Women Under Influence

in 33rd FilmFest Munich

by Nachum Mochiach

A very beautiful and attractive young woman, Hedi, takes a young girl of five years old to meet her grandmother, a very traditional Mongolian woman, who lives in a yurt. This is the opening of the very intriguing, enigmatic, and in a way revolutionary “Don’t Look At Me That Way” (Schau mich nicht so an), Mongolia-born writer and director Uisenma Borchu’s debut feature film, in which she also plays the lead role and even did the editing in collaboration with Christine Schorr.

Regardless of what the audience might  think at first sight, the girl Sofia (Anne-Marie Weisz) is not her daughter. In fact, her protector, single mother Iva (Catrina Stemmer), is actually Hedi’s neighbour (they live in the same building). After Hedi finds Sofia in the backyard of the building, she introduces herself to Iva and the two young women soon enough find intimate interest in each other and become fiery lovers. Iva shows great passion and jealousy towards Hedi, who is not that crazy about her new friend and actually likes men too. Iva’s father (Josef Bierbichler) is supposed to come one day to look after his granddaughter, so the two girls can spend private time together without interruption, but he doesn’t come. Hedi goes to look for him, and this is where the story takes a surprising twist.

The film has the look and feel of an inspirational indie project (a low budget one – 25,000 Euro). It’s very creative, very innovative and also brave and daring. Although it does contain nudity and sex scenes, it is not provocative or sensational, but reflects the free-spirited Hedi, who is on the one hand very selfish and wants to own anything and everybody, but on the other hand breaks almost all of society’s taboos, but not in the way of shocking. The film is also beautifully shot by Sven Zellner, in Munich and partly in Mongolia, in a way that looks sometimes very realistic, like documentary style. The film looks like it is out of place and time, and just gives an idea that this story is, in a way, isolated from the world outside. That makes it emotional but not sentimental, moving but not by way of making one cry.
Another element that gives the movie a very authentic touch is the fact that the two main actresses, Stemmer and Borchu herself, come actually from the non-actors department. Bierbichler is of course a big name in Germany, but while watching the movie you don’t have the feeling that he is more professional or experienced than the two young ladies. And this is something that works for both sides.

“Don’t Look at Me That Way” belongs to the very interesting trend in Munich Film Festival’s New German Films category this year, that has a mix of cultures, and thus a rich and different aroma of filmmaking. It is basically because of the DNA of the directors who were not born in Germany, and settled down in the country later. “Babai!” director Visar Morina was born in Kosovo and most of his film takes place in this war-torn and troubled territory. “Coconut Hero” was shot entirely in Canada and it’s director, Florian Cossen, was born in Tel Aviv to diplomatic parents, and moved with them to Montreal, Barcelona and Bonn. Like them, it seems that Borchu also had a long journey, in order to make her film happen. And when she did reach her goal, with a narrative that has built-in exotic, seductive and mysterious ingredients in it, this is something that has to be appreciated. Uisenma Borchu made three documentaries before this film, but I’m looking forward to seeing her next fiction film. We, the members of the FIPRESCI jury, chose this film and its gifted and talented director to be awarded with the FIPRESCI Prize in order to encourage her to keep on doing what she does very well.

Edited by Carmen Gray