Intersectionality and Film at the Filmacademie

Almost every year I get to work with the vibrant students of the Filmacademie. An opportunity that I greatly look forward to as it always leads to powerful conversations in which I get to learn just as much as the students. The diversity and inclusion workshop involves the theory of Intersectionality and unpacking films and characters using the intersectional prism.

Photo by Deva Darshan on Pexels.com

This year’s workshop entailed a panel discussion with director and writer Amira Day and screenwriter and photographer Elvira Porcedda in which they also showcased their works. It was incredibly impactful to watch the stories unfold – as though the prism had brilliantly tossed the entire spectrum into focus.

Elvira’s film Stuckwitu is a slacker short film that depicts two women mostly stuck in a parking lot discussing nothing of significance. As they holding onto their slipping youth, the need for fun, and perhaps meaning, the film crosses over from slacker to philosophical undertones.

A significant aspect of the film is that its two main characters are women of color – traditionally, slacker films display apathetic cynical white guys – maybe with the exception of Harold and Kumar go to White Castle (2004), which does have Asian-American characters but is more often classified as stoner than slacker, moreover, it is still about men.

By claiming the space for women and especially of women of color Elvira expands the field, she explains that the idea of women of color chilling, doing nothing, is rather radial, transgressive. Such characterization is profound in its perception. She spoke about the difficulty in casting for such roles and the limited faces and profiles that were offered by agencies.

While Elvira’s film looked at women in their twenties, in comparison Amira’s short film Kimya tells the story of a young little girl left alone at home for the first time. The movie offers delightful and delicious scenes of everyday mundaneness – lush with their intricate detailing – of cooking, eating, bathing, and simply living.

The girl is visibly from a minority background living in what appears to be a typical Dutch working class home; in all its modesty the space offers her all kinds of wonders. There is an ominous atmosphere, but nothing grisly occurs, her family returns home and her wondrous solitude gets surrounded by the warm banter of indulgent relatives.

We discussed with Amira why we felt something gruesome was about to happen to this innocent girl alone at home when the movie made no such suggestion. She elucidated how we, as the audience, have come to expect the female, or the body of color, as the traumatized body or that which will undergo trauma.

Therefore, the expectation is that if it’s a young black girl alone something bad would happen to her. The intersectional aspects of this being a little girl and a person of color compounds this notion of harm and trauma on the depicted body in cinema. Elvira’s film, too, heightens the intersections of being women, of being of a particular age, and of being people of color.

The discussion ignited much conversation and reflection, attended by eighty eight students it also was my first big event since the pandemic. I could not have asked for a better venue than the Pathe de Munt, and an engaged partnership with Lonneke Worm who remains a persistent champion of inclusion and a stellar example of what one person’s vision can achieve.

Here’s to many more such important events and conversations!  

Photo by Dobromir Hristov on Pexels.com

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