Maryam Madani speaks to three directors whose films feature in this year’s Silk Road International Film Festival.
The Silk Road Film Festival returns to Dublin from March 7 to 11. The festival’s 6th run brings with it a vast selection of films showing 87 in total. With pictures coming from all corners of the globe – from Tunisia and Jordan to Australia and Singapore – celebrating worldwide diversity in films is the underlying theme of the festival.
It’s perfect for students as the majority of screenings are free, with a small number being priced between €5 and €7. The Hugh Lane Gallery [Thursday] and Trinity College [Friday and Sunday] will host long runs of international and student short films, which will enable people to watch films made in Ireland side-by-side in one sitting with films from Iran, Lebanon and the Netherlands.
We spoke to three the directors whose films feature in this year’s festival.
Shikha Makan- “Bachelor Girls”
When did you first become aware of the issue facing these women? Does this treatment occur just in Mumbai or in other parts of India too?
When I first moved to Bombay from Delhi almost a decade back, I was facing many problems looking for a house. At that moment I dismissed it as sheer bad luck. But over the years, listening to many women recount harrowing experiences, I was prompted to explore housing discrimination against single women and use my filmmaking skills to raise this issue. When the promo of my film was released I was shocked to realise how prevalent this problem was. Women from all over India , Bangalore, Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, started reposting the promo, sharing their own sordid tales. This is a growing concern in big cities of India, faced by upwardly mobile women migrating for work. The primary reason is patriarchy and the moral premium placed on the idea of marriage, that bears ‘respectability’. Even today our society is not completely accepting of a woman’s independent stature, when she is unattached or single. It appears to me that women have evolved and claimed their identities faster than the society has.
How do you think we can begin to address this stigma in the culture? What would you like to see happen or change?
Initiating a dialogue is the first step towards making a change. The enormous response and discussions that my film has generated, makes me happy that I took this step. Changing archaic beliefs of people is difficult and needs a persistent effort at all levels – cultural, social, psychological including politics, law and activism. Many more women need to come out and share their stories. This is the only way to make our voices heard and consolidate views.
What do you think is the importance of international festivals like this one and what does it mean to you to be part of it?
I wish I could be part of the screening, but I am to going to miss it.
Festivals like Silk Road are highly important for the growth of independent filmmakers and also to share our ideas and realities with different audiences. It definitely harnesses greater discussions and participation.
Bachelor girls will play in Filmbase on Wednesday March 7 at 5.45 p.m.
Naomi Fagan- “Jelly Baby”
Where is the movie set and do you have any connection to the area?
Jelly Baby is set in Tallaght, where I grew up. Tallaght is kind of like Dublin City’s unkempt back garden. It’s monotonous and dull at a first glance, but there’s a vibrancy underneath it all. I wanted the locations to parallel our protagonist’s personality; calm and still with a possibility of erupting into a frenzied explosion at any moment.
Is it important to you to create more roles for women and to see complex female relationships such as mother-daughter connections on the screen?
Gender diversity in film is incredibly important. Women are massively underrepresented behind the camera, but things seem to be slowly shifting.
Almost all of our Department Heads on Jelly Baby were women. It wasn’t out of protest, but simply because our ideologies meshed well. Women understand women’s stories, so I think it’s important that we write what we know.
Does the mother-daughter relationship in Jelly Baby remind you of your own in any way?
My mam had me when she was 17, the same age I was when my youngest sister was born. To an extent, I feel that I’ve been both Stacey and Lauren at some stage; the child that wants attention and the adult who wants their own space. I think this gave me a unique vantage point to explore a maternal relationship.
I was drawn to look at the complexities of what it entails to be a child yourself, while being responsible for raising another. I wanted to explore the concept of maternal expectation, and what happens when a mother simply wants to be a person too.
What was your inspiration for the movie and what were you hoping to create/portray?
I wanted to create an intimate portrait of the stresses of the domestic environment, and the tensions that arise between mother and daughter. The film interrogates the idea that mothers should either be demonised, or idolised. My aim was to explore the middle ground; the nuances of the grey area in between what is conventionally right or wrong.
Jelly Baby will play in the Long Room Hub in TCD on Sunday March 11, from 12noon as part of a selection of international student films
Sean Clancy- “Locus of Control”
Your lead, John Morton, has described the movie as “The Shining on a Jobridge”, or a horror about being on the dole. Would you say that is an accurate description of what you were going for?
The Shining on a Jobridge is a pretty accurate description. It’s got elements of a character with slightly self-absorbed creative frustrations in an ominous building and a world that gets more sinister as things progress. But the horror and the comedy are inseparable, they both play off a sense of tension that run through the story.
Have you had any nightmare experiences yourself? What was your inspiration for the movie?
I can’t say I’ve ever tried stand-up comedy but I’ve definitely been on the dole before. A few years ago I was on a course as part of social welfare and we were given a personality test called locus of control. Based on your answers the test would tell you if you had an ‘internal locus’ or an ‘external locus’, basically whether you felt you had any power over your own life or if your life was something that was all chance, luck and dictated by outside forces. That’s where the idea for the film started.
Is there a critique of Irish society or the dole buried in here?
There’s elements of a slightly absurd and frustrating bureaucracy in the film but the story is told from Andrew’s [John Morton] point of view so we see the world how he sees it, not necessarily how it is. I was more interested in making a story about how much control you really have over your life and the dole is used as a starting point to explore the effects of anxiety, depression, decisions, choice, a kind of domino effect of helplessness and feeling powerless. I think the longer that goes on the less likely you are to be able to see where you can actually make choices and decisions, the more overwhelming and frustrating the world starts to become.
Locus of Control will play in Filmbase on Wednesday March 7 from 8:15pm