Magical Feminism Curated by Coral Aiken

Magical Feminism Curated by Coral Aiken
Thursday, August 18, 2011 at 7:00PM
Winnipeg Cinematheque
With introduction by Coral Aiken

Fevvers, the most famous aerialiste of the day; her slogan, “Is she fact or is she fiction?” And she didn’t let you forget it for a minute; this query, in the French language, in foot-high letters, blazed forth from a wall-size poster, souvenir of her Parisian triumphs, dominating her London dressing-room. – Angela Carter, Nights at the Circus

Like literature, film’s favourite subject is identity. Film is distinct from literature in the representation of the mind. In literature, the text can easily move between reality and magic because the medium remains constant. Taking cues from literature the films in this screening rework Magical Realist devices to reveal the interior world of their characters.

The films in this program represent a contemporary trend in filmmaking, Magical Feminism. Where Magical Realism gives agency to the interior world of the character by physically manifesting thoughts and memory, Magical Feminism offers an expansion of narrative realism, an opportunity to explore new territory and elaborate on the known understanding of feminist film and the mind. Films made by women and focused on female characters, the selections in this program explore representations of interiority through dance, movement, sound and images.

Fair Trade – Leslie Supnet
Wanda & Miles – Lesley Loski Chan
Rainbow Warrior – Tina Romero
The Red Hood – Danishka Esterhazy
The Yellow Wallpaper – Anne Koizumi
The Air Inside Her – Darya Zhuk
57 Ways – Sharlene Bamboat


From Uptown Magazine August 18, 2011

Diverse, engaging and, yes, magical “massive trend” in contemporary cinema and pop culture is explored in film program Magical Feminism

It’s a label that may seem most suited for academic obscurity, but the trend of magical feminism in film and pop culture may be found all around us.

“Perhaps an easily recognizable example would be the Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series,” says Winnipeg filmmaker and animator Leslie Supnet, whose own work comprises part of the program Magical Feminism, screening tonight at Cinematheque.

Supnet’s own influences include independent female animators whose work may be considered part of the genre — such as Montreal’s Elisabeth Belliveau and American-based Winona Regan. But if you want another, more high-profile example, consider 2010’s Oscar-winning psychodrama Black Swan.

That film, says Magical Feminism’s curator Coral Aiken, “points to a mainstream embrace of experiments with narrative.” Black Swan, she continues, edges toward the concept of magical realism by making physical Natalie Portman’s character’s yearning to be a swan.

“My definition of magical feminism would be the cinematic borrowing from the literary practice of magical realism — the breaking from reality to look at a character’s identity,” says Aiken, a filmmaker and former Winnipegger herself. “Especially if that character is a woman.”

Furthermore, “this is a massive trend — there’s no pigeonholing at all.”

Take it from Winnipeg filmmaker Danishka Esterhazy, whose 2009 short The Red Hood was also selected by Aiken for the program. Among Esterhazy’s influences are female directors Jane Campion, Patricia Rozema, Catherine Breillat and Sofia Coppola — and, while “not all of their work can be classified as magical feminism… there is a thread running through their films that speaks to this concept.”

Tonight’s program developed from a paper Aiken wrote as part of her MFA in film production at York University. “Despite initial grumpiness toward writing it, I think the essay turned out rather well and the ideas I explored formed the seeds of this selection.

“Basically, I took the ideas from the page and looked to my favourite filmmakers working today for their interpretations,” she continues. “I’m excited to see so many young filmmakers experimenting with narrative form.”

Supnet’s animated short Fair Trade — which Aiken says inspired the entire program — could serve as the perfect example. As Supnet explains, the film contains “fantastical occurrences” alongside “real” or “normal” events that follow a female character and her internal struggle.

Likewise, Esterhazy agrees that The Red Hood fits the definition of magical feminism, featuring a female protagonist whose identity and inner world “is explored through fantasy, music and symbolism.

“I have no reservations about being labeled a feminist,” Esterhazy continues. “But I think a ‘feminist’ film is a better film for all audiences because it portrays both genders in their full humanity.

“Of course, most mainstream films don’t contain many female characters at all.”

It’s good news, then, that the program — which features seven shorts in total from Canada and the U.S. — may yet tour out of expressed exhibitor interest, Aiken says.

“It’s a very diverse program ranging from gritty prairie realism to extravagant dance musical,” she says.

One constant, though, is that all the films “are extremely engaging.

“Make sure to warn your readership.”

– Kenton Smith


~ by cineflyer on July 28, 2011.

One Response to “Magical Feminism Curated by Coral Aiken”

  1. […] Cineflyer post Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. Published: August 18, 2011 Filed Under: Animation […]

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