Movie Review: 25th Créteil International Women's Film Festival, France

By Moira Sullivan
Movie Magazine International
Créteil Final Report

With 25 years of festivals of 'Films de Femmes', the best work of 2003 was screened alongside venerable classics. The stature of this year's guest of honor, narrative filmmaker Margarethe von Trotta and one of the voices of 'New German Cinema', was most apparent.
Although some of her classic films are clearly dated such as Marianne and Julie made in 1981 and Sheer Madness made in 1983, their intensity still compels attention, with a clear connection to politics and to the advancement of women. The strength of female friendship is so strong, it still blows your socks off.

Films by women today have embarked on new directions in aesthetics. It is refreshing to see that a film like Frida by Julie Taymor (USA 2002) about the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo reveals to today's audience the relationships of art and politics. A special evening at Créteil complete with a strolling mariachi band was dedicated to a preview of the film to receive theatrical distribution in Paris on April 16.

Cristina Commencini's awards for best film from the Créteil public and the jury for The Best Day of My Life is not a film that addresses the role of women per se but of the social mores and deceptions, that prevents the emergence of truth. In this film, a family tries to reunite but the secrets are overwhelming and all of them seem to be living lies. The youngest member of the dynasty is given a video camera to record her family just as her elders made home movies but hopefully her gazes will not be romanticized cover ups of truth.

The youth jury awarded best film to This Side of Heaven (China, 2002) to Chen Lie, a film about Qiaoqiao, a woman who is kidnapped in the Tibetan wilderness and sold as a wife to the poor highway worker Dahong. Though she manages to escape, her ordeal is far from over. Filmmaker Lie hopes the film will open up an understanding of the plight of contemporary women in China. As such the choice falls within the historical paradigm of rewarding work at Créteil which shows the plight of women within the international arena.

Other documentaries that chronicle themes of today include the winner of the Public Prize for best documentary at Créteil: Georgie Girl by Annie Goldson and Peter Wells (New Zealand 2001) about a Maori transgender and former sex worker who was elected into the parliament of the New Zealand government. The film shows how Georgina was able to transcend ethnic lines and challenge heteronormative practice in government and New Zealand culture.
Documentary filmmaker Kim Longinotto who has won several awards at Créteil took home the "French Association of Women Journalists (AFJ)" for her chronicle of female circumcision in Kenya The Day I Will Never Forget, (UK, 2002).

The Créteil pageant has clearly succeeded in providing a high quality showcase of compelling themes and treatments of the lives of women by women. The 26th festival scheduled marks the beginning of a whole new generation.

For Movie Magazine International this is Moira Sullivan, Paris France

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25th Créteil International Women's Film Festival, France