#MUFFApproved: Female Eye Film Festival
The 14th annual Female Eye Film Festival (FEFF) took place in Toronto this past week, screening films directed by women. We were tickled when FEFF reached out and invited us to attend the festival as their guest. Colour us special (which is probably a shade of pink).
The film gods were definitely watching out—yes Roxy Shih (director, The Tribe) they do exist—and I obviously jumped at the chance to go: FEFF, women-directed films, FEMALE perspective… need I say anymore?
I was able to attend a shorts programme and a short/feature programme. All of the films showcased a refreshing roster of characters. I say refreshing because the actions and thoughts of the female protagonists felt authentic! Three of the shorts in particular stuck in my mind, as did the feature film.
Marceline Blurr (dir. Nadia Mata Portillo) was by far my favourite aesthetically, drawing from the French New Wave film movement. The film executed so many challenging aesthetics: it broke the fourth wall perfectly with witty character asides; it offered an ironic voiceover narration and silent film style inter-titles; and it played with a B&W picture that changed to colour at the final meet-cute.
The main character is complicated and loveable, championing her imagination over reality itself. This is explained eloquently through her decision as a young girl to not wear spectacles. The film ends brilliantly in a similar way to Godard’s Breathless, on a still frame of Marceline with her prince of Egypt.
Avo (Golnaz Jamsheed) was a perfect package short film. Running at eight minutes, the film gave us just a glimpse of a young boy’s experience at his grandfather’s funeral. But this moment in time spoke volumes. The protagonist remained silent, and the adult voices we hear are muffled and alien in a sense, mirroring this confusing experience. He later tries to wake his grandfather up, who rests peacefully on a table. He is gently shooed aside so the body can be taken to a cemetery.
The ending promises comedic relief as the deceased is buried with his cell phone that rings throughout the ceremony. However, a heart-wrenching cutaway immediately shatters this hilarious moment, linking the ringing phone to the boy’s longing for his grandfather to come back.
A Private Matter (Kate Haplin) is the Australian short that played before The Tribe. Abigail and Charlie (Abigail’s girlfriend) travel to a small rural community with an even narrower point of view. Abigail’s extremely Christian mom views anything outside of a heteronormative life as a sickness. Charlie stands up for herself as a “raging lesbian” and storms out of the house, leaving Abigail in her wake.
Ready to leave the small town behind, Abigail’s brother insists they stay the night and invites the two lovers to a party in what seems like a way to make up for their mother’s behaviour. However, his interest in Charlie is toxic and vile. It's a chilling thriller that reveals how dangerous intolerance really is.
The final film I was able to watch at FEFF was Roxy Shih’s The Tribe. Roxy was present during and after the screening and brought an enormous energy to the room. She embodies a certain joie-de-vivre, making it impossible not to smile.
The Tribe, however, is nothing like Roxy’s bubbly personality. A dark post-apocalyptic film that explores how three sisters survive in the middle of a dessert. The oldest sister, Jenny (Jessica Rother), becomes a surrogate mother and is haunted nightly by her father’s suicide; the middle sister, Sarah (Anne Winters), is the hunter/protector, poised ready with her rifle; and the youngest, Danika (Chloe Beth Jones), is a mute that miraculously survives the plague that wiped out the rest of earth. They rely on rationed food, a storage locker that their dad built, and their wits. However, as each day passes, Sarah wonders what the point of living is if all they can do is eat, scavenge, sleep, repeat.
Their small world changes when a man walks into their camp and Jenny decides to keep him alive. The film is relentless, like a Shakespearean tragedy, revealing the stark reality of what it means to truly survive in a Darwinian sense and how far we are willing to go to protect ourselves. Intermixed with evolution is a religious motif of the arc. The sister’s run down house in the middle of a wasteland poses as a safety haven for five weary male travellers, but it soon descends into a pit of hell.
Ending in blood bath for all but Danika, the young girl leaves the house behind to wander the desert. Danika seems to represent the next dominant species chosen to rebuild human civilization. The Tribe won Best Feature and Best Supporting Actress at Nice International Film Festival and landed a distribution deal with Empress Road Pictures. Truly, this is a film you HAVE to see. Seriously, go see this Canada!
What an amazing experience being with so many talented filmmakers. The Female Eye Film Festival is one event I will continue to look forward to every year. I'm already counting down the days and I hope you are too. Thank you, thank you for inviting The MUFF Society.