Kian Bergstrom scouts the offerings of the Chicago Feminist Film Festival for Cine-File Chicago


The second annual Chicago Feminist Film Festival runs this coming Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday with a stunning array of 57 movies from 22 countries (two features and eight shorts programs), all challenging gender norms, broadening modes of representation, exploring alternative narrative structures and styles, and highlighting the enormous diversity of ways filmmakers around the world can contribute to new kinds of cinema. The festival’s two feature-length shows are XX (2017, 80 min; Wednesday, 5pm), a horror anthology with segments directed by St. Vincent, Sofia Carrillo, Jovanka Vuckovic, Karyn Kusama, and Roxanne Benjamin, and the Chicago premiere of WOMAN ON FIRE (Julie Sokolow, 2016, 85 min; Friday, March 3, 8pm), a documentary about the first openly transgender firefighter in New York City. Roxanne Benjamin and Julie Sokolow and her subjects Brooke Guinan and James Baker will be in attendance for post-screening Q&As after their respective screenings. The shorts, far too numerous to detail here, range from the interesting to the amazing. Especially great are ANY OTHER DAY (Marysela Zamora, 2015, 7 min; Shorts Program: Becoming, Friday, March 3, 4:30pm), a subtle game of shot scale and focus in which two children play a series of complicated games of role-play as they spend a day in the woods, THE DEER QUEEN (Brooke Thiele, 2016, 7 min; Shorts Program: Nature/Culture, Friday, March 3, 6pm), a highly stylized fairy tale nightmare about a huntress, birthed from a deer carcass, attempting to slay a very anthropomorphic crane, and SHE/HER (Sonja Wyss, 2015, 11 min; Shorts Program: Dance Revolutions, Thursday, 1pm), where a stressful meal between mother and daughter starts turning into an elaborately choreographed dance of wills and bodies. While none of these is to be missed, they are but small samples of the wealth of riches the festival has to offer. As the new administration in the White House works tirelessly to advance antifeminist, transphobic, homophobic, and racist policies, the promise of different ways of thinking, different ways of seeing the world, different ways of dwelling among one another is not merely a welcome, progressive dream but an open demand. More than anything else, what this terrific festival showcases is a vision of how permanently new and liberatory cinema can be, both as an artistic and as a political force.

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