The Fantasy in Reality

When RIDM officially launched their website for 2011, I was immediately struck by the feminine quality of the programming.

Since the festival began, I have made an effort to screen films that consider the politics of representation.

The opening night with Crazy Horse set the stage for the questions of femininity that have become a buzz of conversation during the festival.

In an effort to understand the filmmaker’s choices when making Crazy Horse, I screened La Danse and Model. Both follow the same format of keeping a distance from personal stories and simply follow the back stage business of putting on a show. Likewise, in Crazy Horse, Wiseman chronicles the daily life of another well-established institution. He captures the illusion created by a team of stage professionals aiming to intrigue their audience in the dazzle of ‘nu chic’ dancers.  Equally focused on constructing beauty in a fantasy realm is the team of fashion pros featured in Wiseman’s Model. Both groups work hard daily to present the female form in the best possible light, literally.

In a more personal expose, Jorgen Leth’s Erotic Man includes moments of questioning his desires as he defines himself as an explorer of the erotic with his images of naked women. He shares an intimacy with his film subjects, who he wraps in his poetry.

If there is a problem of representation of the female form is it with the docmaker or could it be that naked women on screen is a politically charged image in any medium? To understand the artistic undertaking, the audience is asked to join the filmmakers’ fantasy as representing naked women becomes a form of aesthetics.

The complicated relationship of being in front of a camera is best summarized in the self-reflective words of the well-accomplished actress, Charlotte Rampling, in Angelina Maccarone’s The Look. “When you’re presenting yourself in front of crowds…there’s a challenge element to exposure… it’s almost erotic in a sense… your pushing yourself to go dangerously into a place…if you are to give anything worthwhile of yourself you have to feel completely exposed. “

Throughout The Look, this edgy actress guides us through her controversial work articulating her experience and thus, wisdom in subjects from desire, taboo, to beauty and resonance.

Wiseman does not look away from the cruelest form of female body politics, in his work Domestic Violence making it one of the harshest films to screen. A strong voice from the women themselves emerges with shocking details and a disturbing display of bodily harm.

Another intimate and raw portrait of the dark side of female power politics is Mia Donovan’s Inside Lara Roxx. This step into the reality of being a sex worker in a fantasy-based industry shows Lara as she is swept away. The true triumph of this film is watching the bond built over time between filmmaker and subject.

RIDM is evidently a festival willing to take a risk and push an audience’s boundaries.  The adventure of seeing docs in a theatre during a festival is the invitation to engage and discuss with the other audience members and the filmmakers themselves, the perceptions and reflections of reality of the world represented on the screen.

Dannielle Dyson
Former associate programmer at Hot Docs and director of programming at Guelph’s Festival of Moving Media.
Danielle is a member of the pre-selection panel at RIDM this year.