The Women and Cinema Festival of Florence originates at the end of the 70’s connecting a public that searches on its own films that would otherwise never be able to watch. But the public/protagonist of the festival is made up of young women that air their thoughts, organize meetings about the writings of the past and the contemporary overview of literature, and reconstruct the trails of female life and culture that the official story does not take into account.
They try to measure the consistency of the distance between women and art and understand how and in what measure this distance can be bridged, including images and protagonists of experiences that were either denied or not fully explored.
The first editions of the Women and Cinema Festival of Florence present a clear interest in the directors of the past or present that have favoured and proposed views and languages that are both different and experimental:
Germane Dulac and Maya Deren, Margherite Duras and Chantal Akerman. Alice Guy, of course, the Gaumont worker recently rediscovered in France, first female director but also “first motion-picture author” ever, until that moment completely ignored by the story of cinema.
Arriving from England, we see film critics like Laura Mulvey and the performer of Expanded Cinema. Then we have the films of the independent Americans that produce and distribute on their own their works of art.
The story of women marks profoundly the English speaking area. However, the accusation of violence is a recurrent subject in films coming from every latitude.
In Italy, Liliana Cavani and Lina Wertmüller are the only ones that count with a real filmmaking career. There is also a great female scriptwriter: Suso Cecchi D’Amico. Many other female authors are only able to make one film.
Annabella Miscuglio and Loredana Dordi make Processo per stupro and A.A.A. Offresi, strong investigations thought of for television. They generate a scandal and become cult but it is very difficult to get to watch them. Alessandra Bocchetti, independent director, and Tilde Capomazza, director of Rai, make the “first weekly feminist show for T.V.” It lasts four years on air.
And then there are the great ladies of the international cinema like Agnès Varda, teacher of Nouvelle Vague, or the exceptional Vera Chytilova that tells about the unruly humour of Eastern Europe through her Margheritine.
The 80’s open with Margarethe von Trotta winning the Golden Lion of Venice. In Florence, Ulrike Ottinger, Helke Sander, Jutta Brϋckner, Ula Stöckl, Helma Sanders-Brahms and the other German female authors are already part of the family.
The new Canadian tendencies arrive with Patricia Rozema and Léa Pool. The Canadian reality is richly multicultural. In Florence, this is very well represented by a young director that lives between India and Canada, Deepa Metha.
By the end of the decade, the Australian women are even more determined. Jane Campion, Gillian Armstrong and all the others, but the real discovery are the amazing female producers that sustain the success of the cinematography of the period. Inevitably, the title of the festival’s edition is La grande barriera corallina. The fall of the Berlin wall is preannounced by the growing critics to the soviet bureaucracy, through which many female authors filter to present their work, with more and more freedom. Two names as examples: Kira Muratova and Lana Gogoberidze. In Europe, the amount of films and young female directors keeps growing. In many cases, the actresses also start directing and thus creating a mixture between cinema and theatre, specially in England and the Scandinavian countries.
France adds new names to its already bushy tradition (Colin Serreau, Liliane De Kermadec, Nelly Kaplan, etc.): Dominique Cabrera, Christine Carriére, Catherine Corsini, Claire Denis, Danielle Dubroux, Agnes Merlet, Laetitia Masson and many others. The 1997 edition, La distanza delle cose vicine, is dedicated to them.
The Italian women arrive. The big news. They are daughters of art, pupils of the Experimental Centre, they have studied cinema in United States or Germany, they have worked for a long time in Rai. They are all different and all very interesting. Some are also active in theatre or write novels: Francesca and Cristina Comencini, Francesca Archibugi, Elisabetta Lodoli, Costanza Quatriglio, Nina di Majo, Wilma Labate, Antonietta De Lillo, Fiorella Infascelli, Emanuela Piovano, Isabella Sandri and all the rest of the “Italian squadron”. The festival takes place at the end of the decade, during summer and out in the open, in a magnificent garden. Elsa de Giorgi recalls her unforgettable friend, Anna Magnani. Claudia Cardinale remembers how close the other shore of the Mediterranean is.
