The opening night of FEM FEST continued with the Feminist Cult Film Screening. The evening was hosted by WORM’s very own Mariette Groot and Roxy Woodward, curator of the well known B / Trash film festival, BUT.
The night was a compilation programme with fragments of short films and talks bringing female makers to the front. Pioneers and newcomers who follow their own path in the erotic film industry.
What’s a cult film?
Most of you have heard the term cult film, but what exactly gives a film a cult status? According to Roxy, the status has a lot to do with how the film has been received by the audience in a longer period of time. Some films can be a “failure” when they first hit the cinemas, but age very well. A popular example is “Focus Pocus” (1993), the first Disney production to use special effects. It was released as a flop, but 20 years later the film is a favourite on everybody’s Halloween movie list. Another more critically acclaimed example is “Eraserhead” which launched David Lynch’s career.
The evening was dedicated to the female makers in Sexploitation, a film genre that heavily relies on sex to deliver its message and turn over. Its heydays came in the ’60s and ’70s, a scene that was heavily dominated by men and therefore mostly characterised by the stereotypical representation of women.
One woman who broke the mould was Doris Wishman. We saw different excerpts of films she shot throughout her career mixed with snippets of interviews. Doris was sharp, short and gave a no-nonsense attitude to the journalists. I loved how she mixed absurdity, nudity and sneaky camera shots in her films. I laughed hard during the fragments of Double Agent 73 starring Chesty Morgan, a Polish immigrant who rose to fame due to this film. There she is playing a spy that hides a camera inside her boobs. Every time she needs to gather intel, Chesty has to undress and lift her boobs to activate the camera. A loud sound effect and a white screen act as a flashlight, definitely not a subtle or a quick way to steal information.
When asked about her references and research in art history and cinema Doris claims she has never been interested in either. Doris insisted that she only relies on her own imagination and wanted to be regarded with respect that other male film directors received.
Behind the female gaze, there are also female ethics. Something that is still desperately lacking on the film set and in the cinemas. Unfortunately, the industry is dominated by macho behaviour, toughness and fear. Doris practised fair pay, diversity and was genuinely interested in representation long before they were a thing.
Just the fact of the existence of Doris in such a male-dominated space shows that the female gaze will pierce even the darkest of spaces and bring light and opportunity to the following generations!
Due to copy right issues we only saw small sections of the films and trailers. This is the full list of films featured in the programme:
Diabla (2019) by Ashley George
Viva (2007) by Anna Biller
Dark Circus (2016) by Julia Ostertag who was a special guest.
Nude on the Moon, Double Agent 73, Bad Girls Go to Hell by Doris Wishman
Sluts and Goddesses (1992) by Annie Sprinkle
Nipplealarm! by Antje Mönning
Story by Nia Konstantinova
Event photos by Berksun Doganer