Throughout the festival, the IDFA programmers will present their favorite hidden gems within the program. Today: Sarah Dawson, programmer of Frontlight and Luminous. She recommends The Case You by Alison Kuhn. Read all about it below.
The Case You tells the story of a group of young women who were among hundreds who auditioned in recent years for a film by an unnamed, well-known male director. During this process—some were just teenagers at the time—they experienced sexual and verbal abuse at the hands of the film team in the name of extracting a good performance. Alison Kuhn, the director, was herself among them. Her film brings some of the women together in a theater setting, where they reconstruct these experiences from their own perspective.
Kuhn reclaims the power of the gaze in a radical way. A film set is often a hierarchical, patriarchal world, and women in front of the camera are all too often treated as props or objects, as opposed colleagues or co-authors. This film allows us to critically explore this and give the women the space to explore not only their anger, but to laugh in outrage at the almost absurd entitlement of powerful men behind cameras. Their sisterly relationship to each other gives them a shared sense of ownership of the camera, and therefore the gaze.
The film beautifully succeeds in interweaving interviews and performance to reconstruct an experience that is suppressed by the sanctity of film industry norms, bringing the sordidness of what passes as professionalism to light. Even the art of watching is made part of it. The Case You reminds us that the default viewer should not be presumed to be male. Women watch, and women see.
Though the details of the filmmaker who started it all are left out of the film, for legal reasons no doubt, in fact this works to elevate their experience from the specific to the universal. Almost every woman will recognize something in the universal sense of powerlessness and disrespect under the microscope of the male gaze. Ultimately, this film self-reflexively breaks down established forms of filmmaking, rebuilding them in its own way. Power is being demanded back, but also shared equally among the women. Their collective story is so much stronger than individual experience.
Let's not forget how the archetype of the auteur is often characterized by a deep, god-delusional narcissism. Unlike writing a novel, for example, making a film is a collective exercise, often involving the work of many people, including the talent in front of the lens. We are in the real world, working with real people who deserve respect and ownership of, at the very least, their own bodies.
Click here for more information about The Case You and to get tickets.