Chatting to a friend recently about the wonderful Ida and the not-quite-so-good Cold War, she said to me “B&W films can seem more real than colour”, a thought-provoking observation about how authenticity doesn’t necessarily come from trying to slavishly reproduce the ‘real world’.
But how come B&W films can seem ‘more real’ than those shot in colour? I certainly find that B&W images often stay with me so clearly and are somehow much more memorable than colour ones.
For the second year running, WOW Film Festival has succeeded in curating a programme in which half the films are F-Rated, meaning that they are either directed or written by women. After 2018’s 50% F-Rated programme, I questioned whether we would be able to maintain that ratio in future years. But once again in 2019 women filmmakers continue to be prominent among the most striking and relevant voices in world cinema today.
Notable F-Rated films in WOW’s programme include Cathy Yen’s Dead Pigs (Sundance World Cinema Special Jury Prize) from China, Cristina Gallego’s Birds of Passage (Honourable Mention Best Film London Film Festival) from Colombia, Renée Nader Messora’s The Dead and the Others (Un Certain Regard Jury Prize at Cannes Film Festival) from Brazil, Dominga Sotomayor’s Too Late to Die Young (Best Director Locarno International Film Festival) from Chile and Mouly Surya’s Marlina The Murderer in Four Acts (Winner Special Award Asia Pacific Film Festival) from Indonesia.
Today, to honour International Women’s Day I’d like to put the spotlight on two extraordinarily intimate documentaries that gained unprecedented access to women’s lives in Libya and Japan: Freedom Fields and Ama-san.
The 2019 WOW Film Festival trailer is here!
This year's festival has a global-rural theme, with a strong selection of South-American films, more than a hint of shamanism and our usual F-Rated focus - more than half the films in the programme are either directed or written by women!
We're also bringing Aberystwyth it's first comicon style convention, Abercon, a partnership event with Mencap Ceredigion, whose idea it was!
Tickets are now on sale too!
In partnership with Winding Snake, the WOW Women's Film Club is organising a special workshop on Monday October 8th at City Campus, Newport.
History professor and author Angela John will be giving a history workshop and debate on the subject of the local history of women's rights.
With funding from the Welsh Government, like all Women's Film Club events, there will be a creche, and also on this occasion some lunch provided.
There are 20 spaces available, so it will be an intimate affair.
It will also be suitable for women learning English who have already reached a standard where they confident to speak English publicly.
We recently held our first Newport Women's Film Club, screening the heartwarming Saudi Arabian film Wadjda at the Riverfront arts centre.
Thank you to all the women who came along to enjoy the film, plus a big shout out to those at all the organisations who supported the event: Theresa from Redcross, Bronia from Welsh Refugee Council, Sarah from the office of Jessica Morden MP/Welsh Labour, Sarah from The Gap Centre, Roy from Sewrec, Marilyn from Coffee and Laughs, and Patience and AnaMaria from BAWSO.
The next Newport screening will be on July 17th - watch this space for announcements!
As regular followers of WOW may be aware, over the past few years the festival has grown it's focus on women and film, in relation to both the stories we share on screen, and the makeup of the audiences who come to see them. The WOW Women's Film Club was set up specifically to provide a safe space for women from all backgrounds and cultures to come together to experience some of the best women's stories from around the world.
We're about to hold our first Women's Film Club screening in Newport, Gwent later this month. At the planning stages we started having discussions about what imagery we might choose to attract women to the Film Club. We would usually choose a film still but this time we decided to try something a little different.
Florence Jackson is a young artist from west Wales whose work has a beautiful quality and often features women. We decided to commission Florence to come up with an illustration for the film club that would communicate the essence of what the film club is about.
Florence has very kindly written a few words about her work:
"My work is largely influenced by Eastern mythology philosophy, Folk Art and storytelling. I am wildly curious about the nature and identity of people and animals from all walks of life and the way in which they interact and coexist with their surroundings.
I initially studied fashion and textiles and have carried my love of rich patterns, textures and colours into my illustrative voice. I believe that the clothing and we drape over our bodies can act as symbols of our identity and culture.
When asked to illustrate this image, it was important to celebrate women from a diverse range of cultures. I considered the unifying qualities of all women and what stood out for me was the subtle and undemanding strength that radiates from them. I wanted to highlight the importance of sisterhood and unity, both empowering qualities that we must embrace in a world that often undermines them."
