Glasgow’s World of Film International Festival aimed to break boundaries with their panels, discussions and screenings incorporating a blur of cultures and languages, merging together to create an interesting festival taking place over the course of a weekend on Glasgow’s Southside. Held primarily at Film City in Ibrox and the Virgin Money Lounge on Queen Street, the festival broadcasted a sweeping range of perspectives, from Iran to Argentina, and showcased a spectrum of thought-provoking pieces presenting the touches of humanity we share around the world, highlighting an often surprising look at the monotony of life across the globe.
Centre stage at the festival was the discussion of women in film, particularly exploring their perspectives in the male-dominated world of cinema. On the third day of the festival I visited a discussion surrounding women in animation, created by Animated Women UK. The discussion was fronted by three women, Eleanor Stewart, Selina Wagner and Victoria Watson, all sharing their stories of working their way to the top in their field and eventually establishing their own independent animation studios. The audience was made up of budding young animators and people like me, who were curious as to what goes on behind the scenes of animation. You may recognise some of the animations of the women, who have produced adverts for companies such as Jura Whiskey, Henry Weston’s Cider and projects like Greener Scotland. Eleanor Stewart, the newest to the world of owning a studio, explained that many of her designs were inspired by TV shows such as Bagpuss and The Magic Roundabout, exploring the playful nature of animation and appealing to young, budding animators in the audience as the field can typically appear quite daunting to approach – especially for women. The field is generally dominated by men, and the choice advice Stewart gave young women in the audience was “you have to be assertive, don’t let projects run away from you”. Wagner added that she has, on the other hand, learned the power of simply saying “No”, as through her long list of accolades and experience she understands that she often knows more than those trying to tell her what to do. When the women were asked about how they’re working to make the industry more inclusive, they all discussed the priority of having at least one female director or animator on each project, with obvious regard for their talent. At this time of controversy over quotas in the workplace, they recognised that it was important to hire women based on previous achievements, rather than merely meeting this ideal quota. Watson explained that it was important for young women to have “more belief and confidence” in themselves and their work, and is hopeful that changes will be made in order for women to have the support in place to have the confidence to apply for high up positions.
Following on from the discussion of women in animation I went to two screenings of the Female Perspective Shorts competition, which showcased short films directed by women from across the globe. The first film, Border Crossing by Agnieszka Chmura, I found to be the highlight of the entire festival; and it won Best Short Film: Female Perspective. It was a thought-provoking insight into the fear felt at the Polish-Czechoslovak border as the queue stretched into the heat of the summer of 1989. Chmura managed to capture the anticipation, fear and wonder through the eyes of a child into a 15 minute short, encapsulating what I can only imagine the fear felt entering a territory armed with guards. With little dialogue and the removal of politics from the film, it presents a very real view of the lives of the inhabitants of the Eastern Bloc.
The theme of childhood resonated throughout many of the short films, presenting the female perspective as a delicate and watchful eye against a most often traumatic contrast. This was also present in the Chinese film Fever by Cong Chen, which explored “an isolated adolescent girl in the background of northeast China in 1997”. A jarring look at a strained family dynamic running from the back of a restaurant, through the eyes of a quiet teenage girl, with an overwhelming fascination with her teacher. With a lucid mix between reality and her idealization of the world we are brought in to this confusing world with her.
Rather than emphasise difference negatively, an event such as the World of Film International Festival shows how all the cultures and histories of the world are all the more awe-inspiring for that which sets them apart from one another.