SANTIAGO – Femcine Festival is celebrating its 9th year, and its director, Antonella Estevez, talked to Chile Today about film, feminism, and cultural dialogue. “We don’t believe in the concept of “feminist themes.”
Chile is experiencing a feminist wave which is somewhat unprecedented. In what way can a film festival such as this add to or support the cause?
“For us, Femcine is a space for dialogue more than anything. We are using film as a means of connecting with the reality of women around the world, and from this to create conversations between filmmakers and filmgoers. At this juncture, where the feminist movement has become more visible, dialogue seems the most apt way to establish a world which is more just for everyone, men and women, and film is a good way of achieving this.”
For a festival of this type, what do you think a film can do or say that other media can’t?
“Cinema occupies a space together with other forms of art like theatre and literature, in that is it a conduit for empathy. Films have a way of putting you in another person’s shoes, to identify with their world, to feel their feelings, in this case in the shoes of a woman, distinct from the person or even woman that you might be: a migrant woman, a trans woman, a gay woman, a woman in conflict. This allows the viewer to compare and explore their own conflicts – this creates an empathy with the subject, allows you to develop an empathy with someone who may originally have seemed quite different.”
What is the link between cultural events such as these and the feminist movement?
“It depends. Feminist movements are very broad, and many of them carry, innately, a space for self-expression that overlaps with culture and cultural events. We in Femcine began by thinking about what it meant to ourselves to be feminists, what it means to want to a more equal society, and from there what it means to want more equal society specifically for female directors. Types of feminism are numerous, just as numerous as types of art and cultural expressions, as I believe there are many links to be made between the two, even if they aren’t so obvious.”
Beyond being made by women or having women as subjects, what are/were the criteria for selecting films for this festival?
“One criterion is for the films to have female characters, but beyond this, for those characters to not be the typical female characters we are used to seeing, and also for these films to be of a high quality. We don’t believe in the concept of “feminist themes,” because women are interested and involved in the whole world, just like men, and something that the festival has shown for the last 9 years is that women of course make movies about many varied things. Something that’s important for us is that these films are understood and understandable for most people, that they’re accessible, that they touch people, and that they create dialogue.”
In what way do you believe this festival can create dialogue?
“We have organized various activities to achieve this goal. We have cineforos, discussion forums, which we are doing in coordination with Universidad de Chile; after many films there are panel discussions; we have invited numerous directors who have come to converse with the audiences for their films after they are shown, and these take place in various locations to open them up to various municipalities. We want it to be a place for people to meet: this year we have created these dialogue spaces for people to discuss the role of women in film. We are always thinking of ways to make this a place for people to exchange ideas.”
Do you think we as a society will ever reach a point where festivals like this are no longer needed?
“It would be fantastic to arrive at such a moment. A moment where we don’t feel obligated to have things like Femcine, but we’re so, so far from this. The representation of women in film continues to be disproportionately small, especially for those behind the camera: only 15% of people working in the production side of film making are women. Obviously the goal is to make this percentage more representative of the actual demographics—half the world is women, therefore half of its stories are too.”
The Femcine film festival concluded yesterday, March 24, in Santiago.
David Nash is a poet from Ireland, and lives between Ireland and Chile. He also writes for Harper’s Bazaar and the Irish Times.