Filmmaker Kim Longinotto
Kim Longinotto (London, 1952) uses her work to stand up for female victims of suppression and discrimination.
As a 17-year-old, Longinotto ran away from a boarding school for girls. After spending a year on the streets, she was accepted to the National Film and Television School in Beaconsfield. Armed with a camera, she went back to her former school to reveal its bizarre rules in Pride of Place. The school was closed down a year later. Longinotto has continued her fight against injustice worldwide. Her style is discreet and direct, with minimal crew and no commentary – no interviews, no voice-over. This way, all the attention goes to her heroes, like the taboo-busting Iranian women who file for divorce in the BAFTA winner Divorce Iranian Style. Or the young Kenyans who fight against female circumcision in The Day I Will Never Forget, for which Longinotto won the Amnesty International DOEN Award at IDFA. In 2005, Longinotto gave a masterclass at IDFA and won the Audience Award with Sisters in Law, about family court in Cameroon. Two years later, her film Hold Me Tight, Let Me Go, about a school for troubled youth, won the IDFA Special Jury Award.
Items in this selection
After a ten years’ absence, journalist Safaa Fathay returns to her native country Egypt to do an interview with the popular writer Nawal El Saadawi. She not only visits a number of projects set up by El Saadawi, but also her own family in the traditional south of Egypt. Here, she tries to find answers that the writer, to her disappointment, did not provide. Her mother, aunts, cousins and friends explain where a woman stands in the present-day Egyptian society. This does not appear to be very hopeful, although the women talk with cheerful candour about the how and why of their circumcisions. What is gained on one side by progress is reversed on the other by the advancing fundamentalism. So, Fathay’s mother and aunts wear headscarves again and her friend embarks on an arranged marriage with her eyes open.
The Good Wife of Tokyo
Performance artist Kazuko Hohki, living in the London district of Tottenham, returns to her family in Tokyo after fifteen years, to celebrate the marriage with her English friend. Her mother, priestess at the religious ‘House of Development’, leads the ceremony. Kazuko seizes the opportunity of being back to find out what the current position of women is in Japan. During meetings at the House of Development that mainly draw women, people talk unashamedly and humorously about the relationship with men and husbands. ‘Japanese men are like bonsai trees. They are kept down to fit into society.’ In interviews with her mother and friends, Hohki finds out that the present-day Japanese woman does not want to be overlooked.
"We will never meet such men, but it helps to alleviate the pain of life for a moment." Two fans of the Takarazuka Revue explain why they are so infatuated with an illusory and erotic fantasy world. For 27 years now, the Takarazuka Revue has been a highly successful Japanese theatre project, portraying love in its most romantic, innocent and passionate form. A remarkable feature of the revue is that even the male roles are performed by female actors. Sociologists explain the revue’s success by pointing out the lack of romance in Japanese society, where economic ethics are imperious. Dream girls explores the hard life behind the scenes of the revue where only a few are admitted per year. A stern and highly disciplined training period awaits them in which they will be seriously humiliated because the supervisors of the revue (indeed men) think that will be advantageous to their character development.
In the New Marilyn nightclub in Tokyo, all the employees are women who have chosen for a life as a man. They dress like men and behave like men, a way of life that is not appreciated in Japan. The boys have scores of female admirers among the audience. Many of the boys have brief and mostly platonic relationships with girls that visit the club, but most of these girls eventually prefer a socially accepted marriage with a real man. This film concentrates on three of these ‘shinjuku boys’. Gaish acts tough and has many girlfriends, but in his heart he is afraid of becoming lonely. Tatsu lives with his girlfriend. Kazuki has a relationship with a man who has chosen to live as a woman. In candid conversations, the three tell about their lives, relationships and fears.
Female directors Kim Longinotto and Ziba Mir-Hosseini, who previously collaborated on the memorable documentary DIVORCE IRANIAN STYLE, are back in Teheran. This time they are visiting a centre for girls who have ran away from home. Treating their heroines with a great deal of understanding and respect, the filmmakers enter their troublesome lives. The film crew obviously succeeded in gaining the full trust of the girls, because we see them opening up without being bothered by the presence of the camera. In spite of being raised by their family and society to obey and never talk back, these girls have found the courage to stand up for their freedom. By leaving their homes, they are trying to turn a new page in life. But what are their chances? As an official institution in Iranian society, this Centre also has to play according to the rules. Nevertheless, the charismatic and firm Mrs Shirazi, who runs the place, always finds a way to renegotiate the relationships between the parents and the runaways. Without being voyeuristic, the filmmakers follow certain cases from the moment the girls enter the Centre until the moment they go back home. The story told in between reveals the pain, humiliation and anger of Iranian girls harassed by their nearest and dearest