Archives

Kinda Sutra, The

Filmmaker:
Year:
Country of Origin:
Format:
Running Time: 8 min
The Kinda Sutra (2009)

An unnamed girl speaks to the camera
© The Kinda Sutra 2009

Jessica Yu (In the Realms of the UnrealPing Pong Playa) turns her attentions to explore a universal yet simple question of childhood: Where do babies come from? Produced by Nonfiction Unlimited, The Kinda Sutra became an official selection of both the 2010 LunaFestival as well as 2009 Sundance Film Festival. And while the premise may be simple, Yu’s documentary touches on the complex social structures that continue to shape the social discourse on this scientific phenomenon. Through a series of interviews with people of various ages and races, Yu set out to document the countless stories that misrepresent the process of reproduction. Yu makes clear that regardless of social background, adults have created intricate stories, albeit age-appropriate, on this process. Ranging from the story of the stork to a simplified model of preformism, many stories have little to do with the actual event. In some cases, an explanation is not given at all, leaving kids and their endless imagination to piece it together. Coupled with all of this, Yu uses vibrant animations (by Stardust Studios) to illustrate the tales of misguided youths.

Most interestingly, the film ends with a handful of interviews with various children all that have been told the scientific explanation of the sperm and the egg. While surely more accurate, the grammar used across the board reproduces the underlying cultural assumptions about the event of the reproduction. It remains clear that the medical culture has pervaded the popular culture, in seeing the metaphor of the female reproductive system as a machine designed to produce. Quite literally, one interview relates the womb as a mechanized oven. Moreover, extending the metaphor of birthing as labor, such interpretation maintains unnecessary rhetoric of positivity in discussing the maturation and role of the sperm. One interview says that after the “connection” is made, the man “makes the baby.” Undoubtedly, through Yu’s various interviews, we are able to hear the consequences of the current lexicon. As a whole, The Kinda Sutra can act as a vehicle to highlight how people often do not notice the obviousness of everything that is said around them.

Further Readings:

Martin, Emily. “The Egg and the Sperm: How Science Has Constructed a Romance Based on Stereotypical Male-Female Roles.” Signs 16.3 (1991): 485-501. JSTOR. Web. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/3174586>.

Martin, Emily. The Woman in the Body: A Cultural Analysis of Reproduction. Boston: Beacon, 1992. Print.

 

Martin Mathay ’15

El General (Natalia Almada, 2009)

Filmmaker:
Year:
Country of Origin: , ,
Running Time: 83 min

“If we can see the present clearly enough, we shall ask the right questions of the past.” Attributed to John Berger, this quotation appears a few minutes into Natalia Almada’s El General, and aptly describes the film’s path.

The titular figure is Almada’s late great-grandfather, her bisabuelo, General Plutarco Elías Calles. Calles was a central figure in the Mexican Revolution of the 1910s who became president of Mexico; his violent opposition to the Catholic Church was just one issue that continues to make him a contentious presence in Mexican history. He was exiled by a successor, but his final resting place is a monument to the revolution in Mexico City.

At moments, the film seems as though it might be an act of reconciliation. Almada incorporates audio recordings that chronicle the beginnings of her grandmother’s attempt to write the general’s biography. These recordings constitute a window into el general, the father. But how can this close familial view exist peacefully alongside the image of el general, the dictator—as some have called him? Ultimately, these conflicting stories are said to be just that—stories. They do not need to be reconciled. As Berger’s words imply, Almada turns primarily to the reality of the present in Mexico City, looking there for remnants of a tumultuous historical past. And therefore, despite the power of Almada’s grandmother’s tapes and of Almada’s use of archive from public histories, private histories, and narrative cinema, El General’s most meaningful images are those of present-day Mexican laborers. Almada intimately interacts with them through interview, and follows them in long takes as they cart commodities through the city. Almada gives them voice and they have various things to say about Mexican history, but their very existence also becomes something of a testament to the general’s legacy.

Bibliography:

Brief interview with the filmmaker

Dissertation on the distribution of Mexican documentaries.

.

.

Michelle Citron’s “Fleeing from Documentary: Autobiographical Film/Video and the “Ethics of Responsibility””

Ella Shohat’s “Post-Third-Worldist culture”

Ella es el Matador (Gemma Cubero and Celeste Carrasco, 2009)

Year:
Country of Origin: ,
Running Time: 62 min

Format: Color, DVD

Ella es el Matador (She is the Matador), as the title indicates, is a documentary film about two female bullfighters and their career in Spain and Latin America. The film features the life of a celebrated, professional female matador, Maripaz Vega, and of a novice, Eva Florencia. By depicting both the life within the bullfighting society and the process to enter the professional world, the movie rigorously captures the inequalities and obstacles that exist in the rigidly gendered – extremely masculine – bullfighting society.

In terms of narrative elements, Ella es el Matador consists of two big parts and these parts are blended into the flow of narration throughout the movie: individual lives of Maripaz and Eva and historical path of female bullfighters in Spain and Latin America. The lives of two female bullfighters are told mostly via the interviews of their family members and themselves; in an interview, Maripaz’s father proudly expresses his amazement toward his daughter’s achievement, mentioning that none of Maripaz’s brothers could attain the matador status. Eva’s run-away story from Italy to Spain for her passionate love of bullfighting when she was only sixteen is quite dramatic and impressive, too. The interviews of male matadors and audience also convey how deeply the gendered notion of bullfighting is ingrained in Spanish society. Along with these aspects, the movie provides historical background of women’s participation in bullfighting, “Franco’s Law,” which banned women from partaking in bullfighting, and unstated prohibition that still exists these days.

