[eng] "I am not this woman". Look at me, I'll tell you my story

Article published on Feb. 27, 2017
Article published on Feb. 27, 2017

This article has not been vetted by an editor at Paris HQ

This year, the European Film Festival in Seville, which took place from November 4 to November 12 bet on films by women on other women. Faced with the altered image of ourselves we are used to seeing onscreen, this Festival had the idea to make visible and allow female directors to speak and express their vision, much deeper and more realistic, on what it means to be a woman.

Art is a round trip showing us who we are and feeding on our lives. When you get close to a piece of art, whatever kind of art, you know more about yourself than what you knew moments before. It occurs with poetry, novels, songs, paintings, sculpture and, of course, cinema. But what happens if what we are shown is a distorted image of ourselves?

Many of you readers probably don't know what the Bedchel's test is. And yet, it is essential to understand why as women we so often feel misrepresented in movies. Alison Bedchel is an American cartoonist who published in 1985 Dykes to Watch Out For. In this comic was a story called “The rule” in which appeared this simple test to determine women's presence in art. The test is composed of three questions: first, are there at least two women who are named; secondly,  do they talk to each other, and finally do they talk to each other about something other than a man. This test is used to assess women's presence; it doesn't mean than a movie is good or bad nor does it determine whether a movie is feminist or not. It only assess our presence, if we got actual names in the movie and if we talk about something that is not romance and love!

At first it might even seem ridiculous, but if we only think about it, we realize that most of the movies do not pass the test, including very famous movies such as Batman, District 9, Slumdog Millionaire, Terminator, Shrek, Watchmen, the entire Bourne series, Transformers, Brüno, Hackers, The Big Lebowski, WALL·E, Wanted, Ocean's Twelve, Clerks, Pirates of the Caribbean, Austin Powers, Men in Black, Fight Club, The fifth Element, Hellboy, Milk, Reservoir Dogs, James Bond, Indiana Jones, Alien³, The Lord of the Rings, The Princess Bride, The Truman Show, From Dusk Til Dawn, Trainspotting, Mission: Impossible, Braveheart, Toy Story, Gladiator, X-Men, When Harry met Sally, Back to the Future, Pulp Fiction, Interview with the Vampire, Seven, Home Alone or Up, to give a few examples out of millions of others. It becomes obvious that the movie industry aims mainly at doing movies for men.

Well-aware of this, which is nothing else than some kind of symbolic violence, which must be stressed out since we are in November, which is the month against machist violence, the Seville Film Festival, which will take place from November 4 to November 12, chose to schedule a beautiful film cycle called "I am not this woman", aiming at allowing women to express their views on other women through movies.

Many of those of us who went to watch the cycle grew up with the maestros' great coplas: Quintero, León y Quiroga (A la lima y el limón, Tatuaje, La Lirio, Francisco Alegre, La niña de fuego, Ay pena, penita, pena, Y sin embargo te quiero, No me quieras tanto, Romance de valentía, La zarzamora, Romance de la Reina Mercedes, Limosna de amores, Capote de grana y oro, La Salvaora, Ojos Verdes, Amante de abril y mayo and many more. Many of us listened to the great Lola Flores, Juanita Reina, Marifé de Triana, Rocío Jurado or Isabel Pantoja and we still enjoy those lyrics that are part of our common imagination, like for example singers such as Miguel Poveda.

These songs taught us many lessons about life that we then had to unlearn in order to learn to love ourselves. One of those things we had to unlearn is the fear that our sexual life would turn us into an anonymous : “I am...this woman.../ This obscure carnation/ who's going from corner to corner/ Stuck in the head./ They can call me Carmen,/ or Lolilla or Pilar;/ I shall resign / To what pleases them./ I am the one without a name,/ The one no one is interested in,/ The ruin of men,/ The one whose kiss is a lie./ You already... know... I am... this woman...”

