Signals: What the F?! - An introduction by programmer Bianca Taal

Insects, Men-Sanctuaries, Vampires and Other Feminist Notions

Feminism today: a trend, a lifestyle and a movement. Equality for women is a widely discussed topic – maybe now more than ever. Figureheads of feminism now permeate all corners of pop culture and indictments of the under-representation of women in Hollywood regularly fuel debate. In the sociopolitical arena, speeches have recently been made at the UN, summits on domestic and sexual violence have taken place and there was a female winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. Suddenly it’s no longer scary to use the F word out loud. Thank goodness for that!

At the same time, it may be easier than ever to stand up as a feminist: a selfie while wearing a T-shirt with the text ‘this is what a feminist looks like’; a hashtag; a repost of an article on Facebook. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have a ready answer to every dilemma. You’re a feminist and you have your own opinion.

Good for Her! Not for Me.

When so many people call themselves feminists at the push of a button, interpretations become very diverse. All those individual visions and expressions of what feminism is provide a discourse all of its own. Of course, feminism is about equality. What that equality means, however, often gives cause for confusion. Debates about who has said what about feminism are exploding in the newspapers, on TV and above all on the internet. And also about who calls herself (or himself ) a feminist? And should they really be allowed to call themselves that? ‘Because my feminism is different.’ Should women be saved? Should we blame it all on men? Are you an apostate if you decide not to work, but to look after your family?

Even though this is a legitimate debate, and the confusion is occasionally funny, surprising and/or contradictory, ideas about feminism continue in any event to develop with every new point of view. And this is good. A plethora of opinions is welcome. Every tweet, article and interview keeps the conversation going.

What the Films?!

What the F?! celebrates all these diverse visions and approaches. It takes a look at the diversity of feminism today in a programme packed with premieres, which may prove that ‘now’ is the moment for feminism. The films that have been brought together in What the F?!, each from their own individual perspective, provide a vision of the position of women.

From real battles for rights in the South Korean protest film Cart, in which a group of female supermarket staff surprise the management with their campaigning perseverance, to The Editor of the Amateur Photographer, an Impressionist documentary about a feminist photo institute in Leeds, England – in many ways a film about feminism and activism, in the 1970s and now. The programme also offers cool pop culture. In A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, a ‘vampirella’ roams the fictional Iranian ‘Bad Town’. I Stay with You reverses the roles in the battle of the sexes and approaches violence from a confrontational point of view. Debate guaranteed!

No Men Beyond this Point is a tongue-in-cheek mockumentary, describing a world in which men are in danger of extinction. The world ruled by women looks quite a lot better, but is it really that much of a utopia? A world without men? Documentary maker Kim Longinotto has made a name for herself with her feminist documentaries. Her latest production, Dreamcatcher, is a gripping film about Brenda, who helps working girls in Chicago and gives them self-confidence thanks to her energy, humour and above all her own experience. The Dominican Sand Dollars, a film that looks at women in a very tender way, describes the relationship between two women from very different classes, ages and backgrounds and how their individual needs and desires become entangled with their love and affection for each other.

Nancy Andrews takes a very different approach with The Strange Eyes of Dr. Myes. No realistic or poetic narrative here, but a free and original mix of influences, varying from musical to horror, in a story about a scientist who doesn’t give up her research in spite of the fact that her surroundings don’t take it seriously. And there’s a lot more intimiate perserverance to be seen in the Romanian Self-Portrait of a Dutiful Daughter, in which Cristina (30) finds her own way on a modest scale in a personal and humorous portrait.

The programme focuses on highly diverse films, each of which has something to say about the position of women in its very own way. What the F?! is not intended to give an answer to the question ‘what is feminism?’ It rather aims to contribute to the feminism debate by screening these films – which propagate and debate different angles – side by side. In other words, there are more than enough topics to (dis)agree on.