I feel it is incumbent on me to state that, for women, the past few months have been…shite. I was going to type something like ‘challenging’ or ‘disheartening’, but no. They’ve been roundly, thoroughly, shite.
The beginning of March of course saw the distressing news of the kidnap and murder of Sarah Everard. Events unfolded before us, a terrible drama which played out as we collectively held our breath and so, so, hoped that the outcome wouldn’t be what we feared it would be. But it was. We’d seen this one before, and we knew, deep down, what the conclusion would be. We knew.
Then, in the aftermath, a week bookended by International Women’s Day and Mothers’ Day saw the Reclaim These Streets event quashed and the Clapham Common vigil dissolve into chaos. Social media was a battlefield of pain and recrimination. And finally, like the rotting cherry on a cake you never wanted to eat, domestic violence statistics were released which showed the extent to which the problem has worsened over lockdown.
These events, and all the others, are why we need feminism. And this is why we need books and films and events and discussions about feminism, because women need greater visibility in the arts, and we need our voices to be heard and acknowledged.
Which is where Femspectives comes in. The Glasgow Feminist Film Festival is now in its third year, and appears to be gaining in strength and popularity as time goes on. This year sees the festival’s first foray into a digital-only format, due to restrictions caused by the pandemic. SNACK spoke with festival co-founder Lauren Clarke to find out a wee more about this year’s programme, and about Femspective’s aims in general.
The festival programme looks great. Which films are you most excited about showing, and why?
The programme has been such a joy to put together, even though it’s really tightly curated. We managed to cover a lot of ground with the films. We are super excited to screen Jane Arden’s iconic experimental film from 1972, The Other Side of the Underneath. We actually showed it at our first Femspectives event in 2018. Not only will it open the floor to a discussion about feminist cinema and the archive, but revisiting it will also give us the opportunity to look back at our festival history and forward to where we want to go.
This is the festival’s first year of running an online programme. How was last year’s experience – was it very close to the beginning of the first lockdown? How have you found the move to digital-only?
Last year we managed to scrape in right before the pandemic – about a month before everything went into lockdown. Once the restrictions came into place, we quickly developed an online film club to create an engaging space for feminist film viewing and participatory discussions. We ran the film club for several months and it was clear to us that there is an appetite for the kinds of films we love to programme, as well as having conversations.
Deciding to take our third festival entirely online was a no-brainer. Of course, we miss sharing space with our audiences and online film exhibition comes with its own set of challenges. That said, going online opened up other possibilities and meant more people can now join our events beyond Glasgow and even Scotland.
There’s a real breadth of performance and genre at the festival. How does the process of selection work? Is there a list of strict criteria that you work from, or do you just look for a good fit in general?
Because we knew we would have a very small programme for this year’s festival, we decided early on to have a central theme that would allow us to programme a variety of films, but to make sure they are all connected and in dialogue with one another.
Our theme for the Online Festival Weekender is DREAMING, in the widest sense of the word. We wanted to find films that would encourage us to look back, examine the present, and think about the future and how we move forward. We also used the opportunity to reflect on the past of the festival and dream about how we want Femspectives to grow in the future. Working with guest curators and expanding the team are all aspects of this kind of dreaming.
Your mission statement is very clear about the festival’s aims and purpose. How did you and the festival organisers go about deciding on and setting out these goals – was there a lot of brainstorming involved?
We, the festival producers, revised our mission statement in the summer of 2020, both to be transparent about what we hope to achieve with Femspectives, but also as a promise of accountability. The process was supported by our fantastic advisory board.
We see our mission statement very much as a living document that will grow with our organisation along the way. Some of our aims and purposes won’t be achieved overnight, but saying them out loud reminds us of what we are working towards.
This year Femspectives has two guest curators, Tanatsei Gambura and Ane Lopez. How did you go about finding these curators, and what do you think their input will bring to the festival?
We have been following both Tanatsei’s and Ane’s work for a while, and we are very excited that they both accepted our invitation to join Femspectives as guest curators. We met Tanatsei when she was a programmer with Take One Action Film Festivals. As part of that role, she programmed an event for our online film club last year. Both Tanatsei and Ane are very experienced and have worked with a variety of organisations and film festivals in the past.
Each brings their unique lived experiences and perspectives, which is reflected in the films they choose to programme. It is exciting to see the festival team grow and have more voices represented in the programme. We hope that working with Tanatsei and Ane this year is only the beginning of this journey.
There’s a real emphasis on the festival as a safe space for marginalised people, and it feels as if this aspect, and the discussions which follow the film screenings, are as important as the films themselves. Is this something that’s fundamental to the festival?
Absolutely. Creating a space in which everybody is welcome and feels comfortable to contribute in whatever way they like is very important for us. As such, we put a big emphasis on our participatory and non-hierarchical audience discussions.
As a feminist film festival, we want to be accessible to anyone regardless of their pre-existing knowledge about film or politics. That doesn’t mean that we shy away from sometimes challenging films and topics, but we want to create a space in which we can ask questions without judgement. We are inclusive of all gender identities, try to reduce barriers through a variety of access measures such as sliding scale tickets, and do our best to make films and discussions accessible through subtitling and captioning.
Finally, what are the plans for next year’s Femspectives, so far anyway? 2020’s festival was held at Civic House – will you be looking for a physical venue once again, or are you thinking of keeping any part of the festival online?
We can’t give away too much yet, but we are working on an event series later in the year that will hopefully combine online events with screenings in physical venues. Of course, we have to wait and see what restrictions will be in place then. For next year and Edition 4 of the festival, we hope very much to return to a physical venue. That said, we really came to value the benefits of online events over the last 12 months, so we might see hybrid festivals stick around for longer!
The Femspectives Online Festival Weekender runs from 23rd till 25th April. Tickets are priced on a sliding scale from free to £8, on a pay-what-you-can basis.
More information is available at femspectives.com