This Woman’s Work is a series of short films from female directors, produced in the last twelve months. The event was presented by Channel 4’s Random Acts, a late night programme showcasing indie animations, music videos and shorts. The carefully curated selection of films served to demonstrate the endless talent of female directors. The themes of all the films were un-gendered and unlimited, demonstrating that the event was not pandering to feminist sensibilities, but simply letting the directors’ work speak for itself. Six films where shown in the Fabrica Gallery, followed by a full episode of Random Acts. The highlights of the evening included comedy, animation and queer interpretive dance compositions.
Abbie Stephens’ Observations on Relationships opened the screening, with a wry look at the ridiculous, yet concealed, aspects of romantic relationships. Stephens explored how we preserve relationships when they are failing, become too similar to our partners, and can overwhelm with romantic gestures. Each scene ended with a gory picture of pain, suffocation or acquiescence. Stephens’ dark images are hidden well beneath a kitsch 70’s aesthetic and tacky love songs. The director evokes how relationship issues are often buried under a facade of cheesy happiness.
Crashing Waves, a dance sequence portraying a forbidden love between too working class men, was an outstanding short film. Director Emma Gilbertson places the action on the stage of an empty council estate. The piece opens with the two dancers engaged in a physical fight. Their bodies betraying their intimacy as they violently interlock. The dancing then melts into affectionate yet slightly resistant movements. The action becomes so intense that the only part of the dancers’ bodies the audience doesn’t see touch is their lips. The film closes with the unexpected lovers being mocked by their peers. Gilbertson’s use of music accentuated every time the men’s bodies touched. This wordlessly heightened the intensity of feeling between the two men.
Perfect Town, an animation by Anaïs Voirol was shown as part of the full Random Acts episode. The film did everything an animation should do: pushing the limits of reality and telling a story through action alone. It focuses on a town so flawless that people fight to live there. Yet once you are in the town, you can be deemed imperfect and be ejected from there. Then you must make the pilgrimage to the town again. Voirol animates an endless cast of abstract characters that only just read as humanoid. She uses animation to it’s full extent by exploring how the type of images she can create is limitless. An honourable mention must be made to Katherine Dallimore’s Glitch, which also used conceptual animation, yet lacked grounding in a challenging storyline.
Allen Anders was the final short of This Woman’s Work, portraying ‘found footage’ of a comedy act. Laura Moss’ film opens with comedian Allen Anders ending a comedy set with the punchline: ‘and thats what I call a case of the Mondays’. The character leaves the stage only to instantly be reintroduced to the crowd. Anders restarts his observational act about hating waking up for work. Moss skilfully plays on the comedy trope that people hate their jobs, while emphasising how sad this reality really is. She inserts desperate looking shots of Anders face and the audience roaring with laughter at their own servitude. The scene comes to a climax when the comedian breaks down the nihilistic truth that he is an organism and is going to die. At this point the laughter reaches a fever pitch. Then Anders circles back to his cliche punchline and exits the stage. Anders then re-enters the stage for a third time, with a noticeably desperate look on his face.He starts the set again.
Moss does a superb job of uncovering the depressing themes that underlie what we laugh at. Comedy has been used across time to relieve the discontent of the masses, teaching them to laugh at their misfortune rather than confront structural problems in society. This was the function of court jesters, who were paid to make fun of the monarch – in order to keep subjects pacified.
The camera’s focus on the female audience members was refreshing, as often we unwittingly accept all male casts without questioning what view of society this represents.
Random Acts aires at midnight every Thursday. Shorts from this event can be found on the Random Acts YouTube page.