Women in Horror Cinema: ‘Screen Queens’ and changing representations

Women in Horror Cinema: ‘Screen Queens’ and changing representations

ARTS + CULTURE

Women in Horror Cinema: ‘Screen Queens’ and changing representations

gender roles in horror
ARIANNA STEWART - stand news

Arianna Stewart

16th October 2020

Horror cinema has always been an extremely nuanced genre of film in terms of its representation of female characters. Conventional gender roles and stereotypes permeate the genre with clichéd female archetypes such as the helpless victim as portrayed by Drew Barrymore’s character, Casey Becker in Scream (1996) and the sexually promiscuous woman as depicted by the character of Marcy in Cabin Fever (2002). The genre’s female characters have been historically perceived, in the words of English professor, horror novelist and Stephen King enthusiast Anthony Magistrale “exclusively as objects inspiring salacious behaviour from the horror monster, or at least as the object of the monster’s victimisation’’. Films such as Ginger Snaps (2000) began to comment on these quintessential female roles problematising them. The protagonist, Ginger Fitzgerald (Katharine Isabelle), directly comments on the limitations of gender roles in horror film, criticising how ‘’a girl can only be a slut, a bitch, a tease or the virgin next door’’.

 

gendered roles in horror - ginger snap

Still from Ginger Snaps, Copperheart Entertainment.

However more and more contemporary characterisations of the female figure in horror cinema have challenged these long-held gender stereotypes. In this article I’ll be examining the historical representation of women in horror films and how the horror landscape is changing, allowing for more nuanced and multi-faceted female characters that speak directly to modern female experiences.

 

Historical representations of women in horror cinema can be overall perceived as chiefly negative due to the hegemonic cultural practice of gendered stereotypes. According to film theorist Claire Johnston, ‘’the image of woman operates in film as a sign, but as a sign which derives its meaning not from the reality of women’s lives, but from men’s desires and fantasies’’ (Gymnich and Ruhl 229). This holds true with the many slasher films where women are repeatedly victimized such as Halloween (1978) The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1978) and Friday The 13th (1980) to name a few.

 

Although there are a few exceptions, such as the character of Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) in sci-fi horror Alien (1979). The film reconfigured the idea of women as helpless victims and placed her centre stage, a powerful gun-toting feminist heroine. Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) in The Silence of The Lambs (1991) who is a successful female agent, dominates within the phallocentric industry of the F.B.I.

 

“Masculine roles such as the antagonist or monster figure are upheld by a male or a masculinised female, whereas women are more than often the victims of highly sexualised violence”

However, within the horror genre specifically, female characters have been repeatedly victimised and punished for being sexually active, in contemporary language, they’re slut-shamed. The horror genre can therefore be recognised as a gendered genre as the masculine roles such as the antagonist or monster figure are upheld by a male or a masculinised female, whereas women are more than often the victims of highly sexualised violence.

 

Such films as American Psycho (2000), The Human Centipede 2 (2011) and The Hills Have Eyes (2006) feature scenes that depict sexualised violence against women which can perpetuate a harmful coexistence of sex and violence. However in recent years, as described in a comprehensive article about the evolution of women in horror cinema ‘’Women in horror: Victims no more’’ by Beth Younger, ‘’the genre has moved from taking pleasure in victimising women to focusing on women as survivors and protagonists. It has veered away from slashers and torture porn to more substantive, nuanced films that comment on social issues and possess an aesthetic vision’’. Such films as It Follows (2015) subverts the idea of woman as sexually deviant and opens up an opportunity to critique rape culture and comment on the importance of sexual consent.

 

With the contemporary emergence of empowering, feminist directors such as Julia Ducournau, Ana Lily Amirpour, Greta Gerwig and Ava DuVernay to name only a few, it only makes sense that the on-screen female characters are equally as empowered.

 

This series of articles will examine contemporary female-centred narratives from a number of directors across multiple cultures, such as; A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (2014) Midsommar (2019) Hereditary (2018) The Witch (2015) and Halloween (2018). It might not be a bad idea to check these out before my next article. Happy spooky season!

 

Check out some of the interesting sources that I’ve mentioned in this article below!

Gendered (Re)Visions: Constructions of Gender in Audiovisual Media edited by Marion Gymnich, Kathrin Ruhl

Women in Horror: Victims no More

 

 

Featured photo from Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 chiller Psycho

 
 

 

Oatly Facing Boycotts Following Unsustainable Investment Links to Deforestation and Trump

Oatly Facing Boycotts Following Unsustainable Investment Links to Deforestation and Trump

BUSINESS + POLITICS

Oatly Facing Boycotts Following Unsustainable Investment Links to Deforestation and Trump

oatly boycott blackstone
Elizabeth Quinn

Elizabeth Quinn

29th September 2020

Oatly has made headlines recently for accepting an investment from Blackstone, one of the largest private equity firms in the world, which has links to deforestation in the Amazon, the Trump administration and the commercialisation of the housing market. The case of Oatly raises the question – is it possible to be 100% sustainable within our current economic framework?