The decade ends with two projects: Multicinema and X-film, cinema contro la violenza, a fight against stereotypes of racism and the culture of violence. As protagonists, the African authors. Safi Faye, from Senegal, with her classic Mossane and Rachida Krim, from Algeria, with Sous les pieds des femmes. The godmother is the Italian Cinzia Torrini, and the guest of honour is Pratibha Parmar, of English-Pakistani origins. The Internet and digital technologies start to arrive.
Morocco, Tunisia, Lebanon, Algeria and Turkey participate in the festival proposing their point of view about the present and about history. Together with the big films, video-letters and instant movies arrive precisely from the areas with the greatest conflict: Algeria, Iran, Nepal and Palestine.
Africa speaks profoundly about the need of female freedom. Yamina Benguigui with Inch’allah dimanche interweaves skilfully the struggle for Algerian independence with the fight for women’s emancipation.
The authors of the “reawakening” that appears between the diffusion of creativity and the permanent disparity of the big African cities reject openly the myth of migration (Paris à tout prix by Joséphine N’Dagnou).
Moufida Tlatli, of Tunisia, blends past and present with The Silences of the Palace and The Season of Men. The Mediterranean music links (unites) Africa and Europe in the “etnomusical” films of Izza Genini.
After the Afrocentrism of the 70’s and 80’s, the African-American female directors discuss the models of gender relative to the African culture before colonialism and that of the contemporary black community from which they come from (No by Aishah Shahidah Simmons).
From the centre of the conflict between Israel and Palestina, arrive the films of Liana Badr and Samia Halaby. Yulie Cohen Gerstel, from the same place, rejects the dehumanisation of the intolerable everlasting war with My terrorist.
When the conflict seems to have lost all precise borders and affects also the heart of the Empire, an Italian-American, Nancy Savoca, brings Rebel Without a Pause, allowing actress Reno to speak about a highly personal story of what happened to her on September 11.
The most lively European films turn out to be the Spanish ones, which present a strong relation to Latin American countries. (A mi madre le gustan las mujeres by Inés París and Daniela Fejerman or El vestido de terciopelo by Lilian Morello, to name a Spanish film and an Argentine one).
To us, the Italian cinema is in the centre, offering good proof of itself in the beginning of this new millennium with actresses that are very well known and loved by our public but also with other younger ones that measure themselves against short films and documentaries.
But in our country, directing is still not feminine enough as a task and Italy brings up the rear in European statistics. For these reasons, the traditional discussion between Italian female authors about “the state of art” has become a “Focus on the Italian cinema”, sponsored by the Vice Presidency of the Regional Council of Florence. Objectives: a wide ranging research about the Italian situation and about the hypothesis of participation to regain an equilibrium in the range of possibilities, specially for the younger women.
A new prize is born precisely from the awareness of the changes that were taking place. Il premio Gilda is an award given to those actresses that trespass borders and do not respect limits assuming, from time to time, different roles and tasks that go, for example, from performing to directing or working in films, television and theatre. It means taking responsibilities and generously putting into the game all of their skills. 2009 Gilda Award winners: Anna Karina and Teresa Saponangelo.
Main retrospectives of 2000: Cheng Pei-Pei and the martial arts films in Hong Kong, Alida Valli an Italian star. Andrée Davanture multicultural activist and female assembler, godmother of the best African cinema. Lina Nerli Taviani’s costumes (Marsiglia festival Films Femmes Méditerranée, first edition: La fiera delle dame). Convention and screening of Donne di legge inspired by the themes of the film Sisters in Law by Kim Longinotto and Florence Ayisi. Personale Anita Thacher rounded off by an amazing display on the doors of the Odeon cinema with the title Traveling light. A tribute to the world of cinema, inspired by the windows made by Matisse in the Chapel of the Rosary in Vence, France.