However, despite the discouraging attitude of the society that is shown in the interviews and history, two women’s passion and fascination of bull and bullfighting can never be missed in the movie; especially, the visuals vividly conveys the emotions. There are many close-up shots of Maripaz and Eva when they talk or are in practice; their fierce eyes talk more about their passion and love about bullfighting. Moreover, camera’s focus on their gestures – movements even in the tips of the hands and toes – and the rhythmical line that flows throughout their bodies when they are in the ring demonstrates the beauty and sensation of bullfighting and helps audience understand the meaning of being a matador.

Although Ella es el Matador does not suggest any particular solution to the gendered bullfighting society in Spain, it does describe well the realities of women matadors through the inclusion of different paths that Maripaz and Eva have ended up taking in the end of the movie. Especially, if one compares Ella es el Matador with Pedro Almodóvar’s movie on a female matador, Hable con Ella (Talk to Her) (2002), he/she can easily find the different attitudes in depicting women bullfighters of two movies.

Maripaz Vega

 

For further information:

Ella es el Matador page on Women Make Movies website:

http://www.wmm.com/filmcatalog/pages/c755.shtml

Talcual films website (in French):

http://www.talcualfilms.com/estudio/ella-es-el-matador/

P.O.V. Ella es el Matador trailer:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RdVyItKqnTM

Maripaz Vega on Bullfighting News:

http://www.bullfightingnews.com/modules/news/article.php?storyid=209

Article about Maripaz Vega’s recent activity:

http://www.theolivepress.es/spain-news/2011/03/23/ole-female-bullfighter-fights-to-return-to-malaga/

Art work of Eva Florencia:

http://www.pbs.org/pov/matador/photo_gallery_paintings.php

Trailer of Hable con Ella:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7fl8tyEIXXI

Soomin Kim 2013.

Arresting Ana (Dir. Lucie Schwartz, 2009)

Filmmaker:
Year:
Country of Origin: ,
Running Time: 26 min

Format: Color, DVD

Arresting Ana is a film that, despite its short running time, grapples with a number of serious and troubling issues concerning the intersections of body image, free speech, and the Internet. The film centers around the pro-anorexia cyber movement, and follows Sarah, an 18 year-old college student with a “pro-Ana” blog called “In Search of Perfection, ” and Valerie Boyer, a legislator seeking to making websites like Sarah’s, illegal. The film describes “Ana” as a way for those struggling with the illness to personify the disease. In the film, Sarah describes “Ana” as a supportive and motivating force and even, a friend. The film depicts both the political and personal sides of this struggle, posing questions concerning free speech, along with the danger and efficacy of such websites. It considers both how these websites function for those suffering from the disease, and also what the impact of the Boyer Law might have on young women like Sarah.

The film, which takes place in France, also deals with how women living in a society so obsessed with food and thinness, might grapple with such opposing pressures. The film is interspersed with images of Paris—of it’s restaurants and markets alongside the advertisements of super-thin fashion models that permeate the country’s visual culture. The film, which focuses on Sarah’s perspective, shows how these websites, whose message can easily be construed as “morbid and perverse,” also serve as communities and outlets for those suffering with eating disorders to connect with others facing similar struggles. However, the film also includes screen shots of these blogs and sites, revealing the troubling imagery and ideology they often seem to promote.

Although the film focuses on the French legislation trying to ban “pro-Ana” websites, which would include up to two-years in prison and a 30,000 Euro fine, it also addresses the universal pervasiveness of this growing trend. As stated in the film, such websites exist in every language and every culture, a fact that underscores the disturbing growth and omnipresence of this disease. By providing the viewer with Sarah’s perspective, the film conveys a more complete sense of how these individuals view themselves, and how these online communities function for individuals struggling with eating disorders and body image.

For further information:

Film’s official website: http://arrestingana.com/

Overbeke, Grace (2008), “Pro-Anorexia Websites: Content, Impact, and
Explanations of Popularity”, The Wesleyan Journal of Psychology 3: 49–62

Norris, Mark L; Boydell, Katherine M; Pinhas, Leora; Katzman, Debra K (2006), “Ana and the internet: A review of pro-anorexia websites”, The International journal of eating disorders 39 (6): 443–447

Morris, Bonnie Rothman (2002-06-23), “A Disturbing Growth Industry: Web Sites That Espouse Anorexia”, New York Times, http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9F00E4DB123CF930A15755C0A9649C8B63&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=all

Harris, Misty (2007-09-15), “Online anorexia videos prompt call for website restrictions”, Edmonton Journal, http://www2.canada.com/edmontonjournal/news/story.html?id=8e8d21e0-c8da-4af1-b05c-01422ab6136d

(in French) Proposition de loi visant à lutter contre les incitations à la recherche d’une maigreur extrême ou à l’anorexie, Assemblée nationale, 2008-07-02, http://www.senat.fr/rap/l07-439/l07-439_mono.html

Schwartz, Lucie (2009-12-22), Outlawing Ana: French lawmakers battle eating disorders (http://www.pbs.org/frontlineworld/rough/2009/12/france.html), PBS Frontline