 

Oatly is a plant-based milk alternative which has at its core a message of environmentalism. Oatly state that their mission is “to make it easy for people to turn what they eat and drink into personal moments of healthy joy without recklessly taxing the planet’s resources in the process.”  Now Oatly has made headlines for accepting an investment of $200 million from private equity firm Blackstone. This means that Oatly is now 10% owned by Blackstone and receives financial support from them.

 

Blackstone has been criticised for their links to investment in the Hidrovias– a Brazilian infrastructure company that has been accused of contributing to deforestation in the Amazon. Blackstone denies this. Blackstone’s CEO has also been a prominent supporter of Donald Trump. The UN has accused Blackstone of contributing to the global housing crisis through the commodification of housing. In letters from the UN to Blackstone, this financialisation of housing focused on the Czech Republic, Denmark, Ireland, Spain, Sweden and the US. Blackstone dispute this claim. However, this means Oatly now earn money from a private equity firm which appears to be at odds with Oatly’s goal as a company wishing to create sustainable change for the good of the environment.

 

This case brings to mind the question of the role businesses should play in our society. Should businesses aim only for-profit maximisation or should businesses also have some social aspect to them? Do they have a responsibility to conduct their actions in a socially conscious way? Those believing the answer to be yes led to the evolution of corporate social responsibility (CSR). One of the most famous economists, Friedman, argued against CSR as he saw it as moving money away from profit maximisation. What Friedman fails to acknowledge here is that being socially responsible and engaging with stakeholders could actually provide for better business and may deliver profits.

 

Being socially responsible has, until now, worked for Oatly. Oatly’s total growth for 2018 was 65%, and a turnover of 1028 million Swedish SEK. This point shows that the sustainable message Oatly gives is one which is resonating through the population. Many people believe in Oatly’s mission and thus bought their product. Oatly’s high turnover gives the impression that Blackstone’s investment is not money which is needed for Oatly to survive, rather it is extra venture capital needed to expand. The argument that if Oatly does not accept these types of investment it will completely fail as a company falls short.

 

“This case brings to mind the question of the role businesses should play in our society. Should businesses aim only for-profit maximisation or do they have a responsibility to conduct their actions in a socially conscious way?

 

Oatly states that they wish to show Blackstone that sustainable investment is the future. At the same time, they have acknowledged that they will have no control over what Blackstone invests in outside of their partnership. Therefore, their idea that they will have an influence on Blackstone’s investments in the future is naïve. Blackstone owns over $538 billion dollars in assets. Oatly is part of a $200 million deal. Blackstone cannot wave a magic wand, invest a fraction of what it is worth and become a sustainable investment company.

 

Rather, becoming sustainable takes work- work which Blackstone does not seem to be willing to do. Oatly needs to judge Blackstone not by their words but by their actions. Oatly states that the decision to engage with Blackstone was an intense thought process. This is very vague. Companies like Oatly have access to toolkits such as human rights impact assessments to gauge the impact their decisions would have adversely on human rights. Whether Oatly has completed this kind of assessment is not clear. If it had, I doubt that it would have come to the conclusion it did. Blackstone now shows on their homepage that they are supporting growth and sustainability. Private equity firms can, on the one hand, state they are supporting environmental goals, while on the other hand directly contribute to the opposite goal.

 

The language of corporate social responsibility has evolved. The UN guiding principles on business and human rights are responsible for this language change. This means that rather than the vague CSR, which is not based on international standards, that companies have guidelines on what they need to do in order to respect human rights in their operations and supply chains. These guidelines should be used in assessing whether there are human rights risks involved in projects. Companies such as Oatly should, in their operations, carry out impact assessments in order to deal with risks which may occur to rights holders.

 

An interesting fact with regards to Oatly is that it is not a publicly-traded company, meaning that the general public cannot own shares in Oatly. The only way for Oatly to be informed by the public that this behaviour is not seen as acceptable is through a boycott, which some have already called for. If the general public own shares in a corporation which they believe need to improve its human rights standards, then this may be an easier way of putting pressure on a company to conform to the human rights standards which the public sees fit.

 

This investment with Blackstone appears to go against what Oatly’s CEO stated in 2019- “If you say you’re ethical you have to back it up”.

