The second edition of Filma. Feminist Film Festival based in Ukraine, took place online between November 24 – December 9, 2022. The festival’s program focuses on the films about migration caused by the war and dedicated to the ones who have been forced to leave their homes because of the armed conflict. Organized by a group of queer feminist activists, this year the festival happened in very hard circumstances while the Russia was continuing its attacks on Ukraine. We talked to the members of the Filma collective about the festival’s latest edition and the importance of maintaining a feminist film festival despite the war.
First of all, can you tell us a few words about the collective behind this festival?
All members of the collective of Filma. Feminist Film Festival have queer feminist activist background and were involved in different activist and artivist projects. We are sharing common values of intersectionality and trying to build up space for cinematic voices on underrepresented issues in society, because we feel the lack of programming from the activist standpoint on the majority of festival platforms in Ukraine.
Since when Filma Feminist Film Festival has been around? How and why did you decide to organize a feminist film festival in Ukraine?
It is the second year of the festival, but the idea of creating one was around for some time before we actually managed to launch it in 2021. As was mentioned before, we were interested in creating a platform where both programming and discussions around will be implemented using intersectional feminist lenses – something we lacked in the Ukrainian film festival scene. We also wanted the festival to be accessible for different groups of people. That’s why Filma is in an online format and all screenings are free of charge – so that people all over Ukraine (and this year globally) with access to the internet can join screenings and additional activities. We have also managed to provide Ukrainian audio descriptions for selected films to include audiences with full or partial visual loss. We can say that accessibility is more of a process and we are moving in that direction and trying to make our festival as open as it can be, but there is always room for improvement. Shortly, our mission can be described as an intersectionality not only in themes and issues raised through programming, but also in our approach in making a feminist film festival.
This year the festival takes place under war conditions. Can you please explain in which physical circumstances you are organizing this year’s festival?
Honestly, it is very hard. Most of the festival team is located in Ukraine, and we are facing challenges that all people in our country are going through. The launch of the festival was especially hard due to the massive shelling a few days before the opening and a long blackout as a result. We were very moved to see that despite restricted access to the electricity, Internet and mobile connection people still watched our program in Ukraine.
Theme of the festival is “When the Trees Bloom At Home Again” and it is dedicated to the migration caused by war. Which films took part in this year’s program? How did you select the films?
The program was designed as a meta story with films placed in order to build this narrative from forced displacement, journeys to other places and coming back home. We focused on films that were telling more personal stories or/and had a powerful political standpoint on the issue of migration. Also it was very important to pay attention to the humane and sensitive approach to the topic, because dehumanizing and exotisation are very common in filmmaking tackling these issues. We started with two films from Ukraine: “Remember the Smell of Mariupol” by Zoya Laktionova about her city and the pain of losing it, but also preservation of memories, and “My Favorite Job, 2022” by Sashko Protyah focusing on volunteers helping in evacuation from occupied territories and providing necessary humanitarian aid in the situation where it is deemed impossible. The central part of the program consisted of the films “Newsreel 63 – The Train of Shadows” produced by the Slovenian collective Newsreel Front, “Purple Sea” by Amel Alzakout and Khaled Abdulwahed, and “Landscape of Terror” by Kasia Hertz on different journeys and challenges people who seek refuge are facing on their ways. The program concluded with ”I Swam Enguri” by Anuna Bukia, “The Turtle’s Rage” by Pary El-Qalqili, and “5 Exchange Lane” by Anirban Dutta, where protagonists are coming back to the places they were displaced from (Abkhazia, Palestine and Kashmir) and share their feelings, thoughts on this experience, which may be very painful sometimes. With the name of the program we wanted to make this connection to the subtle feeling of a place you can call home and longing for a lost one.
Do you have any other events apart from the movie screenings at the festival? Are you organizing workshops or activities for filmmakers to support independent film production? Or do you plan to do it after the war?
So far we decided to focus on theoretical reflections rather than practical workshops in our additional activities. Last year we held three online discussions with directors and protagonists of their films which were livestreamed on our socials. Each discussion had a theme that corresponded with three main programs that year’s festival. During discussion which was a part of the “Radical Love” program we tried to define what a feminist cinema is, and discussed the role of love as political practice in moviemaking. Public talk that followed the “Origins and Echoes” program was dedicated to exploration of trans*, non-binary and gender-nonconforming experiences across Global South and North, as well as in media. We attempted to imagine a vision of a future without racism, colonialism and imperialism in conversation dedicated to the “Possible Utopias” program.
Because of the Russian invasion and attacks on Ukrainian electrical infrastructure, it is nearly impossible to organize not only offline but also online public events. To compensate for this, we decided to talk with all filmmakers whose works constitute the Filma program 2022 beforehand and publish transcriptions of these conversations on the festival website. Such a format proved to have its benefits, allowing us to go deeper into the topics of our conversations than an online talk could facilitate, and now we have an archive of seven very interesting discussions published online and available to read for years to come.
We hope that in the future it would be possible to hold events in safe online or offline spaces.
What would you like to say about the importance and the meaning of continuing to run a feminist film festival despite the war?
We hope that showcasing carefully selected films that resonate with experiences of our co-citizens, especially the ones that demonstrate overcoming pain and loss, could provide much needed emotional support and inspiration. Although, we understand that many people in Ukraine would prefer to avoid such emotional journeys in cinema, as their wounds are still too fresh. To help them make informed decisions regarding watching certain films, we provided detailed trigger warnings for every screening. We also believe that it is very important to show the world recent Ukrainian films representing the experience of the war. But most of all, we tried to curate the program in a way that experiences of people forced to leave their homes in different contexts speak with each other and the viewer – and provide a greater perspective on colonial violence, as well as giving a glimpse of some experiences of migration that are much more underrepresented and silences that the one of Ukrainians. We believe that the ability to see a bigger picture, to be open for different perspectives – is what constitutes the basis of empathy, and therefore is crucial for building solidarity with displaced communities and supporting humane approaches for everybody, who were forced to leave their home. And thus, such work should not be stopped at any time.
However, it is very hard to plan anything in the conditions we are living in now. We hope to have the opportunity to continue working and developing our platform, but it takes a lot of physical and mental resources at the moment. We have some plans for next year, including a program of feminist cinema based on submissions, that we weren’t able to do this year. It is a great inspiration for us to see more feminist works from all over the world.
Do you have connections with other feminist or queer film networks or festivals?
We are always open for collaboration with activist collectives, festivals with shared values. In 2021, we made the program “Origins and Echoes” on trans*experiences, gender nonconformity and trans*feminism with support of Cinema Queer International Film Festival from Sweden, and the program on antiracism “Possible Utopias” with the first independent Roma feminist theater company “Giuvlipen” from Romania. We are trying to implement this approach of co-curation, where selection of the films for our programs are made together with activists, filmmakers, artists, who are already developing awareness on certain topics and could share their experiences, observations and visions through festival programing. It is always an interesting and empowering journey.
Thank you for your time. Is there anything else you would like to add?
Thank you for the interview. We hope to share more information about our festival next year and especially a call for submissions through our social media pages soon. We would love to see more films from Turkey as well!
Proof-reader: Müge Karahan