HELP! WHAT SHOULD I WATCH AT BERLIN FEMINIST FILM WEEK?
Everyone’s favourite feminist film event, je t’adore. But I have one bone to pick with you: You’re overwhelmingly good and like everyone else in Berlin, I’m perennially broke and short on time. At the last Berlin Feminist Film Week, I was so overwhelmed by choice that I’ve ended up swerving the research and just going to see whatever was on the night I was free. But not this year. I’m older, I’m wiser and while I *haven’t* yet seen any of the below, I’ve sifted through the press release and watched trailers so you don’t have to (though you should still probably definitely peep trailers).
You Want A Documentary With Less Story, More Insight
You want to know why Transformers is a singularly boring franchise of movies? It’s addicted to the “…and then” structure of storytelling. The planet Cybertron was consumed by a civil war AND THEN Optimus Prime led the Autobots AND THEN the Decepticons were led by Megatron AND THEN yawn. I’m biased because I hate films with plot, but whatever: it’s really tedious. What you want is a documentary that’s basically just like Jim Jarmusch’s Coffee and Cigarettes but a docu, not a movie, just a chance to hang out with a series of compelling characters and chew the fat.
You Should Watch: Strolling
British filmmaker Cecile Emeke explores the narratives of the black diaspora in Europe and the US in her series Strolling, in which she takes a stroll with people in various cities and countries and investigates everything from feminism to art to capitalism to poverty to war. I know this description is not hooking you in because it’s the exact opposite of Transformers — a story you can condense into a one sentence sales pitch (robots fight each other!) — but check out the episode above and tell me you’re not succumbing to its charm.
If You Watch Girls But You Feel Weird About How White And Privileged It Is
Hiii. My name is Sophie and I’m addicted to Lena Denham-penned television. Given all the demographics I neatly slot into (white, middle class, “urban,” millennial) this is eye-rollingly predictable. But it does make me morally uneasy, because I’m not exactly helping fight the good fight on making TV more representative and nuanced. But, I don’t (just?) watch Girls to watch hot white ladies suck down beers in Bushwick, but because I’m into shows with a lot of female characters where the focus is on daily life type issues ie. work, romance etc.
You should watch: In Between
It’s focused on three Palestinian women sharing an apartment in Tel Aviv and “the price they must pay for a lifestyle that seems obvious to many: the freedom to work, party, fuck and choose.” It sounds a little like Girls in terms of its focus on female friendships in a group in which the women are very different to each other (one woman’s a DJ, one’s an introverted, religious student, one’s a confident lawyer) but with a more considered, politicised viewpoint (the difficulties of living as an Arabic woman in Israel, secular vs. religious viewpoints, Christianity contrasted with Islam).
Investigative Journalism Is Your Jam
Ever since Trump was voted in, you’ve fallen down an investigative journalism rabbithole. You pay for The New York Times and The Guardian because of course you do — real news needs the funding for in-depth research.
You Should Watch: Hooligan Sparrow
Independent filmmaker Nanfu Wang follows activist Ye Haiyan (AKA Hooligan Sparrow) and her colleagues to Hainan Province in southern China to protest the case of six elementary school girls who were sexually abused by their principal. The activists suffer constant government surveillance and face interrogation, harassment and imprisonment, while filmmaker Wang also becomes a target.
Forget Tedious Black n White Indies, You Ride For Technicolor
You’re into films boasting extraordinary aesthetics and you’re a retro addict. The Wizard of Oz is your all-time favourite movie, not just because of its playful storyline, not because of Judy Garland, not just because of the music: but thanks to those incredible colours, which in your opinion is half of the magic of the film.
You Should Watch: The Love Witch
Arguably one of the most hyped of the movies on the list and it’s easy to see why. This film pretty much does what it says on the tin: it focuses on a beautiful witch/ love & sex addict in the ’60s who casts spells to bewitch men into loving her. Besides the fun premise though, it’s visually stunning and you’re almost certainly going to rush out and buy bright blue eyeshadow following viewing.
You Just Turned 30 And All Anyone Wants To Know Is If You & Yr Partner Are Going To Have Kids, Because *Gestures To Their Watch* Tick, Tick
Ugh. If one more person wants to know about what’s going on with you and your biological destiny you’re going to relocate to the moon. None of your business, local bartender/new work colleague/overly inquisitive man at your bookclub.
You Should Watch: No Kids For Me, Thanks
One filmmaker met with women aged between 30 and 70 in France, Belgium and Quebec who had chosen to lead childfree lives “in order to understand their life choices.” It explores common myths about childfree women as well as investigating the enormous amount of pressure society places on women to become mothers.
You Have Politics-Induced Blues
Why try anymore? Why try? You campaigned hard against Brexit, against Trump and it all happened anyway. We’re living in the darkest timeline and political activism doesn’t even seem to make a difference so you might as well pull a Walden and go and live in a tiny self-made cabin in Canada and be really smug/lonely. Right????
You Should Watch: Cycologic
Focused on the chaotic streets of Kampala and the dangers posed to cyclists by pollution, traffic jams and aggressive drivers and how one woman, urban planner and passionate cycling advocate, Amanda Ngabirano pursues her dream, introducing a cycling lane into her not-so-cycle-friendly city.
Someone In Your Life Suffers From Mental Health Issues
You’re empathetic, but having the privilege to have never suffered from depression, anxiety or panic attacks yourself, you can’t totally relate to what they’re going through. You’d like to have a more comprehensive understanding to be in a better place to support them.
You Should Watch: Fragility
At the peak of her career as a documentary filmmaker, Ahang Bashi begins to suffer from panic attacks and depression. Bashi films herself in her darkest moments and using her camera as a tool, returns to her childhood and how she escaped from Iran. The documentary underlines the trauma of fleeing to another country and explores the “good girl” phenomenon.
You Want To Watch A Madly Romantic Movie That Isn’t Heteronormative
You’re a sucker for old Meg Ryan movies (Sleepless In Seattle! You’ve Got M@il!), but the gender politics of the Ryan/(insert bland dude here) dynamic isn’t your bag. Haha, that scene where Ryan pretends to have an orgasm in a sandwich shop, tho.
You Should Watch: Below Her Mouth
Fashion editor Jasmine is living with her fiance, Rile, when she meets Dallas, a roofer recently out of a relationship. When Dallas hits on her, Jasmine turns her down but can’t stop thinking about her. Also: this movie was shot with an all-female crew, which is pretty fucking cool given the usual male:female ratio on film production.
Yes: Berlin Feminist Film Week is both (a) the best and (b) offers you a lot of choice but hopefully the above makes selecting your go-to film effortless. See you there!
Written by: Sophie