 

 

Featured photo by Oatly

 
 

 

parisa
Review: ‘I Am Not Your Negro’ Will Make You Rethink Race

Review: ‘I Am Not Your Negro’ Will Make You Rethink Race

ARTS + CULTURE

Review: ‘I Am Not Your Negro’ Will Make You Rethink Race

james baldwin I am not your negro
deepthi suresh stand news

Deepthi Suresh

18th September 2020

 

Raoul Peck’s documentary is a political statement and looks deep into the mind of James Baldwin. It is a thought-provoking and cinematic biography with a mission; a mission to show America through the eyes of an African-American with scattered shreds of hope, horror and disgust.

 

History is not the past. It is the present. We carry our history with us. We are our history. If we pretend otherwise, we are literally criminals. I attest to this: the world is not white; it never was white, cannot be white. White is a metaphor for power, and that is simply a way of describing Chase Manhattan Bank.

– James Baldwin, I am not your Negro

 

Race is part of our history. Our present, our past and most certainly our future. “I am not your Negro”,  is a documentary that makes you rethink race. It pinpoints the Hollywood stereotypes and police brutality as Baldwin in his compelling analysis, describes a “mirror stage” culture that Black people went through in 20th century America. As kids, they would gleefully cheer and identify with the white heroes and heroines of Hollywood culture; then they would see themselves in the mirror and realise they were different from the white stars and in fact weren’t different from the baddies and “Indians” they’d been booing.

 

The documentary is mainly built around the unfinished manuscript that was intended to be a personal recollection of Baldwin’s friends, the civil- rights leaders Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr who were all assassinated within five years of each other. The voice-over narration by Samuel L. Jackson may be one of the best performances in his career. If you are looking to better understand Baldwin himself through this masterpiece, then you will be pleasantly surprised because this film shies away from it. This genius move by the filmmaker allows viewers to appreciate Baldwin’s powerful eloquence. The audience thus is able to form a portrait of the man behind through his own words. However, the documentary omits a very crucial aspect of his work and life: his sexuality. During the 60s liberals and radicals mocked Baldwin alike for his sexuality. President John.F.Kennedy and others referred to him disparagingly as “Martin Luther Queen” and Eldridge Cleaver, one of the leaders of the Black Panther Party, wrote in his memoir Soul on Ice: “The case of James Baldwin aside for a moment, it seems that many Negro homosexuals, acquiescing in this racial death-wish, are outraged and frustrated because in their sickness they are unable to have a baby by a white man.”

 

The archival footage which is culled from Baldwin’s university speeches and his television appearances on The Dick Cavett Show, demonstrate to the audience the man himself in his usual piercing fire. The clips beautifully edited by Alexandra Strauss rightly showcases the contrast of the horrific past, and the evil present thus illustrates the urgency of Baldwin’s words even today. The protests that have engulfed the social media and the cries for justice seem like a distant call from the past, for example, the 1960’s scenes of police brutality in the South against clips of Rodney King and the tragedy of Ferguson. Peck is also astute in using Baldwin’s words about pop culture and the Hollywood liberal dilemma especially through films such as The Defiant Ones, Dance, Fools, Dance, Imitation of Life and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. Baldwin through his words shows how racism was wired into the most seemingly liberal pieties. He believed Hollywood of stereotyping black menace and subservience as foils for purity and innocence. This documentary also, therefore, becomes a commentary on Hollywood that reaped profits banking on racial stereotypes and on perpetuating a fiction of America as a pioneer for democracy, freedom and ultimately the perfect American dream for ‘all’. I am not your Negro is an astounding statement on race that continues to resonate today and is a must-watch.

 

You can watch the trailer below:

 

 

Featured photo by Sedat Pakay

 
 

 

Miss Representation (2011) Reveals a Glaring Reality Still Relevant in 2020

Miss Representation (2011) Reveals a Glaring Reality Still Relevant in 2020

WOMEN

Miss Representation (2011) Reveals a Glaring Reality Still Relevant Today

Miss Representation Documentary
parisa

Parisa Zangeneh

14th September 2020

 

The documentary film, Miss Representation, came out in 2011, yet it remains shockingly resonant today. The film exposes how mainstream media and culture contribute to the under-representation of women in positions of power and influence in America. As an American woman, Miss Representation strongly resonates with mebut its message is relevant to women and girls everywhere.  

 

The film makes several vital points: that the media poorly depicts women; that it creates a culture of misogyny; and that it harms women’s and girls’ health, development, and their ability to be seen as intellectuals, rather than sex objects. The first two minutes of Miss Representation features dozens of images showcasing the way mainstream American media portrays women. In response to this visual barrage, a young girl (who reminds me a lot of myself at that agesums it up: “There is no appreciation for women intellectuals. It’s all about the body and not about the brain.”  

