Women Directors in Gijón

in 51st Gijón International Film Festival

by Roberto Tirapelle

It is significant that at the 51st FICXixón there were five women filmmakers, representing as many countries, in the main competition (consisting of 15 films).

The New York-born Nicole Holofcener has already directed five films which reveal her interests not only in social class differences, but also in elements of sexuality and human identity. Her film presented at Gijón, Enough Said, is an incisive portrait of the upper side of Los Angeles, shot with a great sense of humour. The director’s ability of working with top actors is obvious, particularly when the cast includes names such as James Gandolfini, Toni Collette and Catherine Keener.

The Canadian director Louise Archambault began a promising career with her feature film debut Familia (2005), screened in the Toronto Film Festival and winner of the prize for the best Canadian first film. She returns now with Gabrielle, a very sensitive film set in the world of adults with mental disabilities. Focusing on two main characters (Gabriel Marion-Rivard and Alexandre Landry) who are members of the choir of their institution in Montreal, the director manages to trigger empathy without pitying these characters, demonstrating the only force Gabrielle really believes in: personal freedom.

Yolande Moreau, an actress, screenwriter and director who started her career in children’s theatre, presented her first feature film Henri at the festival. One of her distinctive traits is the continuous work on the bodies of the actors. The writer and director acts on the instinctive and emotional life of her main characters with an improbable love story. Around them there’s a world of disability, sometimes left behind, other times surprisingly optimistic.

Claudia Pinto from Venezuela also presented his feature debut The Longest Distance (La Distancia más larga). It is a film produced on an ambitious scale — a road movie in nature and in the past, in which the goals of the characters, their utopia-like quest for happiness in life and death, challenge their own destiny. In this Venezuela-Spain co-production, we can notice the return of the leitmotifs of films such as Shôhei Imamura’s The Ballad of Narayama (Narayama-bushi kô, 1983) or François Ozon’s Time to Leave (Le Temps qui reste, 2005): love and death, the obligation of teaching, the sudden change of plans, the mysterious paths that guide our lives.

The Mexican filmmaker Claudia Sainte-Luce also had a debut feature in the competition with The Amazing Catfish (Los Insólitos peces gato, 2012). It functions well in both the portrayal of all the characters, each of them with an individual personality, and in capturing the details of the interiors. It also shows a familiar recognition of the way middle-class people live in an immense metropolis such as Guadalajara. This film is a new revelation for the Mexican cinema, a country often relegated to the background.

The newly-created section New Female Voices in European Cinema presented five incredible recent films made by European women directors: Baby Blues (Bejbi Blues) by Kasia Roslaniec (Poland), Grand Central by Rebecca Zlotowski (France), Age of Panic (La Bataille de Solférino) by Justine Triet (France), Honey (Miele) by Valeria Golino (Italy) and A Castle in Italy (Un château en Italie) by Valeria Bruni Tedeschi (Italy-France).

Edited by Steven Yates