Note from the Editor: Women X is an independent short film festival created by Rianne Pictures that aims to highlight the work of women and non-binary filmmakers. This was its first ever year and was created on a low budget and run by volunteers to bring the festival to life. The two-day event was scheduled to take place at both a physical venue in the North East of England and digitally, but unfortunately last minute changes meant that the physical venue could not go ahead, meaning the team had to adapt to the confines of a fully digital festival. For more information about the work of Rianne Pictures and Women X, you can visit their website here.
Disclaimer from the writer: I have known the festival director of Women X, Caris Rianne, for about five or six years now. We bonded over our love of film and even collaborated together on her short film Foxhole (2017), for which I was the DoP. I mention our friendship because it is important to have full transparency when reviewing the work of someone you know. However, I have approached this festival with as much objectivity as possible: I will always be honest in my reviews, even if it may be awkward or inconvenient on a personal level.
The second and final day of the Women X Festival took place on a rainy Sunday, frankly the perfect setting for a digital festival. Although the festival was generally well-paced, the Saturday schedule was considerably fuller than the Sunday schedule. The festival would have benefitted from moving one of the screenings to Sunday, and from hosting Awards Ceremony at the very end of the festival rather than Saturday evening.
There were only two screenings this day with the second being a special screening by Rianne Pictures.
Journeys to Truth
A Disappearance is an engaging and witty drama in which a psychic (a great performance by Sophie Thompson) tries to claw her way back to relevancy. The second short Beat It follows two friends as they confess long-held secrets at Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh: after a strong beginning, this dramatic short unfortunately falls apart in its approach of sensitive subjects such as sexual assault and trauma, becoming corny rather than moving. The more intriguing short Fingers is a heartfelt tale of an Israeli bride who fears she’s inherited her father’s illness.
Perhaps the most impressive entry of the festival, Hatsu is an incredible period drama inspired by true events of the mass deportation of Japanese people from Peru to American concentration camps. Lush cinematography, beautifully crafted costume and production design, and assured direction create a bold picture of young daughters desperate to hold their life together after their father is exiled.
Sealskin also had exceptional costume and production design that complimented its realistic mother-daughter story of rebellion and freedom. Finally there was Sh’hab, the story of an adventurous Qatari girl seeking a falling star much to the annoyance of her family. Rachel Aoun’s cinematography is stunning and Al Jori Al Darwish’s performance as the curious Amal is compelling.
Screening: Shades of Blue
Produced by Rianne Pictures, this short documentary focused on the mental health struggles of Black Londoners and how they use creative outlets to maintain their wellbeing. It is an intimate and sweet short that highlights a subject which has become even more relevant this year. Black folx around the world have suffered so much trauma in 2020 and directors Sophie Abramovici and Damie Lemomu are clearly invested in bringing this struggle to light. Although it could have been strengthened by further exploration of the subject, it is an undeniably personal documentary that valuably showcases the inner lives of Black people living in the capital.
The Q&A sessions that followed every film screening throughout the weekend varied in quality.
Striking Perspectives was particularly enjoyable and seeing director Laura Scrivano discuss her film whilst bouncing her newborn baby was the perfect reminder of how goddamn powerful women can be. However, a couple of Q&As such as the Unconventional Connections panel felt a little disorganised and would have been improved by stronger moderation and more interesting questions.
Panels and Workshops
Crowdfunding with Confidence broke down the financial costs of crowdfunding, how to set reasonable goals within campaigns and how to keep investors interested in projects. It was an informative workshop, if perhaps a little long.
The best panel of the festival was More Than 35%, an exploration of how female critics are treated in film journalism. Featuring three female editors-in-chief, it covered industry gatekeeping, inaccessibility due to class and region and how to break into the world of criticism. It would have been useful for the panel to include a discussion on how non-binary and trans critics fare in the industry, seeing as non-binary filmmakers were part of the festival’s focus. However, it was an illuminating talk that highlighted the misogyny and classism still at large in arts and culture journalism.
Women X Festival 2020 was held virtually on the 24th and 25th October
by Eleanor Ring
Eleanor Ring (they/them) is a freelance film and culture writer whose work has been featured in Little White Lies and Frame Rated. Born and bred in London, they love dissecting films through a queer and feminist lens. When in doubt, they ask them self “what would Agent Cooper do?” — which usually leads to lots of pie and coffee. Twitter: @eleanoraring Medium: https://medium.com/@eleanoralicering