Pictures of Female Lives

in Flying Broom International Women's Film Festival

by Katharina Dockhorn

Female Filmmakers Are Aware of the Destiny of Women and their Daily Struggles

The Flying Broom Women’s Film Festival in Ankara offered a good, comprehensive insight into the work of female directors worldwide. A large number of the films were picked up from the Berlin Film Festival—the German capital seems to be a better place for female directors than Cannes or Venice. Dahomey, winner of the Golden Bear, was shown there, a mixture of film essay and documentary about the return of 26 Benin bronzes to Africa. Likewise the Iranian mix of drama and comedy Keyke Mahboobe Man (My Favorite Cake), about two pensioners who experience late happiness by violating a number of the Revolutionary Guard’s regulations; as well as Smoke Sauna Sisterhood by Anna Hints from Estonia, winner of the European Film Prize, about the special tradition of sauna-sweating in the Baltics.

At the beginning of the festival, Ayse Polat, who was awarded twice by FIPRESCI for Im Toten Winkel (In the Blind Spot) in 2023, was honored with an honorary award for her work, together with Hatice Aslan and Tülin Özen as well as producer Nida Karabol. In Turkey around 30% of directors are now female, and half of the producers are women. However, they still feel that obstacles are placed in their way compared to their colleagues.

Eight feature films and documentaries were screened in the competition. These included Agnieszka Holland’s Zielona Granica (Green Border) about the terrible events on the Belarusian-Polish border in November 2021. Me El Ain (Who Do I Belong To) by Tunisian-Canadian filmmaker Meryam Joobeur deals with the stresses of families after their children leave for IS. Two sons of Aicha’s family have joined the radical fundamentalist Islamists. They face arrest if they return. When one of them stands at the door, Aicha hides him and his unknown wife. But they bring death and crime to the remote village. The film begins as a strong family drama and imperceptibly transforms into a metaphor-rich, fairytale-like, exaggerated reckoning with the impact of male violence on society.

A strong family story is also told in Bye Bye Tibériade (Bye Bye Tiberias), winner of the documentary film award at the 2023 London Film Festival. The film takes us to Palestine. Director Lina Soualem accompanies actress Hiam Abbas—known for Paradise Now, Steven Spielberg’s Munich, and Gaza, mon amour—to her roots in a small village near Nazareth. Abbas tells the story of her family who emigrated to France, and her relatives who stayed in the West Bank and experienced war and displacement. In addition to Abbas’s memories, the film uses a number of photos and amateur videos from the family album.

Two documentaries honor women fighting for their freedom. Mutlu Kaya has to deal with male possessiveness in the heartbreaking portrait My Name Is Happy by Ayşe Toprak and Nick Read. The young Kurdish woman is about to have a brilliant career as a singer; she makes it to the finals of a TV talent show. Before she can perform there, a gunshot from a rejected suitor puts her in a wheelchair. And this is not the only pain that violence against women causes to her mother. Czech photographer Libuše Jarcovjáková is portrayed by Klára Tasovská in Ještě nejsem, kým chci být/I Am Not Everything I Want to Be. Jarcovjáková’s life and her struggle with the communist authorities are described using her intimate thoughts from her diaries. Unfortunately, she herself reads it without any significant emphasis, and the photos are constantly edited in a staccato manner. The viewer is not given any peace to immerse himself in the individual shot.

Last but not least, two documentaries show the impact of changes in the society for individuals. Crowrã (The Buriti Flower) takes us to the Crowrã, an indigenous tribe in the Brazilian rainforest whose habitat has been threatened by white ranchers for decades. João Salaviza and Renée Nader Messora worked on the film for eight years. They give a face to the violence in the Amazon region, showing the harmful effects of deforestation and livestock farming on the ecological cycle and bringing to life, up close, the effects on people’s lives.

In contrast, the female teacher in Ruth Beckermann’s Favoriten (Favourites) radiates complete calm when she is teaching students from second to fourth grade at an elementary school in a deprived district of Vienna. Only a few students speak German as their native language. With a lot of patience, the teacher explains the German letters and basic arithmetic. She also settles arguments between the children. The film received the Peace Prize at the Berlinale.

Katharina Dockhorn
Edited by Robert Horton