The fight for gender equality is one of the body and of the mind. Women face attack and occupation both physically and mentally. How do you start to walk back thousands of years of history over which a cultural construct has become indistinguishable from the natural order? The films in this strand not only look at the continuing human rights abuses facing women but, critically, the active resistance undertaken against the global patriarchy.
This year we are presenting a retrospective study of Trinh T Minh-ha, Vietnamese writer and filmmaker whose practice centres around and the intersection of feminism and postcoloniality.
At 26, Leyla is elected the youngest mayor in Turkey, in her hometown of Cizre, a Kurdish capital city near the Iraqi-Syrian border—a city she was forced to flee over 20 years ago, after her father was killed by the Turkish military when she was a little girl. Her goal is to heal and beautify the civil-war-torn city, which is enjoying a break in the violence. But on the eve of Turkey’s parliamentary elections, everything changes, and old memories become more real than ever.
Influential feminist theorist and filmmaker Trinh T. Minh-ha’s lyrical film essay commemorating the 40th anniversary of the end of the war draws inspiration from ancient legend and from water as a force evoked in every aspect of Vietnamese culture. In Forgetting Vietnam images of contemporary life unfold as a dialogue between land and water—the elements that form the term “country.” Fragments of text and song evoke the echoes and traces of a trauma of international proportions. The encounter between the ancient as related to the solid earth, and the new as related to the liquid changes in a time of rapid globalization, creates a third space of historical and cultural re-memory—what local inhabitants, immigrants and veterans remember of yesterday’s stories to comment on today’s events.
Since Kyrgyzstan gained its independence in 1991, there has been a revival of the ancient practice of Ala-Kachuu, which translates roughly as “grab and run”. More than half of Kyrgyz women are married after being kidnapped by the men who become their husbands. Some escape after violent ordeals, but most are persuaded to stay by tradition and fear of scandal. Although the practice is said to have its root in nomadic customs, the tradition remains at odds with modern Kyrgyzstan. Ala-Kachuu was outlawed during Soviet era and remains illegal under the Kyrgyz criminal code, but the law has rarely been enforced to protect women from this violent practice. Today in Kyrgyzstan, sheep thieves are punished more severely than bride kidnappers.
Presented in collaboration with Glasgow Women’s Library.
Our second screening of Grab and Runwith Glasgow Women’s Library will take the form of an ‘interrupted screening’. Audience members join one another around tables and the film is interrupted at key points to allow time and space for discussion and reflection.
Free, but ticketed. Tickets available from Glasgow Women’s Library.
They stand at the forefront of the fight for freedom in the Middle East. These young women belong to the armed wing of the PKK, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which is also an active guerrilla movement. From their camp hidden away in the mountains, the women lead a nomadic life, undergoing ideological and practical training before being sent out to the front lines. Their mission? Defend Kurdish territory in Iraq and Syria, and defeat ISIS. By capturing their ritualised daily activities, as well as the emotional and intellectual bonds that unite them, Gulîstan, Land of Roses sheds light on the lives of these women who are collectively fighting for a revolutionary ideal advocating female empowerment. The film also gives them a powerful voice, and in return, many of them openly share with us their most intimate thoughts and dreams. Even as fighting against ISIS intensifies in the Middle East, these women bravely continue their battle against barbarism. Offering a window into this largely unknown world, Gulîstan, Land of Roses exposes the hidden face of this highly mediatized war: the female, feminist face.
Women, Life, Freedom. The YPJ, the women’s protection units of the Kurdish militia, have come increasing to the attention of the world’s media to the obvious shock of the west. How, they seem to ask, can a non western society embody a progressive model without our intervention? Does the obvious gender equality within the military extend to Kurdish civil society? And can this homegrown feminism be seen as an alternative model for the broader east?
Prison Sisters takes us through the journey of two young women who have been released from prison in Afghanistan. Sara’s uncle has planned to kill her an attempt to save his honor in their small village. Fearing for her life Sara escapes to Sweden, but Najibeh stays behind. While Sara struggles with her newfound freedom, her prison-mate Najibeh disappears and soon Sara hears that she was stoned to death. Sara and the filmmaker want to find out the truth, only to encounter a maze of half- truths on the streets of Afghanistan. We follow the two main characters, revealing what happened to them – each with an exceptional fate depicting the horrific reality for women in Afghanistan.
From a refugee camp on the Turkish-Syrian border, an 8-year-old girl, Evlin, characterises the resistance of her homeland. Her heroes, the Kurdish female fighters, are defending the city of Kobane against the onslaught by ISIS militants. The power of the human spirit emanates through Evlin as she shows us that hope and resilience prevail even in the most tragic of circumstances. Evlin takes us on a journey that introduces the many different faces of the resistance on both sides of the border and provides a unique look at the extraordinary spirit behind the first major victory against ISIS.
“He belongs to that fraction of humanity which for centuries has made other fractions the objects of contempt and exploitation, then, when it saw the handwriting on the wall, set about to give them back their humanity.”
Trinh T Minh-ha is a filmmaker, writer and composer. Her practice centres around intersection of gender and colonialism. Her film work exposes the processes of othering and the politics of representation. She is Professor of Gender & Women’s Studies and of Rhetoric at the University of California, Berkeley.
Women, Native, Other at the Pipe Factory will present two of Trinh T Minh-ha’s early film works in series. Poignant and at times disorientating, these early films not only demonstrate the beauty of film but also demand the viewer to question oneself, as spectator.
Reassemblage (7-10 October)
1982 | 40m (loop)
Women are the focus but not the object of Trinh T. Minh-ha’s influential first film, a complex visual study of the women of rural Senegal. Through a complicity of interaction between film and spectator, REASSEMBLAGE reflects on documentary filmmaking and the ethnographic representation of cultures.
“With uncanny eloquence, REASSEMBLAGE distills sounds and images of Senegalese villagers and their surroundings to reconsider the premises and methods of ethnographic filmmaking. By disjunctive editing and a probing narration this ‘documentary’ strikingly counterpoints the authoritative stance typical of the National Geographic approach.” — Laura Thielan
Surname Viet, Given Name Nam (8-15 October)
1989 | 1hr 48m (loop)
Of marriage and loyalty: “Daughter, she obeys her father/ Wife, she obeys her husband/ Widow, she obeys her son.”
This profoundly personal documentary explores the role of Vietnamese women historically and in contemporary society. Using dance, printed texts, folk poetry and the words and experiences of Vietnamese women in Vietnam—from both North and South—and the United States, Trinh’s film challenges official culture with the voices of women. A theoretically and formally complex work, SURNAME VIET GIVEN NAME NAM explores the difficulty of translation, and themes of dislocation and exile, critiquing both traditional society and life since the war.