Writers: Julie Fergus, Celine Igwe, Khule Mayisa, Lia Tolaini
Directors: Julie Fergus, Celine Igwe, Khule Mayisa, Lino Pujia
The Mom Film Fest champions short filmmakers, selecting entrants to its annual competition who have mothers in a leadership role, but not all of the films are about parenthood and children. The four films in the Reflections block take poetic or innovative approaches to their subject matter, looking at large themes of female agency, self-loathing and societal pressure to keep up or to conform, applying creative approaches to the presentation of these issues on film.
One of the best shorts in the festival, Celine Igwe’s #Beingmytrueauthenticself is an 11-minute consideration of the impact of social media and the duality of online presentation. Told with no dialogue and using only incidental sound from the protagonist’s home – notably the alarming notification pings from her phone – the character is driven to greater extremes in order to replicate online posts from influencers she wishes to emulate. Whether this is a make-up tutorial, a protein shake recipe or a dance routine, moments after an inspirational video arrives, our increasingly beleaguered heroine tries to match it but instead finds herself increasingly exhausted in the process as the torturous ‘pings’ keep coming.
What Igwe does so well here is to show the reality behind these images and au naturale high-living myth that underpins them. There is some initial comedy in the faked protein shake made of milk with strawberry flavouring but the way in which Igwe builds the emotional shifts of this story, compressing years of online pressure into a few hours is compelling. As our heroine tweaks the pictures using filters, colour grading and other enhancements, the pressure is clear. Like a Black Mirror episode, #Beingmytrueauthenticself has a strong message about the power of technology to control and the cost of all this faked reality to the woman’s mental health.
Khule Mayisa’s film Okumhlophe is a more uplifting experience and quite a different proposition focused on the power of the female body and its historical interpretation. Focusing on biblical stories of female destructiveness and sin, Mayisa tries to redress the balance with a 5-minute film with a poetic and inspirational message about female power and the repressive nature of religious teaching. This is supported by contemporary dance performed in solo pieces by the cast who use their bodies to express notions of freedom, control and strength, with Mayida cutting between them as the different tones in the narrative unfold. This confident piece from South Africa is one of many international entrants who add depth to the perspectives included in the festival.
Lino Pujia’s 3-minute short, Crepuscule, takes a similar approach, an Italian film reflecting on the peace and contentment that a vineyard can bring. Almost an infomercial for the country, the male lead – a tribute to Pier Luigi Tolaini – briefly reflects on the beauty of his adopted country, having (presumably) left America for a different kind of life and enjoying the serenity that Pujia’s film captures well.
The final story in this category is perhaps the least like any of the others, a better idea in concept than it proves in production. Ostinato by Julie Fergus is a creepy house mystery in which a young woman seeks refuge from an unknown pursuer, she finds 3 people within who seem to know her and with whom she has some creepy encounters. Ostinato’s revelation is an interesting one, looking at guilt and grief as well as womanhood at different stages, but while the idea is good, the home movie execution and the limited character development are less accomplished than other work in this section.
A strong selection of topics and crafts here that certainly have resonance, a couple of the films in this category could certainly take home a trophy or two at the end of the competition.
The MOM Film Fest runs from 19-21 August.