaches, though: Girls is a light-hearted comedy with lots of chatting, laughing and quarrelling between three sisters, who envy as much as love one another, and their mother who is trying to introduce her new boyfriend to the family. Zephyr, on the other hand, is a quiet meditation on a young girl’s longing for her mother and the frustration and anger she feels when threatened with abandonment.

The festival’s theme this year was “power” and many films in the competition section tackled this issue. Anastasa Lapsui and Markku Lehmuskallio’s film Pudana Last of the Line (Sukunsa viimeinen) portrays the effects of state power as a little girl is taken from her family and is forced to go to school where she has to adapt to an entirely new identity: a new name, new clothes, new food, new manners … Based on director Anastasa Lapsui’s childhood memories and set in her home village, the film shows how indigenous and minority cultures are crushed under official state power. In Inside America, Barbara Eder also goes back to her memories. While Pudana Last of the Line dealt with the assimilation policies of the Soviet government, Inside America visits the other end of the spectrum: American freedom. The consequences, however, don’t differ much. It’s just that power has become an invisible force; yet it is still as effective and devastating, maybe even more so. Director Eder visits Brownsville, a small border town in Texas, and sheds light on the lives of teenagers terribly frustrated and crushed under the weight of the ‘American Dream’. Iciar Bollain’s film Even the Rain (Tambien la lluvia), expands the issue of power to a global scale and includes class conflicts as well. It is a self-reflexive and intricate story about a film crew from Spain which wants to shoot a film in Bolivia during a time of violent uprisings caused by the privatization of water. Even the Rain draws attention to the changing yet persistent nature of oppression and exploitation while drawing parallels between the film crew and the first Spanish colonizers who set foot on the continent.

Where there is oppression there are also attempts to escape it, a hope for a better life. Hence the theme of escape inevitably came up in many films. Yet, what these films also had in common was a pessimistic outlook, in that many were stories about broken dreams. Agnieszka Lukasiak’s film Between Two Fires and Dorota Kedzierzawska’s film Tomorrow Will Be Better (Jutro bedzie lepiej) both tell the stories of refugees, but they are very different in many aspects. Between Two Fires is a dark film about a woman who escapes from Russia to Sweden, trying to flee from a brutal partner who wants to sell her daughter to the mafia. For her, Europe is a land of prosperity and freedom that she has only seen on a postcard sent by another refugee friend. Tomorrow Will Be Better, on the other hand, follows the journey of three Russian boys who live on the streets and set out to cross the border into Poland in search of an improved life. Elisabeth Scharang’s film In Another Lifetime (Vielleicht in einem anderen Leben) is a heartbreaking portrayal of hope under devastating conditions: A group of Hungarian Jews are kept in a barn in an Austrian village where they try to stay alive by playing music. Vanja d’Alcantara’s film Beyond the Steppes brings up a less told story: Just before the German invasion a Polish woman is deported by the Russians to a camp in Central Asia. Determined to keep herself and her son alive she only hopes for a bright future for her son. Léa Pool’s film The Last Escape (La Derniére Fugue), on the other hand, offers a very personal take on the theme of escape by focusing on a family that needs to come to terms with the fact that their father has a degenerative disease and that he wishes to die in a dignified way.

Luckily not all competition films were grim. Anne Depétrini’s Bacon on the Side (Il reste du jambon?) takes a cheerful look at cultural differences and prejudices, as a French TV reporter gets involved with an Algerian doctor. And, finally, Fina Torres’ Habana Eva is the colourful story of a young woman who breaks all her chains — and some taboos as well.