Pecha Lo (羅珮嘉) isn’t concerned that fewer female Taiwanese filmmakers are focusing solely on gender equality.
“Some may worry that the topic is being underrepresented, but I don’t think we should place limits on what stories women can tell; that is too politically correct,” the director of the Women Make Waves Film Festival tells the Taipei Times. “I hope to see them exploring a wider range of topics.”
Going against the grain fits nicely with this year’s theme of “femture” (an amalgamation of feminism and future), where Lo encourages the audience to imagine and explore what it means to be a woman in the near or distant future — especially as the world is thrown into disarray by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Photo courtesy of Women Makes Waves Film Festival
Now in its 27th year, the festival opens today with 76 films over 10 days, featuring mostly foreign films and a Taiwan competition section.
“There are many mainstream forces dictating to us what kind of woman we should be,” Lo says, but she notes that even identifying as a woman is optional these days as gender becomes increasingly fluid. The visuals for the festival are markedly neutral this year, using muted tones and androgynous figures.
“I’ve purposely blurred the portrayal of the woman, so that people are free to imagine what a woman might look like in the future,” Lo says.
Photo courtesy of Women Makes Waves Film Festival
Last year, the festival addressed the big issues such as the MeToo movement and women regaining control over their bodies. This year, it examines problems that may not be as apparent, especially in a country like Taiwan where many mistakenly believe that gender equality has been achieved due to its high global rankings in women’s rights.
“In the past two years, whether it be in the West or in Taiwan, society has become more aware of sexual harassment, but new problems have arose,” Lo says. “Through movies and storytelling, we can highlight a variety of issues that are more difficult to advocate for and explain directly.”
These include cybersex crimes such as revenge porn, Internet misogyny, as well as increasingly homogenized societal standards of beauty and ageism. Old problems also remain, such as domestic violence, sexual abuse by people in power and general sexism such as the gender wage gap and offensive comments made by public figures.
Lo notes the common belief that only young women have the right to dress up and go on dates, and wants to show that middle-aged women also deserve to find love, even through dating apps such as Tinder.
Discussing the future inevitably entails examining the role of technology, which is a big part of the program, especially in light of cybercrime incidents such as the “Nth Room” scandal in South Korea.
The “Proud to Fail” section deals with a constant theme within the festival: “How to be a cool loser,” Lo says. Again, it’s about overturning mainstream stereotypes, looking at women who may not be “winners,” but who are forging their way forward and creating their own aesthetics of living.
Lo says that this refusal to compromise is also what keeps the festival relevant after nearly three decades. As a curator, sometimes it’s hard to resist the temptation to throw out simpler, more commercial films to attract a wider audience.
“But you have to insist on what you want to deliver to your viewers,” she says. “[Our films] may sometimes be complex, difficult to understand, too heavy; but we believe that keeping the faith can take us further in the long run. Once you build something up, there will be people who will follow your faith.”
Women Makes Waves Film Festival
When: Today to Oct. 25
Where: Spot Huashan Cinema (光點華山電影館), 1, Bade Rd Sec 1, Taipei City (台北市八德路一段1號)
Admission: Tickets are NT$220 per show, weekday daytime tickets are NT$200
On the Net: www.wmw.org.tw/en/wmwff
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