I deviate again from the focus of Feature Films to post the report of Jane, member of Brent U3A Older Woman in Film Group.
The Short Hot Flush Film Festival – Brighton – October 3rd
Two women came up with the idea for The Short Hot Flush Film Festival (SHFFF) in response to the under representation of women over 50 either in making films or in leading roles.
Entries could be drama, documentary or animation. Films had to have:
– a woman over 50 as the central character OR
– a woman over 50 in the core creative team (writer, director, producer).
68 films were submitted and 27 from 8 countries were chosen to screen at the festival. The films ranged from 1-29 minutes in length.
The festival took place in the brilliant Exeter Street Hall. Screenings were organised over 3 time slots and there was a panel event in the middle entitled ‘Women over 50 in Film – Where have we come to? Where are we going?’ There was an awards ceremony at the end for best drama, best documentary and best animation as well as the audience choice award for best film. Amazingly the festival finished on time.
The first film was a 3-minute animation set to Kath McKay’s poem ‘Moving Metal’ – an emotional inventory of the cutlery and bric-a-brac of a dead mother. Funny, imaginative and moving, it was a great start to the day.
Documentaries accounted for the majority of films and there were a number that stood out for me. ‘Invisible Skin’ was a 5-minute visually experimental documentary in which women from 3 generations speak about perceptions of their own bodies (https://vimeo.com/123835618 password: skin). A 13-minute film called ‘Keeping Time’ (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J-p-3Oweetw) is about dancing and marriage told by an older women. Use the link to view the film – it’s wonderful. In ‘A Box of Memories’ (5 minutes), an artist talks about the family photographs she took in the 50s and 60s. The film was made by her granddaughter and is on Vimeo (https://vimeo.com/46222971). ‘The Female Masculinity Appreciation Society’ (12 minutes) follows 2 women in their quest to reach the arm wrestling final in a ‘gentlemen’s club for queer women and those who love them’ – great energy, cinematography and editing. ‘Home Movie’ (18 minutes) uses 8 and 16 mm home movies, undiscovered for 50 years, to unearth a story of migration and horror that her parents hid. This entry was voted best film by the audience.
I was less enthusiastic about the drama entries. This may be because I am less familiar with the form of a ‘short’ drama than I am with an animation or documentary short. Or it could be that I was so excited and impressed by the latter that the dramatic films were a bit of a let down. The subjects included a woman facing retirement, domestic violence, dementia and caring, and a woman waiting (in turns patient and petulant) for her hairdresser to finish cutting another woman’s hair. The last one was in the form of an extremely well written and delivered monologue. I found most of the other shorts a bit heavy-handed in terms of ‘twists’, humour or message.
For the most part the films were inspiring and made me feel optimistic. One small quibble – while it was obvious when the central character was over 50, I’d like to have known the age of the person behind the making of film, i.e. director or writer.
There was a panel event ‘Women over 50 in film – where have we come from? Where are we going?’ Rebecca Kesby from the BBC World Service chaired the discussion. Jennifer Granville from Leeds Beckett University and one of the organisers of the CINAGE project – teaching filmmaking to over 65s, Jill Nicholls documentary filmmaker (subjects have include Toni Morrison, Doris Lessing, Louise Bourgeois), Sophie Myer author of Political Animals: the New Feminist Cinema and The Cinema of Sally Potter: a Politics of Love, and myself representing the Old Women in Feature Films Group. Panel members responded to Rebecca’s questions according to their role as a filmmaker, educationalist, historian, and consumer (with an interest in the representation of old women). The audience participated with questions, and the discussion was lively and interesting. The panel event was filmed and I understand will be loaded onto the SHFFF Blog at some point.
It was exhausting watching so many films but the day was relaxed and fun. I don’t know if it’s Brighton or the people who organised and contributed to the day but the atmosphere was warm, welcoming and very upbeat throughout. There was some talk not only of repeating the event next year but perhaps running it in more than one place. Maybe the film group should try making a short!