Women at Sundance 2018

Sundance Film Festival impressed us all late last year when announcing their short film selection programme. Female directed films filled 51% of the selection, making a huge move for equality at festivals. Something that many of the most popular events are still failing on, including Sundance’s own feature films programme which presents only 38% of female directed films.

So who are these women? What are their films about? And more importantly, how does it feel to get that call to tell you that your film made it?

Rianne Pictures was lucky to speak with 14 out of the 35 female directors featured in this year’s short film programme to answer these questions.

What was your reaction to the news of your film being selected?

Tamta Gabrichidze (Sovdagari): I was super happy. Sundance is my favourite film festival.

Diane Obomsawin (I Like Girls): I jumped through the ceiling. It made a hole in my upstairs neighbours’ floor, so they invited me in to celebrate the good news.

Chintis Lundgren (Manivald): I was very, very happy. This is only the second time an Estonian film has been selected to compete in Sundance and the very first time that an Estonian animated short is playing there. And of course personally I couldn’t be any more excited about this, especially considering that I’m self-taught and the film is quite low-budget.

Shaandiin Tome (Mud): When I found out my film was accepted into Sundance I was in complete awe. For most, this is one of the best festivals you can get into, and for my team and I, it was a stretch to think that we would even have a chance of being accepted. When I got the call, I thought the programmer was joking with me, and then I cried after he hung up. 

Still from Mud, directed by Shaandiin Tome.

Still from Mud, directed by Shaandiin Tome.

Georgi Banks-Davies (Garfield): At first, disbelief. I actually thought one of my friends was calling me and winding me up! Then follows an incredible sense of achievement, validation and humility. We do what we do as film-makers and never really know if it's good or bad. When Sundance call, at least you know it's relevant in this moment. 

Katarzyna Gondek (Deer Boy): When I was talking my producer into making a short film I told him: We will get the funding in three months and then go to Sundance. Imagine my surprise, when I found out that both of my bluffs worked out perfectly! My producer is now sure that I’m a witch!

Reema Sengupta (Counterfeit Kunkoo): I read the Sundance selection email on the upper berth of a rickety sleeper bus. I couldn’t believe it. I don’t think I actually believed it was happening till I double-checked Counterfeit Kunkoo’s name on the Sundance website two weeks later. I remember my heartbeat racing as I put the Sundance laurels on the poster of the film. We are absolutely thrilled that a small indie short made hustling it out in the streets of Mumbai is getting so much international attention.

Myrsini Aristidou (Aria): I received a call for the acceptance of the film at Sundance. It was 6.30 AM in Cyprus. But, I was so excited, and thrilled and grateful, that I just started running up and down the stairs from happiness after I hang up.

Still from Aria, directed by Myrsini Aristidou.

Still from Aria, directed by Myrsini Aristidou.

With reports stating that Sundance receive approximately 9,000 submissions for their short film programme, it’s one of the luckiest breaks you can get in the industry for your short film. Luckily for Katarzyna Gondek, Niki Lindroth von Bahr and Jessica Sanders this isn’t their first time their films have been selected. For Niki this is her third time!

However other directors such as Myrsini Aristidou, Chintis Lundgren and Diane Obomsawin know how frustrating it can to receive those rejection emails before finally getting your next project selected. All other women we spoke to, said that this was their first time submitting to the festival!

With short films you can only provide a snapshot of a story to your audience, so what do you want the audience to take away from your shorts?

Katarzyna Gondek (Deer Boy): I want people to sink into this wild story and then return with a feeling that they are richer. I want the audience to treat this film as a little mystery, a riddle to play with.

Georgi Banks-Davies (Garfield): Firstly I'd like them to feel that they truly, authentically lived the moment with the characters, not being overtly led one way or another. Secondly, to feel the expectation on our protagonist, Krisna, from her family, and herself, and how difficult that is to navigate while carving your own identity as a young woman.

Niki Lindroth von Bahr (The Burden): All I want is to make the audience feel something, anything really, when watching my film. And hopefully to keep it in mind when leaving the cinema.

Still from The Burden, directed by Niki Lindroth von Bahr.

Still from The Burden, directed by Niki Lindroth von Bahr.

Ana Alpizar (The Fisherman): El Pescador is a very personal story because it has to do with my relationship with my father. I’d love if audiences left the film with thoughts about their own relationship father-daughter. My intention is, above all, to do a homage to the eternal sacrifice of fathers to educate their children.

Chiara Sgatti (O): I would like people to be taken away, into this new world, where everything is different, the images, the sounds. I would like to inspire some thoughts about living differently, about the choices we make, about having a different perspective on things.

Waikwan Ho (Eye Bags): The film is actually a record of me because I had suffered from insomnia problem when I was college. I want to call the resonance from the insomniac and to let the audience who are not insomniac to feel the mood of insomnia. I hope the audience enjoy the film. That's already enough for me. 

Reema Sengupta (Counterfeit Kunkoo): Counterfeit Kunkoo is a 15 minute narrative drama about Smita trying to find a house to rent in Mumbai, as a woman without a husband. It is an intimate perspective on the idiosyncrasies that come with the misogyny that seems to pervade our everyday lives. The film talks about housing discrimination, marital rape and the need for liberation - both societal and sexual. I hope that after watching the film, the viewer pauses for one tiny moment to think - it doesn’t have to, it shouldn’t have to be this way.

Still from Counterfeit Kunkoo, directed by Reema Sengupta

Still from Counterfeit Kunkoo, directed by Reema Sengupta

Chintis Lundgren (Manivald): That it’s dangerous to keep living at home when you’re over 30. Also, I’m giving some useful hints how to inspire your grown-up son to move out, in case the person watching happens to be a mother with such a problem.

Diane Obomsawin (I Like Girls): First of all, I hope that my film can help take some weight off the shoulders of young people who are worried about coming out, and second, I hope that everyone can identify with the characters and relive the anxious joy of their own first love.

Adinah Dancyger (Cheer Up Baby): Ideally ask questions about their world, stories of their own and those that they have heard. To be sensitive and critical and to have a dialogue about issues that can often be overlooked.

Still from Cheer Up Baby, directed by Adinah Dancyger.

Still from Cheer Up Baby, directed by Adinah Dancyger.

Jessica Sanders (End of the Line): It’s a very unique story that explores the abuse of power in a highly creative way. I hope audiences love the story, the characters and also think how the themes relate to what’s happening in the news today about abuse of power. It feels very timely!

Shaandiin Tome (Mud): This short has been a healing process for me, especially with some of the things my family has faced. Out on the reservation there are a lot of problems with addiction, and unfortunately some of the people who are closest to me suffer with it, but more than their addiction, I know them as people first. People I love and care about. I would like the audience to engage in a conversation upon viewing the short, and I think that is really a necessary part of consuming it. I don’t think it would be a complete piece without other’s perspectives, and not only those who are of Indigenous descent, but those all over who know of someone who is suffering with addiction.

You can find out more information on not just these films, but all short films showing at the Sundance 2018 film festival by visiting their website here.

Interviews conducted by Zoe Morris, Cecilia Gragnani, Ashton Clarke and Sahar Pournazzi.

Article written by Caris Rianne