By: Patricia Ríos
According to Panorama, the section of the Berlinale that gives a space to the avant-garde cinematographic works that seek to be different and innovative, one of the central themes of this year is the resistance against machismo.
As the first year at the head of Panorama, Paz Lázaro defined the program of this edition as highly feminine: “Directors tell stories of men and vice versa, from Georgia to Argentina. And they do not let themselves be pigeonholed as victims, just like that, there is a very powerful energy in all of them, in all their genres, of rebellion and of the need to self-define even if the world so far does not offer them the label in which they are seen reflected” (Latam Cinema:” Paz Lázaro, responsible for the Panorama section of the 68th Berlinale.”)
“One of the central themes of Panorama this year is the resistance against machismo.”
With this vision, the films The Omission by Sebastián Schjaer and L’animale by Katharina Mückstein are presented, which have as their central axis the debate on the adoption of gender roles, social notions, femininity and search for identity (as people and as women), among many others.
Whether through adolescence or the struggle for money, both directors seek to explore female sensibility from those moments when their characters are challenged, pushed to make decisions after a time when they do not feel a sense of belonging to any person, society or gender expectations.
- L’animale, by Katharina Mückstein
Katharina Mückstein studied Philosophy and Gender Studies before studying film, that’s why her films have always paid attention to issues such as gender identity and political context. Now she directs, writes and produces L’animale, her second fiction feature film. In her first work, Telea (2013), Mückstein deals with the intimate relationship between a mother and her daughter during a vacation. Now, with L’animale, she presents the story of a young girl who faces growing up.
“Solidarity is the key to power“
Mati is a teenager who wants to be a veterinarian like her mother, she likes to ride a motorcycle, and she gets together with her male friends to vandalize the town, friends with whom she identifies. Along with maturity, however, comes the expectation of adopting gender roles. Mati, against who she really is, will have to face a change of identity in order to become the adult woman that is expected of her: trying on dresses, seeing her friends attracted to her, and making female friends.
The director plays with these socially constructed gender roles and problematizes them from the question of freedom. How free are we to be who we want to be?
“Individual resistance, the courage to liberate your identity and sexuality … is the greatest potential revolution of our times”
Against machismo the director has to say: “We want to please and be respected. We are sensitive and often frightened. However, authenticity requires confrontation, emancipation demands effort, progress needs courage. Individual resistance, the courage to liberate your identity and sexuality, is the greatest potential revolution of our times“ (Variety:” Berlinale: First Trailer of Panorama’s’ L’Animale, ‘Sold by Films Boutique EXCLUSIVE’).
Likewise, Mückstein supports the #MeToo movement, mentions that we have the power to no longer reproduce gender roles. Film, for her, is a way to solve the problem of equality behind the camera, but the only way to do it is to confront the social structures of patriarchy. As a female director, she recommends the others that “Solidarity is the key to power” (Women in Hollywood: “Berlinale 2018 Women Directors: Meet Katharina Mueckstein – L’animal“)
- The Omission, by Sebastián Schjaer
Sebastián Schjaer was born in Buenos Aires and graduated from the Universidad del Cine in Argentina. He has worked as an editor on projects by Matías Piñeiro, Martín Rejtman, Pablo Agüero and Gael García Bernal. His short films have been part of the Cannes Film Festival: Mañana Todas las Cosas (2013) in the Cinefundación, and El pasado roto (2015) in the Directors’ Fortnight. He is currently working on his second feature, Las mañanas y las noches.
“I was interested in the film being about a woman who questioned these pre-established values that are as arbitrary as many others.”
This occasion presents his first feature, which he writes, edits and directs. The Omission is the story of Paula, a 23-year-old single mother who, faced with economic difficulties, decides to start over and moves to Ushuaia, in the extreme south of Argentina. There she starts an intense work search that will lead her not to feel part of this place, but transitory, like a tourist in her own life.
Focusing on the emotions of his female character, Schjaer addresses Paula’s pain from evocation and unintelligibility. For him, his film is feminine not only from its protagonist, but also from its sensitivity and the questioning of social prejudices: “Women always have to decide as mothers in the foreground, rather than as women. Men do not carry that weight and we can decide as men before as parents. That’s why I was interested in the film being about a woman who questioned those pre-established values that are as arbitrary as many others, which we assume as something natural.“ (DW:” The omission “: the conflict of a young mother in the Berlinale).
“It’s a movie that unconsciously tries to fight against the status quo”
After 5 years of production, it has its world premiere in Panorama of the 68th Berlinale, as part of the resistance to machismo. In this regard, the director does not hide his surprise: “When I read what Paz Lazaro had written about the film, I liked that she wrote that it was a film against machismo, which is something I had not thought in that way, but yes, it is a film that unconsciously tries to fight against that status quo, which is so installed in society, at least in the Argentine society that is the one that I know and that is very macho” (The South:” Film “The omission” shakes ” the role of women in society “).
What does it mean to resist machismo? How can it be done from the seventh art? These are questions that should not be left to rest in a fixed response, but always be in movement through what we live as a society.
Currently there are new discussions on the representation, inclusion and expansion of gender concepts. The Berlinale has shown its support for women in film and this year is not the exception, with four women nominated for the Golden Bear and the 32nd Teddy awards, focused on stories from the LGBTIQ community.
These two films, as their directors mention, appeal to the power of representation of women as a narrative subject to explore what it means to be a woman in society, finding similarities that range from Argentine snow to the Austrian suburbs, from family confrontations to introspective struggle, presenting an interesting critique (already very necessary) about gender roles that, despite being socially constructed, are perceived as natural or immovable.
Sources: Austrian Films; Programa de la Berlinale; Variety; Women and Hollywood; IMdB; El Sur; DW; Trapecio Cine; Latam Cinema; Youtube.