Now Showing: Women in Film

By Dave ChuaMovies - 22 April 2010 4:00 PM | Updated 4:28 PM

Now Showing: Women in Film

One of the special programmes at the ongoing Singapore International Film Festival (SIFF), Women in Film, features five sessions showcasing the work of women in the film industry, as well as concerned with women’s lives and issues.

The programme runs from 21 to 23 April at SIM University (UniSIM) and comprises of the feature films Barbe Bleue (Bluebeard), His and Hers, Last Train Home, and To Whom It May Concern: Ka Shen’s Journey, as well as the short-film programme, Women in Film: In Short.  For more information, visit the official SIFF website at Tickets are available from Sistic. spoke to Dr Lynette Tan, curator of the programme, to find out more about Women in Film.  


Could you give us an introduction to the Women in Film programme?

The film world is well known to be one that resonates with many male personalities, but up-and-coming women – like Kathryn Bigelow, who won the Best Director Academy Award this year – are taking this world by storm. There is no better or more opportune time than this to be addressing the work of such women and the films that have women at their centre.

Women in Film looks at the work of such female directors, producers, and actors. The focus is on films that explore and illuminate the images, societal roles, and pressures faced by women. The work that is produced is far from monolithic, it is as diverse as the multifaceted women from which the films spring.


How did you conceive the programme?

The programme was conceived from two sources: the film course that I launched at the Singapore Management University, which is one that introduces students to the tools of film analysis that are part of the basic curriculum of film schools in the UK and US. It is also a course that has images of women as its focus, in particular the ideological underpinnings of the latter. (Secondly,) Professor Kirpal Singh, the SIFF Festival Director, suggested that I curate a programme that had a similar focus for the festival and I was very happy to oblige.


Catherine Breillat is known for being controversial. What should we expect from her film Bluebeard?

‘Controversial’ is definitely a tag that is attached to Catherine Breillat – she is known to have used Italian porn stars in her films to great effect and in upsetting social mores. This is, however, not the only tag that is associated with Breillat. She is also known for her exceptional filmmaking skills (she has been called one of the most important colourists working in film today), as well as her ability to create a narrative that is intelligent and meaningful.

Bluebeard is very timely because it has these qualities of Breillat without the controversy, and thus we are able to view her film in its entirety. Breillat is also well known for giving her audiences an insightful and exclusive perspective of the female identity and this is prefect for our programme.

In her own words:
“There is no masculine psychology in my cinema. There is only the resentments and desires of women. A man should not attempt to recognize himself in my male characters. On the other hand, he can find [in the films] a better understanding of women. And knowledge of the other is the highest goal.”

There’s still a shortage of Asian actors in leading roles from Hollywood. Have things changed much from the days of Nancy Kwan, who is the subject of the film To Whom It May Concern: Ka Shen’s Journey?   

I think we have seen some progression with regards to Asian representation in Hollywood. This is a difficult one as Hollywood is, at the end of the day, a business. Hollywood produces what it thinks its audiences want to see (and pay to see) and judging by its dominance that formula is successful. Hollywood is primarily mainstream and it very likely has different aims from the typical independent filmmaker – and if we want to look at Asian actors in leading roles we only have to cast our eyes to nearby Hong Kong, Japan, India, Korea, and even Singapore, and this would be far more satisfying.

Could you tell us about the two documentaries His and Hers and Last Train Home? How do you think they will resonate with locals?

Last Train Home is a documentary that I feel will touch the heart of the Asian parent and speak to the heart of the Asian child. It is about the sacrifice of one generation for the future of the next and is not only emotionally engaging but also visually stunning in the telling of its story. It has won numerous awards and I am delighted that we were able to procure it for our programme.

His and Hers is a film with a fascinating yet simple premise, exploring the relationships that some 70 Irish women from all ages have with men, with stories that are told in sitting rooms, kitchens and hallways. There are moving love stories that range from infancy to adolescence to old age, and these are told with humour and a light tone.

His and Hers is also made in a beautiful choreography of images that won the film the World Cinema Documentary Cinematography Prize at Sundance in early 2010. The documentary is one that can very easily be appropriated by a local filmmaker with, I believe, equal success. The simplicity of setting and narrative in combination with sophisticated filmmaking technique placed within a Singaporean context would make for a potentially very engaging film.