Crossing Borders: The 7 Films Of Femme Frontera Filmaker Showcase 2017
There are seven remarkable films at the heart of Femme Frontera, a short film showcase that runs at the Echo Park Film Center in Los Angeles this month. The brain child of director Angie Reza Tures, Femme Frontera is a collective of female filmmakers from the U.S.-Mexican border region focused on creating art of social and cultural significance, that breaks both barriers and
There are seven remarkable films at the heart of Femme Frontera, a short film showcase that runs at the Echo Park Film Center in Los Angeles this month.
The brain child of director Angie Reza Tures, Femme Frontera is a collective of female filmmakers from the U.S.-Mexican border region focused on creating art of social and cultural significance, that breaks both barriers and taboos, with an aim to both educate and entertain. Read our interview with Tures here.
Now in its second year (the showcase was first unveiled at the Alamo Drafthouse, in El Paso, Texas, last year), the films are a mixture of genre, tone and style, some documentary, some fiction, yet two themes run through each work: the power of the female voice (both creatively and culturally) and an exploration of social taboo and the barriers that continue to repress the spirits of the individual.
This year, the showcase has branched out, with the subtitle Crossing Borders, curating work from around the world, including Africa, India, the UK and beyond, proving that, barriers be damned, talent and creativity are universal concepts and, as evidenced here, will never be repressed.
Windows – Maru Buendia- Senties
A film about communication and alienation, Windows plays like a mini Black Mirror episode, using a technology driven plot to craft a tale of two women who make a connection, only to find their bond crushed under the weight of an oppressive society that expects them to conform, rather than break out.
It’s a dystopian tale, gorgeously shot, slickly designed and with some excellent effects work, that builds a plausible world in which the two characters exist. Although exist may be too literal a term to use, as the story has a few surprises up its sleeve, it makes the audience question this clean but cold world.
On one level, a metaphor for a fascist society, which would rather have its people tow the line (or upload their subconscious to an iCloud), and on another, a tract on friendship and connection beyond Bluetooth.
In our digital, online age, this film could not be more relevant.
Child, Mother, Bride: Nigeria – Stephanie Sinclair & Nichole Sobecki
This extremely powerful documentary focuses on the many women abducted by the Boko Haram, an Islamic group that operates a continuing reign of terror, as part of an insurgency against the Nigerian government, and that has seen many families torn apart, the women, often schoolgirls, forced into marriage, raped and murdered.
Through interviews with victims and survivors, the sheer horror of these women’s plights become vividly real. One such woman, Aisha, was abducted along with 250 schoolgirls, beaten, raped and left to give birth to her rapist’s child. She is 17.
She also managed to rescue two orphaned boys, that she now raises as her own, her remarkable bravery a testament to her spirit of optimism, incredible given what she went through. In that respect, the film is about a circle of cruelty, broken by a woman with peace in her heart.
The saddest of statistics is weaved into the fabric of this fascinating film: that the women we get to hear the stories of, are only the women we know about. Millions more voices will never be heard. For this reason, and many more, this is vital, important film making of an impeccable standard.
Filip – Nathalie Alvarez Mesen
Filip is a quiet drama that draws natural performances from its cast, while telling a story of, domestic upheaval. It’s a deceptive little tale about a young boy who idolizes his big brother, only to have his image of him shattered when he witnesses something wholly unexpected. His brother, once his hero, suddenly becomes a stranger.
Delicately balancing between innocence and a dawning awareness of a prejudiced world, Mesen‘s camera stays tight on the young boy’s face, maintaining that we see all the events through his eyes. It’s a beautifully observed piece, reminiscent in tone to Lasse Hallstrom‘s early works, and Mesen‘s command of performances gives the film an eerily realistic nature.
Josef Waldfogel as the young Filip, is key to the audience’s empathy and his gradual processing of what he witnesses crafts a beautiful portrait of hope in the face of potentially complicated revelation.
Do Not Come To Europe – Hanna Pousette, Minna Lundberg and Pontus Jonestrom
This documentary offers a unique perspective on the refugee crisis, destroying all pre-conceptions of refugees coming from already dire circumstances. On the contrary, this challenging, beautifully edited piece shows that many are working families, who once had lives, and possessions, not dissimilar to our own.
The film intercuts interviews with victims of horrific atrocity that took place in the DR Congo (one particular victim draws comic books about his experiences, his illustrations positively chilling in their explicitness),and that of citizens of Sweden, creating a heart-breaking juxtaposition between those with nothing and those living in a land that the refugees desperately crave, despite the horrid irony that Sweden has literally closed its doors to them.
There are no metaphors necessary here. This is a film that pulls no punches and will haunt you for days.
That Day Will Come – Sarah Hope
The world of female drummers is revealed in Sarah Hope‘s sweet natured documentary. Hope herself actually created the drum school that is the focus of her film, Drum Retreat, and introduces us to some of the women that attend, all of whom derive different levels of achievement from the experience.
A series of talking head interviews are blended in with footage of the women getting lost in the beats, each of them with a story to tell. Some are there to feel empowered, some to realize their dreams, some for the love of music, and some, naturally, just to rock out.
The film may be short, but it is perfectly formed, much like the retreat itself, with a positive message about the power of music and the determination of the women who want to play until their hands bleed.
Raven – Razelle Benally
Raven presents the darkest of the fictional shorts in this showcase. The story of a native American woman seeking a way out, due to tragic circumstances involving a pregnancy, the film is a near dialogue free study on grief, depression and, in some respects, divine intervention.
Bolstered by a mesmerizing performance from MorningStar Angeline, the film unfolds, in gorgeous muted blue colors, which really makes you feel the cold of the forest landscapes. It’s a particularly still film, deliberately paced and visually poetic, before an inspired use of sound editing takes us right inside the head of a woman who has come out to the middle of nowhere to end it all.
As all good filmmakers do, Benally allows her story to develop through imagery alone (a pair of baby shoes, a noosed rope, an ethereal little girl), while the very nature, and traditions, of the woman’s ethnicity tells its own story, allowing the audience to understand fully just what kind of pressures still exist for young women who find themselves in such situations. And yet, even amongst this bleakest of scenarios, there is, perhaps, hope for the future.
We Did Not Fall From the Sky – Tabs Brese and Georgia Oakley
This documentary focuses on three transgender women, Purushi, Pratiksha and Shalu, and their stories of survival, victimization and the never ending struggle to be a part of Indian society. Shot with an intimacy, and a focus on how contemporary society views these women, matched against a surprising history in which eunuchs and transsexuals were a part of tradition, this film is a gut wrenchingly honest depiction of the ever present confrontations that exist in what should be a progressive civilization, but, inevitably falls short, choosing to turn its back on its own people.
The filmmakers are granted a wonderfully intimate amount of access to its three subjects, as well as their families, with each story interwoven with imagery of these women at their happiest, balancing the vibrant colors of the country, with the darker elements of the many street corners on which some of them are forced to earn their keep.
The filmmakers are also brave enough to throw more than one technique into the mix, utilizing music, dance and even animation. A unique take on a fascinating culture clash, this documentary, like its subjects, dares to be different.
Did you see any of these short films last year? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below!
The Femme Frontera Filmmaker Showcase will take place at Echo Park Film Center, L.A. on January 25, 2018.
Opinions expressed in our articles are those of the authors and not of the Film Inquiry magazine.