Friday, 24 April 2009

East End Film Festival

The East End Film Festival runs until 30th April and aims to raise the profile of London's East End as well as inform and inspire filmmakers and audiences across London and beyond. There are lots of interesting looking films and events but I am particularly drawn to Lucy Izzard's animated short film Tea Total which is being shown in a Tea bar. It's not often that my loves of tea and film are combined, and this looks ace. Tea Total is being shown throughout the festival and more details and full listings can be found on the East End Film Festival website.

In the Guardian Iain Sinclair writes about the mythology of the East End in cinema. However, it is not made clear what area is considered to be East End, I was always told you were there as long as you could hear the sound of the Bow bells. Perhaps it isn't crucial to be precise, especially when the heritage of the East End in film is so strong.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Observe and Report

Observe and Report is released in the UK next week and there has been a great deal of discussion about its rape scene. Bitch Flicks have helpfully compiled a list of the best and worst writing on the film here.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Defining Female Friendly Film: The Bechdel Test

There are many problems in trying to classify film as either feminist, female friendly, misogynist or whatever. What I aim to do in this series is to examine some strategies and policies that feminists across the blogosphere have devised for making these decisions. The first one I’ll be looking at is what we’ll call the Bechdel Test but that has existed under several names. This originates from the comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For and has been referenced by many film viewers since.

Here is a link to The Bechdel Test

The best part about this approach is that it encourages an analysis of the gender make up of films’ main characters from the beginning. This is especially useful in challenging the male-as-default characterisations. There is an issue in that the Test can only be used for more mainstream narrative films and that you need to know a decent amount of information about the film before you begin. However, I’m all for researching films before viewing so I guess the issues I have with it are elsewhere.

Firstly, feminist avant garde films generally don’t pass the test. While this is ok to a degree because it is being used to examine mainstream cinema it doesn’t widen the experience of the viewer by omitting film that is told visually rather than by dialogue.
Secondly, there are some feminist films that focus on one character and their experiences. I’m trying hard for example to remember whether Orlando had any conversations with other women. I believe it is just monologue or with men. This example also highlights the problem with gender binaries, but again this isn’t an issue central to popular cinema. How is gender understood though in this case, as the gender of the character or the actor? These aren’t always the same.
My third issue is that besides not talking about men the women can talk about anything. This lets several women hating films through the net such as What Women Want where women have conversations about lipstick. But as it is obvious that what the Test is really looking for is an intelligent conversation this perhaps isn’t a big issue.

In general I like the Bechdel test. It makes the lack of female protagonists in mainstream cinema more visible and encourages critical film viewing. However for watching diverse films, silent cinema, or art cinema for example, a different, more complex set of criteria will need to be used.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Scholarships to Study Film in the USA

The Fulbright Commission is offering the US dollar equivalent of £20,000 to study a Master's degree in Film Directing, Screenplay, Production, Cinematography, Scoring/Composition or Film Business. The award is open to UK citizens from an under-represented background and women are included in this group which is excellent news. It would be great if this contributes to a more diverse British film industry as participants are expected to "give back" to their home country upon completion of the course. Information on the criteria and how to apply can be found from Skillset.