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Slow Screenings

Meno Avilys

Slow Screenings is an ongoing project that pursues a dual goal: to slow down the fast consumption of cinema by screening films once a week and contextualizing them; and to bring the rarely-screened films of importance to cinema history to Lithuanian screens.
This time, the six-screening series is dedicated to female directors from various corners of the world who were making films from 1960 to 1990. They are all related by their bold and thoughtful approaches to social changes as well as by their attempts to represent those who usually stay out of the spotlight. In the selected films, the issues previously discussed only in whispers or personal circles are finally brought to public attention in humorous, ironic or, on the contrary, very delicate ways. Most of the films had been undeservedly forgotten and then rediscovered in the process of re-evaluating the importance of female directors to cinema history.
The series starts with the playful 1968 film The Girls, directed by Mai Zetterlin and reflecting upon feminist discussions on the position of women and men in Swedish society of the time. Mai Zetterling is considered one of the first directors to represent feminist topics to mainstream audiences. That same year, Ula Stöckl directed her first feature-length film The Cat Has Nine Lives, depicting a friendship of two emancipated women and their adventures while on holiday in Munich, and marking the beginning of West German feminist cinema. At the time, the film did not manage to reach the theaters and was only first shown on the big screen in the 1990s. The final act of European cinema screenings will be a series of short documentaries by female directors from Poland.
Whereas European and United States cinema classics appear on Lithuanian big screens every once in a while, Asian, African or Latin American cinema history screenings are a true rarity here. These continents are known for their interesting and important films as well as their filmmakers reinventing the traditional cinematic storytelling. Venezuelan Margot Benacerraf was one of the first Latin American filmmakers to study cinema in Paris. Sadly, she has made only one film, Araya, which is nevertheless widely regarded a masterpiece of poetic cinema. Senegalese Safi Faye, whose documentaries capture and represent African culture, is also considered an innovator in her homeland. Both directors pay a lot of attention to the topic of labor and everyday gestures and practices as well as to social and cultural processes in tight-knit communities. In Asia, female filmmakers faced even more challenges than in Latin America. The extremely patriarchal Vietnamese society and a woman’s position in it are investigated in Surname Viet Given Name Nam, a film by one of the most prominent Southeast Asian directors Trinh T. Minh-ha. She avoids drawing a clear line between feature and documentary cinema and finds it more important to experiment with layers of language, sound and vision to create an intellectual as well as physical viewing experience that would best represent the burning issues.
Planeta film & media space, A.Gostauto str. 2, Vilnius | Free entry
12/12 19:00 The Girls (rež. Mai Zetterling / 1968 / 100 min.)
It is a playful political take on assorted gender role prejudice and a meeting with three eccentric, often funny and very positive women. Three actresses prepare to go on the road in a theatre production of Lysistrata, Aristophanes’ classic comic play about women and war. As they re-assess and deal with the problems in their respective private lives, they recognize the parallels with the play and begin to realize that much has changed since the antiquity. Mai Zetterling draws direct parallels to her own life and career as well as to the joys and frustrations of being a creative woman of her time and place.
12/19 19:00 The Cat Has Nine Lives (rež. Ula Stöckl / 1968 / 92 min.)
The first feature film by Ula Stöckl is about five young women, their everyday experiences, desires, sexual behavior and fantasies. There is one thing that each of the five women knows for certain: freedom is very attractive. So they are all looking for it. Each woman, according to her character, adapts herself to her particular circumstances. Each of them believes to have found an individual way out of misery. Katharina yearns for a life without sentimental obligations and Anne is at the moment learning the left-wing jargon. Gabriele is involved in business, to herself she says: if Jesus had loved women, I would love him. Magdalena holds onto her husband Stefan with an iron grip. He, however, loves any woman who gives him encouragement. Kirke is a discovery. Kirke, the ideal woman, is not oppressed. She does whatever she wants. The women never stop laughing and explore the chances of female emancipation in a male-dominated society.
1/9 19:00 Programme of Polish Documentary Film Directors (90 min.)
“These documentaries often contain breath-taking, original records of life under Communism from the perspective of women who operated in a patriarchal environment—a social space where equality between men and women was rather a propagated political ideal than an everyday reality,” says Dr. Anna Misiak, researcher of Polish culture and cinema. The programme is based on her research and consists of films made in the now defunct Polish Documentary Film Studio. Dr. Misiak has carried out a research of the Studio’s archive, rescued quite a few names of female directors from oblivion and included them into the yet-unwritten cinema history by establishing a digital female filmmakers’ archive (womenundercommunism.com). The programme, curated by her, consists of films that capture the need of social critique and change of gender roles and, most importantly, that allowed women to capture the slowly disappearing everydayness in their own gaze and language.
1/16 19:00 Araya (rež. Margot Benacerraf / 1959 / 82 min.)
A peninsula in the Caribbean in northern Venezuela—Araya. One of the most barren regions of the world, where man depends entirely on the produce of the sea: salt, fish. Since its discovery by the Spaniards in 1500, the exploitation of Araya’s natural salt marshes has been done by hand. For centuries, this land remained one of the richest in the New World, where pirates and slave-dealers mingled with smugglers and pearl-traffickers. For those adventurers, Salt, like Gold, was a coveted object... After this splendid period, Araya declined into complete oblivion. The story by Margot Benacerraf takes place over twenty-four hours, one day, in Araya. One day like so many others of these past 450 years.
1/23 19:00 Fad’jal (rež. Safi Faye / 1979 / 122 min.)
In Fad’jal, which premiered at Cannes, the groundbreaking Senegalese-French filmmaker and ethnologist Safi Faye investigates traditions of storytelling through a beautiful portrait of her ancestral farming village. “Fad” means “arrive” and “jal” means “work”. The director says: “Work because when you arrive at this farming village called Fad’jal, you must work. When you work, you’re happy, and if you don’t work, people will mock you.” Director intertwines both of her cultures—French and Senegalese—in this film. French history is written and taught in schools, whereas African history is an oral tradition passed by the elders to the children. Safi Faye captures this process of passing the important history of the village and the country to the youngest people of the society.
1/30 19:00 Surname Viet, Given Name Nam (rež. Trinh T. Minh-ha / 1989 / 108 min.)
Vietnamese-born Trinh T. Minh-ha’s profoundly personal documentary explores the role of Vietnamese women historically and in contemporary society. Using dance, printed texts, folk poetry and words and experiences of Vietnamese women in Vietnam—both from North and South—and the United States, Trinh’s film challenges the official culture with voices of women. A theoretically and formally complex work, Surname Viet Given Name Nam explores the difficulty of translation and themes of dislocation and exile, critiquing both traditional society and life after the war. Assuming a strong political stance, this film gives a voice to an entire segment of Vietnamese society, otherwise forced to remain silent.
Films are screened in their original language with English subtitles and presented by filmmakers, film historians and theorists. Slow Screenings are accompanied by a reading group focusing on feminist film theory.