The St Andrews Feminist Film Festival

Flossie Topping and Michele Giovia are enlightened by empowering art

Last week marked one of the biggest events organized by a new St Andrews society, the St Andrews Feminists. Founded in the spring of 2009, the St Andrews Feminists have shed light on gender-related issues through discussions, lectures, activism and calibration with other societies. Organized in a communal structure as opposed to the usual hierarchical society set-up, the group has aimed to promote inclusion in the planning of the nearly thirty events it has carried out this year. The Saint caught up with the festival’s organizers on the last night of their weeklong event, and discussed the societies aims and activities over a home-cooked curry dinner.

A still from Chasing Amy, shown at the festival

The festival featured five different films over the course of the week, with approximately twenty-five to thirty students in attendance at each viewing. The society attributed the event’s success to the wide variety of themes and styles of the chosen films, which piqued the interest of a broad range of students. The diverse selection ranged from Nadine Labaki’s Caramel, a bittersweet comedy detailing the lives of five Lebanese women, to Jane Campion’s An Angel at My Table, a harrowing tale of the life of a New Zealand woman who was institutionalized and subjected to electric-shock therapy. The event also showcased Kevin Smith’s Chasing Amy and Jerzy Kawalerowicz’s Mother Joan of the Angels, which depicts the lives of Polish nuns deemed to be possessed.

A still from An Angel at My Table

While the films may not all express an overtly feminist theme, the society’s co-coordinator Miranda Myrberg, a fourth year, described the common thread.  The films all unearth the constructed and restrictive nature of gender roles, she said, and illustrate the efforts individuals undertake to free themselves from those roles.

The screening at the festival which audiences described as “most powerful” was the presentation of the HBO documentary The Greatest Silence: Rape in The Congo. The film captures the horrifying situation of women in the Congo, where rape  occurs on a daily basis, and on a mass scale, and explained how the country’s deterioration into civil war lead to the police attempting to use gang rape as a means of asserting power over villages swarmed with rebel forces. The audience reacted visibly to the atrocities displayed in the film, clutching their hands over gaping mouths at the sheer intensity of the brutal stories recounted.

A promotional photo for The Greatest Silence: Rape in The Congo

Terrifying footage showed young girls and women affected by the pandemic, often carrying AIDS and no longer to live independently due to the injuries infliced by rapists. The film left the audience shaken, and offered no easy solution to the issues it presented. The victimswere left scarred, giving birth to children with no fathers; children that will grow up surrounded by violence and may reproduce the behaviour which these women fear every day, and which they are powerless to change.

Two of the St Andrews Feminists’ members, Sarah Lohmann and Annie Thuesen, expressed their hope that the powerful films displayed would encourage viewers to challenge the assumed gender roles in society that “reduce human beings to simply male or female,” they said. Another of the group’s participants, Benjamin Bridgman, hoped that the wide variety of viewpoints presented through the festival’s films brought attention to what he views as “the integral but often overlooked, philosophy of feminism,” he said.

The Feminist Society’s final event of the term will be the Reclaim the Night March held on Friday 7th May outside the Student’s Union. The group hopes to host additional film festivals in the fall semester.

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