International women directors unashamed of being labelled feminist

Dharamsala, Nov 8 (IANS) The contemporary young filmmakers like Anka Schmid (Switzerland), Dechen Roder (Bhutan), Talya Lavie (Israel) and Ruchika Oberoi (India) say they are not “ashamed” and “shy” about calling themselves feminists, but hate it when people tag their films as “female films”.

“I’m certainly a feminist and I don’t feel shy about saying that. When we say that we don’t like being called ‘women filmmakers’ is because all cinema that women are making is being categorised as a ‘female film’,” said Oberoi, who directed the internationally acclaimed film “Island City”.

“That is something that we are resisting. It’s like men make thrillers, action films, horror, comedies and then there are ‘women filmmakers’ – as if our films don’t belong to any of these genres,” Oberoi said at a panel discussion titled “Film and The Female Gaze” here at the ongoing fourth edition of Dharamshala International Film Festival.

Schmid shared similar thought on it.

“It’s not so sexy to say I’m a feminist but I am. It’s not at all about female tactics. It’s my perception of a world, which I try to capture on the camera and create visuals.

“I’ve mainly worked in co-productions where my cameramen and other crew have been men. I can build stories. I can get a team work together and talk about tactics. So more than being a female, my films are my perception of the world,” she said.

Roder, best known for her documentary “Lo Sum Choe Sum”, said: “The idea of being a male or a female filmmaker has never come to my mind while making a film. These questions only arise when I’m asked to join a discussion to talk about a problem that I deal with…being a female filmmaker.

“That is also a confusing identity because when you start with the goal of making a film that a woman would make, that becomes a very conscious and clumsy affair. When I’m making a film, I’m only a filmmaker. But when it comes to talking about female filmmakers, then I try to become a feminist.”

To that, Lavie added: “If we are saying that we want to be known as filmmakers doesn’t mean we are not feminists. I have never been ashamed of saying that I’m a feminist. I don’t like this thing of women being embarrassed of being called a feminist. I don’t understand it.

Talking about her struggle in Israel as a female filmmaker, Lavie explained: “I don’t like when someone calls me to offer me a job and say that we are looking for a woman director or a woman screenwriter. I say ‘Don’t tell me that you are looking for a woman. Tell me that you are looking for a good director’.

“When I was doing my direction course, we had 50 percent men and 50 percent women. But then women mostly get to work in the short film section and the feature film section goes away. It’s still harder to invest a lot of money and if it’s a feature film then we work in a team as there is this prejudice thing that how can a woman lead a big crew. That’s why producers are not ready to invest a lot of money”.

She added that we shouldn’t do this “generalization of sexes”.

Are producers and other crew members biased?

Oberoi said: “There are a lot of biases that you (female directors) are fighting. These biases are in terms of what kind of subjects they (producers) are expecting to fit into the film. Some of the producers see direction as a macho job. They have questions like ‘How will a woman command the whole unit?’ They are not ready to take the risk.

“These kinds of stereotypes do exist. But I think the situation is changing now like I had a younger lot as crew and we all were pretty helpful towards each other’s job.”

Lavie called such kind of behaviours an “international thing” and added: “Director is somebody who people watch out for every time. And women are naturally given more attention but the good thing for me is that I’ve this opportunity of choosing the people I’ve to work with.

Asked whether in today’s scenario female filmmakers are being paid equal to males, Schmid said: “When I was 10-years-old, my mother was not allowed to vote till she turned 71. So I’ve this duty to go on with this continuation and now because of such panel discussions we find out that a woman of 50 was getting less salary than a 30-year-old man.

“But these numbers have now changed. Today in some countries women directors are being paid equally.”

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