One quarter of the directors in the Un Certain Regard section of the 67th Cannes Film Festival were women. Not enough to reflect the fact that more than half the world’s population is female, but still quite an achievement, considering that in the main competition there were only two women directors — Japan’s Naomi Kawase and Italy’s Alice Rohrwacher — out of 19 participants.
What is even more interesting is that each of the women directors in Un Certain Regard had a very specific style and viewpoint, and showed a great degree of courage in putting their particular universe onscreen. This was true also for the less artistically accomplished entries, That Lovely Girl (Loin de mon père) by Israeli director KerenYedaya and Misunderstood (Incompresa) by Italy’s Asia Argento. The first was a portrait of an incestuous father-daughter relationship which bordered on exploitation in its crude depiction of perversity; the second a self-centered tall tale of neglected childhood, told in strongly autobiographical tones by the film’s author, the daughter of master of horror Dario Argento.
On a different level of accomplishment, Marie Amachoukeli and Claire Burger were instrumental in bringing to the screen the story of Samuel Theis’ own mother in Party Girl. The threesome of film school classmates put together a portrait of a deeply unconventional woman who, despite her age and her dire economic state, refuses to give up her dreams of a passionate relationship and her right to independence and freedom. Party Girl is a model of defiance and proof that inner resistance cannot be subdued.
Arguably, the section’s strongest artistic statements were made by Austria’s Jessica Hauser and France’s Pascale Ferran. Hauser’s Amour Fou is the carefully staged story of the awakening of a woman brought up to be a wife and mother within a very conservative community, whose encounter with a Romantic poet brings out her innermost yearnings and desires for self determination. Hauser’s mise en scene is as stifling as the predicament of Amour Fou’s female protagonist, and a perfect example of form mirroring content.
Ferran’s Bird People also speaks about the yearning for freedom and the affirmation of one’s own identity — indeed, the need to fly high above the emptiness of their daily lives — for an American businessman and a French maid. Ferran’s the directing style changes radically from closely controlled to exhilaratingly free according to the evolution of the two characters’ situation: again, a case of form adhering specifically to content.
What is refreshing, despite the differences in the end results, is the gutsy and joyful enthusiasm with which these women directors plunged into their filmmaking efforts, unafraid to display their own vision and to introduce viewers to their chosen world. Hopefully more and more will be willing to rise to the same task, giving the public a richer and more rounded view of the human experience.
Edited by Richard Mowe
© FIPRESCI 2014