Beginning last weekend and closing this Sunday, August 12, Kew Gardens Festival of Cinema is in its second year and growing. With screenings and events in Forest Hills, Queens and its nearby neighborhoods, this is an event rooted in community. The event guidebook opens with a letter from Governor Cuomo, who celebrates the festival for blessing this “little known area of New York City.”
The festival was established by independent filmmakers, and its mission is to ensure that every aspect of the event helps their development, either through industry discussion or expanding audiences.
Women filmmakers are much better represented in the independent world, and that tendency is certainly reflected here. Below are a few of the festival’s narrative features and documentaries written or directed by women.
Song of Sway Lake, co-written by Elizabeth Bull
Edge of the World, co-written by Charla Driver
Behind the Blue Door, co-written by Magdalena Niec and Katarzyna Stachowicz Gacek
Darcy, co-written by Tracy Nichole Cring and co-directed by Heidi Philipsen
Blue, written and directed by Gabriela Ledesma, co-written by Callie Schuttera
Us, Forever Ago, written and directed by Irina Varina
Modified, written and directed by Aube Giroux
In the meantime, here’s FF2 intern Hannah Mayo’s sneak peek of Irina Varina’s Us, Forever Ago, a curious piece of drama/experimental documentary/cinematographic autotheory:
Us, Forever Ago breaks down the boundaries between documentary, fiction, and diary entry, landing on a subjective portrait of life as a female artist in New York City in 2015. Told from the odd perspective of director Irina Varina looking back on the film production process from the year 2030, it does away with temporal conventions in movie structure, and explores what it means to live, love, and create as a woman against the mainstream.
My first impression of this movie was that Varina didn't know what she wanted it to be before--even while--filming it. While the pieces that make it up are all from the same universe, at times they don’t feel like part of the same film; the fictional narrative itself is vague in premise, and both its characters and the real-life people she interviews are not formed enough for us to connect to them as people. However, Varina knows this, and from the start she tells us that the (fictional) critics of the film rejected it for this reason, an intriguing hint that this will not be your standard movie.
The risks Varina took while creating this film could have easily turned it into an incomprehensible mess, but the compassion she put into it pulls it together into a powerful and personal piece. The clips are disjointed, but meditative in sequence, and all contribute to experience of the whole film. Interviews with her female artist friends are simultaneously individual portraits and reflections of Varina and her own life. Simple editing and minimal narrative structure allow the viewer to find pieces of their own experience within it, and create a personal meaning through their own connections to the film.
Irina Varina clearly set out to make a film that viewers could connect to rather than fully understand, and because of this her final result ends up being a successful representation of the experience of self-reflection. We never really get the full story, of anything shown, but the same is true of real life experiences, and the honesty of what is told leaves you with the sense that you were friends with Varina during 2015-2017. The venturesome structure of the film and the compassion with which it was created are singular and enjoyable.
© Amelie Lasker and Hannah Mayo (8/6/18) FF2 Media