Of course, we were not alone in doing so. Mari Trini, for example, taught us to be rebels with things like: “I am not this woman/ You imagine/ A quiet and simple woman / You can abandon any day/ And always forgives/ This girl / This is not me/ I am not this woman/ You thought I was/ The white dove/ Who idolizes you/ Who laughs for nothing/ Saying yes to anything/ This girl/ This is not me”

“I am not this woman” is a 12 movies cycle, directed by 12 women who introduce other women with great creativity, who question the roles they are given, who live their sexuality or are frustrated, or who are mothers like the sphinx in Thebes was. Transgressive women who do not want to wear the narrow girdle imposed on them by society.

The cycle covers almost six decades of cinema split into eight thematic sessions-Let's talk about sex, Riot Grrrls, She was happily married, You only got one Mother, More Painful than Pain, Gender Issue, Girl-Friends or Let's not have them representing us.

Sedmikrásky (1966) - Věra Chytilová 

This movie (in English, The Daisies) is considered to be one of the major movies of teh Czech New Wave and yet it was censored for many years. Sedmikrásky is a story made of pieces of stories, where two girls stand up to the system and flaunt social coolness in a corrupt world. Despite the movie's success, the Czech censorship forced its director, Věra Chytilová, to produce part of her following work using her husband's name. Her role as a reformer of European cinema is undeniable, even though poilitical circumstances surrounding her work are staining it. Sedmikrásky is a constant challenge to the spectator, a constant moral questioning and a constant thinking about hope and what are these two girls who love life and pleasure more than anything.

Riddles of the Sphinx (1977) – Laura Mulvey 

This movie is a manifesto by Laura Mulvey who sought to transpose into a movie her ideas on cinema. With a mirrorlike structure and the use of circular panoramic shots, Mulvey tells us about what it means for her to be a mother, through a continuous metaphor  using the Thebes Sphinx. There is no denying this is an essential feminist movie that had its place in such a movie cycle.

À ma soeur (2001) – Catherine Breillat 

A movie reflecting on sexuality; the story of women (mainly teenagers) who don't have a body corresponding to beauty standards. Even though the film is on the verge of sordidness, especially with its extremely tragic ending, it is an interesting reflexion about a theme that is not normally addressed in cinema. This is where its originality lies: in the recurring themes and points of view that are often present in Catherine Breillat's work, whether it is movies or literary work.

Grandma Lo-fi: The Basement Tapes of Sigrídur Níelsdóttir (2012) 

This documentary is is a beautiful ode to creation, imagination and the right to do whatever we want, no matter how old we are. With a beautiful visual intertwining cinema, music and collage, this ensemble film relates the last years of Sigrídur Níelsdóttir who, aged 70 went into music by his own means and recorded more than 600 songs in which he included his pet's sounds and everything he could find in the kitchen that could be ised, such as water dripping in the pans or the sound of tinfoil crumpling. Without any doubt one of the sweetest initiatives of this cycle.

In addition to the movie cyle, "I am not this woman" is also a fanzine gathering illustrations, stories and comics with the same will to highlight the women's realities that are never or very little depicted in art. Among the artists, we can name María Cañas, Elisa Victoria, Joaquín León, Elena Orellana (Madre Imperfecta), Marta Caballero, Gloria Romero (Rapariga Amarguinha), Ana Jiménez (La Topa Tabernaria), Marta Altieri, Nieves González (N.G. Snowjane, de Las Janes), Gloria Vilches, Xiana Gómez Díaz, Helena Exquis, Andrea Galaxina and Mari Marín (lamarimorena).

There is still a long way to go. Many songs to deconstruct. Much language to make ours. Many movies that are still to pass the Bedchel test. A lot to claim and to say. But no doubt an event such as the European Film Festival celebrating us, what we want to be and what we have to say, is a big step forward. And most important, the fact that it is done with an historical perspective that shows that, after all, women always, always contributed to art.

Congratulations to the Festival for placing this bet!