Riding the Broom

in 20th Flying Broom International Women's Film Festival, Ankara

by Bartosz Zurawiecki

Being in Ankara and taking part in its Flying Broom International Women’s Film Festival was a great experience. The 20 th anniversary of Flying Broom marks the constant struggle for equal rights, both in cinema and in society. Brave and effective women don’t slack off in a country like Turkey, which has had big problems with democracy in the last few years. During the festival I met some courageous academics who had been expelled from their universities. Their passports had been confiscated simply because they dared to sign a declaration of peace defending Kurdish civilians against the attacks of the Turkish army.

Flying Broom held screenings of features and documentaries in 20 cities around the country. At the Goethe Insitut in Ankara, one could see eight films in competition, all by female directors, from Turkey, Slovakia, Brazil, Portugal, Spain (Catalonia), Croatia, Macedonia and France. As we all know, women filmmakers continue to be underestimated in the male-oriented film industry. Flying Broom is a unique opportunity to dive into a world of women’s imagination and storytelling which differs from the male perspective and patriarchal hierarchy of most films.

Films by directors such as Teresa Villarede (Core), Carla Simon (Summer 1993) and Iveta Grofova (Little Harbour) are less hampered in their narration and more subtle in their detail than cinema which expresses the masculine point of view. However, one could tell that the film industry still doesn’t trust women as leaders, since it permits them to focus mainly on subjects perceived as feminine, personal and family-oriented: abandoned children, bad mothers, the hardships of growing up, unsatisfying relationships. However, these topics can be enriched by sociological issues (Hana Jusic’s Quit Staring at My Plate and Teona Strugar Mitevska’s When the Day Had No Name) or even political context (Yesim Ustaoglu’s Clair Obscur, winner of the FIPRESCI Prize),

Female directors tend to be more eager to describe than to judge the world and its reality. They are in no hurry – they like to catch the nuances and undertones of experience. Action is less important to them than observation. The best example of this is Summer 1993, the story of Frida, a six-year- old girl who joins her uncle’s family after the death of her mother, but struggles to find a place for herself. The film is a weave of delicate tones and complex emotions, and its final scene is really a masterpiece.

There were only eight films in Ankara’s competition, but they showed the distinctive power – strong and tender rather than aggressive – of women’s cinema. These films take us beneath the surface of everyday reality, displaying life from an alternative, surprising angle compared with mainstream macho movies. They cooperate and interact with viewers, instead of trying to dominate them. This is one of the reasons why it’s so important to go to Ankara and take its Flying Broom.

Edited by Lesley Chow