[Review] The 9th Women's Film Festival in Seoul, April 5-12
Joan M. Dawson (joanied40)
If you haven't gone yet, it's still not too late to go to the 9th Women's Film Festival in Seoul. You have until April 12 to see a film "through women's eyes". The festival, hosted by the Feminist Artist Network, is being held at the Artreon Cinema in Sinchon.
Each year the festival runs specially chosen themes and this year is no different. Women migrants will be this year's theme, highlighting women who've crossed borders for work or marriage.
According to the festival's brochure, "The films range from documentaries about the cruel reality of women migrant laborers and anti-humanitarian situations of internationally purchased marriages to films of brave women who keep their dreams and overcome stern realities in life for their futures and that of their families".
It hopes to provide a realistic viewpoint while remaining hopeful that we will find better means to living together in this increasingly globalized world.
I saw my first film today and it was from the "Women Migrants: Invisible People" section. It entailed three short films. "Bon Voyage" was a 3-minute film from France about a cleaning woman in a Paris train station. "The Ball of Wool" was a 15-minute film from France about a woman and her two children. As the husband locks the door everyday as he goes to work, Fatiha finds creative ways to communicate with her neighbor, also a woman and child.
"Maid for Sale" was a 52-minute film from director Dima Al-Joundi. It highlighted women from Sri Lanka who travel to Lebanon as domestic servants, in reality they are often modern slaves. They work from 6 a.m. until 11 p.m., earning 2 euros a day. Sometimes they are indebted for their passage, with their passports held until it can be repaid. Sometimes they are locked in the house so they don't run away.
In fact, the one woman interviewed in the documentary said that anywhere from 500 to 600 migrant women die a year in Lebanon. Some commit suicide, others are killed. They've been stabbed, raped, thrown over balconies, and discarded in the forest.
After the film, the director answered questions from the audience. She spoke in French, it was translated into Korean and then, to me, in English. Al-Joundi is a Lebanese woman who uses women as her central characters. This film, Maid for Sale, is currently being shown in small towns in Sri Lanka; it has also been shown in Lebanon.
When asked why the movie appeared so positive in the beginning, Al-Joundi explained that she wanted to capture the reality -- that some situations are positive, albeit the women suffer from homesickness. She wanted to start positively and build into the negative.
She also specifically chose not to show gruesome scenes: "No, I don't show sensation". She said, this time speaking in English, she chose not to show dead corpses but rather to use people's words.
A professor from Sri Lanka was in the audience. He stated that he thought it was a valuable story and thanked the director for telling the story to the world.
This year the festival highlights the work of a prominent filmmaker from Hungary, Marta Meszaros. She's made over 60 films in the last 50 years, utilizing women as her main characters. The films that will be featured include "Fetus", "Diary for My Loves", "Diary for My Children", "The Two of Them", and "Adoption". Most of her films deal with family relationships and the effects the economy can have on them.
"New Currents" is another section of the film festival. It explores films made by women in the last year or two. This year, the films come from 13 countries, including Korea.
Another aspect of the festival is the "Youth Program: Girls on Film". The "Youth Program" presents a variety of film styles. The films deal with issues like poverty, class, sexuality, family and relationships. The films, like most in the festival, come from various parts of the world: France, Sweden, USA, The Netherlands and Korea.
The "Empire and Women" section considers the role globalization, capitalism, military and politics play on women's lives. "Enemies of Happiness", for example, is a documentary that follows the life of Malalai Joya's campaign for the National Assembly in Afghanistan. She's received many death threats for her unconventional goal. "View from a Grain of Sand" presents life in refugee camps in northwestern Pakistan. There are also films about the Iraq war, factories in Mexico, and the presence of the U.S. Army.
"Queer Rainbow" presents films by and about lesbian and transgenders. Sixteen films are included in this section, some being short films. Also, short films and videos can compete for cash prizes in the Film Festival. This year 17 films were chosen to compete.
As the title states, this is the ninth year for the film fest. Often, the films are sold out. They're educational, creative and unique. It's not too late to see one -- you've got until this Thursday. If you can't make it, mark it on your calendars for next year -- the festival usually runs in April.