Review: Reel Femme No.8 – showcasing a staggeringly broad range of female filmmaking

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For its eighth screening, Reel Femme returned to DINA with an array of short films created by self-identifying women filmmakers with the theme of ‘land and sea’.

Such a broad topic allowed the audience to engage with a variety of genres, subject matters and filmmaking styles, all of which resulted in a surprising and entertaining evening.   

While ‘land and sea’ was an apt theme for the film night, ‘seclusion’ seemed to be at the core of most of the pieces shown, no matter their format or narrative.

Amongst the three animated shorts, the stop motion animation, Bottle, was a standout. Created by Kirsten Lepore, the mind behind the Internet hit, ‘Hi Stranger’, this short film was shot on location. Or rather, three distinct locations: a beach, in snow and underwater.

Heartfelt, humorous and charming. The simple message of perseverance was conveyed beautifully using natural materials to craft creatures of sand and snow that sent messages and gifts to each other via a bottle.

Perhaps the most interesting piece of the night was Savage Ranch. With an opening line of “Spread your legs and grab the poll,” Liza Mandelup’s short film commanded your attention, much like its main protagonist, Love Bailey.

Through Love Bailey’s introduction, in which she is framed against the setting sun in startling red as she paints colourful strokes on the bodies of young men, to her interview in which she reclines with effortless grace on her bed, her presence inspires respect.

The start of her story is one that might be familiar to people in the LGBTQ+ community. She transitioned into a different gender and for it, was not accepted by her family. Despite years of animosity between her and her ex-prisoner mother, she managed to turn the narrative around, finding acceptance not only in her friends but also with her mom, who worked to buy Love Bailey an isolated ranch in Temecula.

Anyone is welcomed to come and explore their gender identity or sexuality on the ranch for months at a time, provided they produce a body of artistic work. Secluded away from potentially hostile gazes, Love Bailey offers moments of freedom to young people who would otherwise have to hide in a restrictive society, describing the experience as:

“Windows of time and exploration and fantasy.

“What if those moments could inspire a generation?”

A personal highlight from the night was My Head on the Mountain directed by Anna Stoltzmann. Infused with an air of mystery from the very start, this film effortlessly conceals information, not letting the audience see the entirety of the mysterious, robed figure which makes its way to the edge of a cliff before singing out into the crashing waves framed by unforgiving mountains.

Perfectly embodying the night’s theme of land and sea along with the idea of seclusion, this piece weaves dramatic shots of the Norwegian fjords with the compelling voice of the Norwegian performance artist, Agnes Btffn, who is unafraid to expose everything to the audience. Each frame of the film has care poured into it and this is not mentioning the stellar sound design which uses silence and natural movement to create an undeniably intense feeling.

Though everyone had their preferences, each film left an impact on those watching, demonstrating individual strengths alongside strong directorship.

All profits from the night went to support the local women’s charity, VIDA Sheffield, who provide domestic and sexual abuse services and training.

The next event, which as usual will be pay-how-you-feel, will take place on 30 November at The Audacious Art Experiment. Called ‘Wiggle Room’, it is Reel Femme’s first late night celebration with a combination of works from female and non-binary DJs and filmmakers.

By Diana Read