Femspectives ’20: Glasgow’s First All Womxn Film Festival

The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open (Netflix)

Femspectives is Glasgow’s first and only film festival dedicated to showcasing the work of womxn directors. The festival establishes a feminist ideal at its core, and ended up producing a truly inclusive and safe environment for the celebration of womxn in the industry. It does this whilst shedding light on an array of different issues and feminist politics across the world, provoking and opening up the possibility to have difficult but essential conversations.

The festival itself, hosted at Civic House between 20th and 23rd of February and showcasing an exceptional array of talent, opens its doors to everyone in a bid to celebrate womxn and feminism.

I was lucky enough to catch the last two days of the festival, and observe in a number of Q&A events which all sought to highlight the importance of feminism as a stepping stone for the discussion of womxn’s issues, not only in life but with specific relation to the film industry.

I even got the chance to sit down with the wonderful Lauren Clarke (co-founder and producer of Femspectives) to discuss the overall mission of the festival, the challenges womxn face in the industry and the future of Femspectives. The festival is in its early days, however, Lauren discussed that they are very much dedicated to remaining community focused, ensuring it is accessible as possible to everyone (with a pay-what-you-can-afford ticketing system). The future of Femspectives is one rooted in not just the celebration of womxn, but connecting and reaching people across the local community.

Without further ado, here are some highlights from the three-day event.

In Search (2018) dir. Beryl Magoko

In Search (Arsenal Film)

Featured as part of Femspectives AUTONOMY strand, Beryl Magoko’s harrowing documentary In Search focuses on the topic of female ‘circumcision’ and the brutal reality of womanhood. The documentary details Magoko’s own experience with FGM (female genital mutilation) as a child, and her path to reclaiming her body through reconstructive surgery.

In Search crafts a genuine and safe environment for the discussion of this sensitive topic, through the intimate and gut-wrenching moments she shares with other survivors, to guide her own decisions about her body and her future. Seeking not only to educate, but to give a voice to an issue that is kept silent, neglected, and ignored. Beryl goes far beyond her own comfort zone, highlighting the magnificence of female solidarity.

An often difficult and uncomfortable topic to discuss, the documentary wraps its arms around all ambiguity and prejudice that comes with the discussion of FGM and ensures the voice of women is heard in a way that celebrates them, not reduces or secludes them.

Little Miss Westie (2018) dir. Joy E. Reed & Dan Hunt

Little Miss Westie

Little Miss Westie, screened as part of Femspectives AUTONOMY strand, is a documentary centred on Ren McCarthy, the first trans-girl to compete in a local American beauty pageant.

Coached by her older brother Luca, the transgender duo and their parents showcase the reality young people face when exploring and navigating the complex waters of school, gender, puberty, and modern living. Taking place during the current reign of Trump, this thought-provoking story sheds light on the beauty of acceptance, authentic self-expression and queer support. 

Directed by Dan Hunt and Joy E. Reed, Little Miss Westie provides a much needed insight into the experiences of transgender people in the U.S. Opting to focus on Ren’s journey into the ‘Lil Miss Westie’ beauty pageant, a traditionally controversial contest deeply rooted in gender roles and ideals, the film grants an original yet deeply human overview of Ren and Luca’s desires to be accepted for how they want to be, not who they are told to be.

The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open (2019) dir. Kathleen Hepburn & Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers

The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open (Netflix)

Screened as part of Femspectives strand IT’S COMPLICATED, The Body Remembers When The World Broke Open is an intimate and unforgiving depiction of the aftermath of domestic abuse.

The chance encounter of two distinctly different indigenous women bleeds into a tale of resentful female empathy, bittersweet kindness, and the harsh reality of abusive circumstances. Áila (Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers) stumbles across a broken, bruised, and pregnant Rosie (Violet Nelson), fleeing from a brutal assault at the hands of her partner. Áila rapidly springs to action, attempting to guide Rosie to a path of safety, for her and her unborn baby.

Written and directed by Kathleen Hepburn and Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers, and shot in real time, the film is a slow burn of emotions. A flowing hopefulness clings to both characters throughout. This is a hopefulness that allows the story to courageously captivate and sensitively explore the interaction of women. Depicting the shared silent bond between them and the intricate existence we all face deeply rooted in varying circumstances of class, race, sex, and relationships.

Offering a perspective that is constantly misguided or ignored in cinema, The Body Remembers When The World Broke Open is unique in the way that it is entirely ordinary. It is a reality that is lived constantly by countless women, one that the film shows will most likely repeat. An abusive cycle that is not romanticised or justified, but rather presented just as it is. Available to stream on Netflix, The Body Remembers When The World Broke Open is a gritty, uncomfortable viewing experience, but one that is wrapped up in the heart-breaking and the poignant duty and care women provide each other.

by Kelsie Dickinson

Kelsie Dickinson is a super-gay wannabe film-maker. She loves independent cinema, especially horrors and films with nice lighting. Her favourite films are Lost in Translation, the original Evil Dead and It Follows. You can follow her on twitter @punkrocket_ and under the same user on instagram.

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