If you call a Millennial French Woman a Feminist, watch out. I grew up in a different generation, so I expect to be labelled an outlier by this group of younger women. Still, I was surprised how the French women filmmakers interviewed in Julie Gayet’s documentary, Cineast(e)s, answered the following questions: Do women have a different viewpoint? Do they identify a specific women’s cinema that is distinctly different from films made by men?
The answer: NO, NO, NO. 20 French filmmakers are interviewed in Gayet’s documentary. Each one declines to be identified as a feminist. “It’s the story,” they insist. The women give examples of the inability to determine male from female films: Annie Hall? All the Bergman films. “If you didn’t know who made these films, would you be able to identify the director as male or female?” they ask Gayet. Could I? Is there gender distinction in film?
Gayet persists. She asks how these female filmmakers are treated by their technical crews. This is where the documentary takes a completely different turn. Each filmmaker, in her own fashion, talks about the lack of respect technical people have for them. Some of the women admitted that they are ignorant of technical details: lighting, sound, etc. Others like Agnes Varda, forcefully argued that any director, male or female, must understand the means to the end.
As Cineaste(e)s rolls on, similar issues of control over aspects of filmmaking are flushed out. In each case, the women bring up how they handle or are unable to handle, the “power” they should have as the director of a film: the difficulty of asserting themselves. Surprisingly, the film begins to have a decidedly feminist point of view.
A panel discussion after the viewing of the film, revealed an amazing fact: the French have the highest number of films produced by women. Why? The answer was mind blowing: CHILD CARE. The French have the best system of child care in Europe and the United States. The creche system is competent, free and available, no matter where you live in France. All six women on the panel agreed that this fact allows them to not only multi-task, but more importantly to make films. Vive la France!
Stacie Passon (Concussion)
Rebecca Ziotowski (Grand Central)
Katell Quillevere (Suzanne)
Axelle Ropert (Miss and the Doctors)
Ry Russo-Young (Nobody Walks)
Justine Triet (Age of Panic)