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Underwire Festival: Leading Ladies

November 28, 2012

FestivalsFilm + Entertainment | by Francesco Cerniglia

It’s no news that film-making is a male-driven medium in a male-driven world but it’s encouraging to see women slowly but steadily claim a place in the spotlight and most importantly, a stronger voice in the zeitgeist. That’s why events like the Underwire Festival hosted by Picture-house’s Ritzy cinema in Brixton need to exist and gain more exposure.

The screening titled LEADING LADIES was a collection of five short films telling strong female stories that showcased some quite impressive performances and offered food for thought. The technical level of filmmaking, even when rough around the edges, was over all above average, while an interesting thematic thread on the difficulty of human connection oozed throughout this balanced mix of different genres. However, it needs to be noted that the order chosen for the films to unfold on screen was flawed, thus preventing one’s full enjoyment of the experience.

PASSENGERS was a borderline-experimental reflection on the quest to understand the meaning of life and the longing for human connection as a means to it. A girl at a bus stop ignites conversation with a guy holding flowers. When she confesses she’s noticed him with different kinds of bouquets every day, he reveals they are for his dementia-affected grandmother. As they ride together on the bus, the world is now open to many possibilities for these two souls.

HER NEXT DOOR was a dark comedy about a desperate housewife who crushes her neighbors’ house, unannounced, to borrow an apple corer, but finds out that a robber has taken the couple hostage. Although risking a negative escalation of the crisis, the woman’s nosy invasion and her unstoppable blabbering mouth are actually the things bound to save the day in a rather humorous way.

SHIRIN was a heavy drama about a man confronting his teenage daughter on the discovery that she’s sexually active in a culture that’s extremely rigid about any sort of liberty for women. The stark execution of the shocking epilogue to this heartbreaking inquisition comes out of nowhere like a violent punch to the guts.

WILD was a delicate and authentic exploration of how intense young love can be both in the happy and sad phase of a relationship. A teenage girl is torn about whether to break up or not with her cheating boyfriend. But the clear backdrop of an absentee family pushes her to seek comfort in the cuddly arms of forgiveness.

PITFALL was the story of a single mother offering sympathy and help to the lost soul of a girl on the street with a rather dark and disturbing conclusion. It had some of the best performances but played out as one of those PSAs to raise rape risk awareness.

It’s easy to realize how programming Passengers as the closing title would’ve served a much more uplifting and hopeful message. I wasn’t expecting a sappy kind of storytelling from this event but leaving the theatre on such a dark note for what should’ve been a celebration of women was perplexing, to say the least.

Francesco Cerniglia.