The New Currents of the Seoul International Women’s Film Festival is a section that showcases contemporary women filmmakers’ films that feature a female protagonist. To talk about the trends and characteristics of contemporary female films all around the world, a lot of ellipsis and generalization is necessary - I will leave the reviews of each individual film to the Program Notes and want to bring to attention the three themes of this year’s New Currents.
The first clear overarching theme of this year’s New Currents is that ‘women’ themselves can be the plot of a film. Women are aware of and embrace their female identity in this patriarchic society, and the conflicts and dynamics between society and ‘women’ are continuously cinematized and turned into stories. The obstacles and crises that the protagonist must overcome take place when the woman accommodates and is forced to adhere to the society’s standard of ‘femininity.’ And that’s how ‘women’ themselves become the story of a film. Women often are intertwined with social class and status (The Heiresses, Mademoiselle Paradis), are marred by the memories of sexual violence (Angels Wear White, Dark River), face history through their mothers (Aurora Borealis, The Chaotic Life of Nada Kadic), and experience their own bodies differently because they are women (Body Talk).
The second characteristic is the transformation in the coming-of-age film genre. For a long time, women filmmakers have been, either at or against one’s own will, close and familiar with films about children and teenagers. However, in these coming-of-age films, the influence parents and romance with boys have on these female protagonists are waning as young girls begin to chart their own path to growth and transformation. This change in coming-of-age movies can be seen in Liyana, an original tale of a brave young girl created by children themselves, The Breadwinner, a story about a 11-year-old girl who tries to save her father who is arrested by the Afghanistan Taliban, Don’t Talk to Irene, I Am Not a Witch, and so on.
The third trend is that these films are cinematizing the underrepresentation of ‘women,’ which is reflected by the societal domains and terminology that place men on top without much thought or consideration simply because female filmmakers seem to be typical and common. When we say ‘cinephile’, why do we picture a man? Why are female filmmakers themselves taking the gender ‘female’ out of ‘filmmakers?’ Is ‘democracy’ only achieved by men, and are social crisis only experienced by men? Shadowed by men who are more often associated with common sense and universality, women attempt to uncover themselves and challenge the underrepresentation in films such as The Cinephiles, Dogs of Democracy, and Contemporary Women Filmmakers: The State of Things. Further, director Margarethe VON TROTTA’s Forget About Nick, director Debra GRANIK’s Leave No Trace, and director YIM Soon-rye’s Little Forest are few examples of the films that enrich the contents of the New Currents section with the renown of these filmmakers’ names alone.
Sunah KIM / Festival Director, Chief Programmer