Thank you Florence - we hope you like the image she produced as much as we do!
Last Saturday the WOW Women's Film Club shared a programme of animated shorts at Volcano Theatre and Coastal Housing's Jamborî!
Jamborî! was a two day festival on Swansea's High Street, packed with creative things for families to see, do and discover.
We were there to promote the WOW Women's Film Club, which has more women-only screenings happening in and around Swansea soon (watch this space).
Here are some of the families enjoying a selection of short animations from Japan, Russia, the US, France and Wales.
The Welsh animation was Uncle Ahmed's Canaries which was made with Syrian families recenlty settled in Ystradgynlais.
Thanks to Caroline Lane of WOW Women's Film Club and the festival volunteers for making this happen.
‘The film that was banned from the Annecy International Animated Film Festival,’ while being a somewhat click-baity headline, is the reason you might have heard of this Chinese independent animated feature film. Have A Nice Day was programmed in competition in the world’s largest celebration of animation in 2017, but was suddenly removed from the festival’s line up just the week before. The festival cited ‘official pressures’ and that the decision was ‘imposed on them,’ by (what was largely reported at the time as) Chinese government officials.
I was attending the 2017 festival and, let me tell you, nothing makes me want to watch a film more than a government not allowing me to! The film was successfully released to a handful of other international animation festivals following the furore at Annecy, however, I didn’t get my chance to see what the fuss was about. Imagine my delight, then, on finding out it was coming to my home city!
It’s International Women’s Day this week (March 8th) and by way of marking the celebrations, it’s traditional for WOW to train it’s lens on women’s filmmaking around the world. Usually we focus on the handful of F-Rated movies in the current festival programme, but this year something different has happened. For the first time, 50% of the WOW Festival programme is F-Rated.
Since announcing this, we’ve been praised for being “groundbreaking”, but considering that approximately half of humanity would describe themselves as women or girls, the fact that half the films in WOW’s programme have been made by women shouldn’t really be anything remarkable, right? 100 years on from (some British, mostly white and wealthy) women first gaining the right to vote, shouldn’t this ground have been broken a long time ago?
Although 2018 coincides with both the centenary of women’s suffrage and the popularity of #metoo, this year’s 50% F-Rated programme hasn’t been a conscious response to either. Rather, it’s come about through a long-term commitment to sharing films made by women around the world, and a deep appreciation for the interesting ways that women’s voices can shed light on particular experiences.
That said, if there’s one film in this year’s festival that does tie into the mood of #metoo, it has to be Tunisian director Kaouther Ben Hania’s tense and at times nightmarish Beauty and the Dogs, in which a young woman, Mariam, fights back against the normalization of evil. From Mariam’s perspective, the trauma of a rape and its aftermath is cruel, but for the hospital staff and the police she encounters, it’s just another day at work. The difference between these two attitudes, that of personal tragedy and the insensitivity of institutions, defines the tone of the film.
We're delighted to confirm that Heavenly Nomadic is to open the 2018 WOW Film Festival at Taliesin Arts Centre, Swansea on Tuesday 13 March!
WOW’s special focus for 2018 is ‘Tales from the Silk Road’, a cinematic journey across the heart of the world. Following the ancient trade networks from China through Mongolia and Central Asia to the Mediterranean, this programme presents some outstanding films that have won festival awards across the world. At Taliesin we are featuring the beautiful Heavenly Nomadic from Krygyzstan about a family of horse breeders. With its wistful humour, this is a warm, atmospheric, sweet natured tale about nomadic traditions that are slowly disappearing from the magnificent mountains of Central Asia.
Set on the shores of the Caspian Sea the visually striking The Gulls plays out amongst the striking cultural mix of Kalmkyia, the only country in Europe where Buddhism is the national religion.
Details of the festival programme at Taliesin Arts Centre are now up on the venue's website: https://www.taliesinartscentre.co.uk/cinema.php
One of this year’s highlights is the hugely powerful, stunningly beautiful Aboriginal tale Sweet Country directed (and filmed) by Warwick Thornton who made the memorable Samson & Delilah.
Not to be missed is highly acclaimed The Square, a wickedly funny, bracingly surreal satire on the pretensions of high art.