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Les Femmes International Film Festival comes to San Diego

A time when underground women climb to the surface

by Danny Dyer, Staff Writer

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Feminism and filmmaking have steadily intertwined into a powerhouse movement.

Such is the same with Les Femmes Underground International Film Festival which surfaced at the San Diego Digital Gym Cinema last Saturday, September 2. The traveling festival was created by Edda Manriquez last year and centralizes around the notions of edgy, innovative women surging head-on into the world of filmmaking.

The film festival included experimental animation and Twin Peaks reimaginings that showcased a diverse range of cinematic mediums. The eight-hour event sifted through every fathomable genre of the screen, from documentary to horror and even their own unique brew of psychotropic.

This second annual gathering featured films from over thirty countries and celebrated the female ferocity that is growingly prevalent in the otherwise male-dominated business of movie-making.

“LEFUFF, was born in hopes of creating an intersectional haven for female and female identified artist and filmmakers,” Manriquez said. “Our dream is to travel to different communities and plant the seed of change throughout the world.”

This year’s impressive roster of films shows a progressive leap forward for Manriquez and her ambitious scope, despite the young age of the non-profit festival.

The event kicked off with a documentary showcase, a five-film onslaught tackling concepts of community, domestic-violence and the complexities of abortion with an unapologetic fierceness.

“Primary Colours,” a cinepoem by Sudanese-Canadian spoken word artist Roua Aljied, packed the most potency of them all. The harsh realities of domestic abuse materialized with a frightening realism in just over three minutes.

Lindsey Hagen and Miles Joris-Peyrafitte’s “Brujas” proved to be a standout piece based off the film’s intriguing subject matter.

The film magnified a camera lens on the urban organization Brujas, a tight-knit community of female revolutionists defying the constraints of their culture through political organization and skateboarding.

The docu-series was an appropriate launching pad for the day, transitioning into the following showcase titled “Psychotropic Visions,” a set of experimental shorts that plunged down a deeper, stranger rabbit hole of creative expression.

Illustrated images of textured cleaning products such as bleach and ink practically exploded off the screen in Birgitta Hosea’s experimental animation “Erasure.”

Rachel Ara brilliantly spearheaded the term “manspreading” with the humorous flair of the London Underground.

Caitlin Craggs’ pun-riddled “Tomato” harped on the concept of how the food we eat defines. This piece was decided by guest judge Gerry Maravilla as the showcase section’s winner.

By this point the event was thriving, as plates of free vegan food were offered to the backdrop melodies of a live band in between each showing.

An aroma of unification loitered in the air, each film’s feminist-fueled message beautifully colliding with the feminist viewers themselves to craft a community of friends and filmmakers alike.

With the third showcase delving into youth and altered states, one film in particular was jam-packed with relevance.

Sarah Clift’s “La Madre Buena” juggled the current political atmosphere with irony. It told the story of a Mexican mother who trekked upon a journey of grand proportions in hopes of finding her son’s sole birthday request, a piñata of Donald J. Trump.

Femme Fatales came after, the horror-oriented segment of the day that ignited a fun mixture of screams and laughs from the audience.

Christine Schnidel, judge of the segment, chose Elena Passani’s fantasy thriller “Sacrifice,” a tale of nurse Morgan Woods’ balancing of medicine and magic, as best in this section.

Closing out the event was arguably the most poignant slew of cinema the day offered, “Sexual Reduxxx.”

Sensuality, internal fears and self-esteem intersected with a touch of the surreal in Bronwyn Maloney’s two-minute fantasy short “Serpentine.”

In Eliane Lima’s documentary “Sherry,” the intricate psyche of Robert, an elderly man from Orange County that transforms himself into a living doll daily, took home the section’s first place slot.

Regardless of which films were first-place winners, the event itself teemed with a refreshing sense of feminist liberalism, demonstrating just how powerful these women directors and screenwriters are.

Next year holds more promise for the traveling artistic congregation that will surely gain more traction as it matures with time.

 

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