 

The poor representation of women in and by the media permeates all aspects of women’s and girls’ lives, including the interests that girls develop as they grow up. The film highlights the many obstacles women face in political participation, not least the searing criticism, objectification, and subjugation. Young girls who have political aspirations are depicted alongside obstacles women face in political participation and the searing criticism, objectification, and subjectification of women in roles of power. This link between the depiction of women in the media and women’s participation in the political process is made clear as the film provides abundant evidence of prominent female candidates for political and judicial office, women in public service, and in hard-hitting news programs who have been reduced to their appearances in media coverageChris Matthews, for example, said of Sarah Palin: “She’s irresistibly cute, let’s put it that way, in the way she presents herself, obviously she’s attractive and all that”Michael Savage  asked“Do you know that ugly hag Madeleine Albright, remember her, the psycho, she was Secretary of State under the Clinton, like a fat moron.” Nancy Pelosi, the former Speaker of the House, was labelled the “Wicked Witch of the West” by one commentator (a google search to track down the commentator reveals too many hits referring to Pelosi as the “Wicked Witch of the West to result in identification), while Lee Rogers stated, “Look at these ugly skanks” (referring to the female Democratic leadership). Chris Baker observed that Pelosi’s perceived facelift was another reason “why it’s very rare to find a woman worthy of serving in political office.” Another, Jay Thomas, stated “I think if you waterboarded Nancy Pelosi she wouldn’t admit to plastic surgery.” 

 

In the years since Miss Representation was first released, progress has been questionable at best.”

 

Some of the language is also racialized: “Cynthia McKinney, the former Congresswoman from Georgia, was another angry black woman“. Notably, Miss Representation does not contain any reference to the negative, racialized media depictions of Michelle Obama, another prominent African American woman, in the 2008 presidential race, which directly relate to Miss Representation’s message. A greater focus on the impact of racialized language and negative media treatment of women of colour would have enriched and added depth to Miss Representation and is a missed opportunity to include the African American community to a greater degree in the film. For example, the 2020 documentary film, Becomingdepicted Michelle Obama’s vilification in the press during the 2007/2008 Presidential campaign. At one point, it cites negative media attention over the fist bump, which was alternatively called a terrorist fist jabbetween Michelle and Barack at a rally, an image of an angry-looking Michelle on the National Review with the headline “Mrs Grievance”, and voices of commentators calling her an angry woman, not warm and fuzzy, among other jabs 

 

In the years since Miss Representation was first released, progress has been questionable at best. One manifestation of this is how women are treated in the political arena. In 2016, then-presidential candidate Donald Trump described his opponent Hillary Clinton as a nasty woman. Recently, Representative Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez recounted on the House floor how Representative Ted Yoho “had put his finger in [her] face” and had called her disgusting, crazy, out of her mind, dangerous, and publicly, “a f****** b****”On the other hand, women made considerable gains in representation in Congress (the legislative branch of the U.S. government) during the 2018 elections. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib were elected to Congress, making history as the first two Muslim women elected.  

 

However, women still face a long battle aheadAccording to the Inter-Parliamentary Union, as of August 1, 2020the United States came in at 85th in the world in a ranking of the percentage of women in parliament. Afghanistan ranked 69th. Recent headlines include coverage of racialized and sexist press attention directed at Kamala Harris, named as Democratic Presidential hopeful Joe Biden’s running mateRupert Murdoch’s The Australian published a cartoon of Biden and Harris, in which Biden states “It’s time to heal a nation divided by racism so I’ll hand you over to this little brown girl while I go for a lie-down”. 

 

The issues depicted in Miss Representation are clearly coming to the fore again in the U.S. election race. Hopefully, more women will be elected to office this fall and women will continue to make strides in the direction of equality. However, systemic barriers, such as the media coverage of female candidatesare very real problems that need eliminating.

 

 

Featured photo by Miss Representation (2011)

 
 

 

parisa
The Innocence Files Review

The Innocence Files Review

Arts & Culture

The Innocence Files Review

US Flage behind barb wire fence

22nd July 2020

 

True crime documentaries are never particularly tasteful. Go on YouTube or Netflix or late-night television and you can enjoy an array of other people’s personal tragedies: documentaries that serve no purpose other than to indulge a desire for horror and tales of human suffering.

Netflix documentary series, The Innocence Files, is a whodunnit with a cause. Repetitive and over-indulgent, the series brings many interesting things to light – only to leave them hanging.

The producers of The Innocence Files must have seen an opportunity to increase the popularity of what might otherwise have been a serious documentary about the flaws in the US legal system, inherent racial bias and progress of DNA science, by putting an emphasis on ‘trashy’ mystery elements and gruesome details. It spends most of its time describing murders to the sound of eerie music, in the style of true crime documentaries found at the shameful end of a late-night YouTube spree.

The series of nine episodes follows eight cases of wrongful convictions. This is to say that it focuses on eight men who were put in prison for crimes they did not commit. Each episode establishes why these men were sentenced in the first place, how to get them out, and who actually committed the crimes. 

The documentary successfully humanises these eight prisoners by spending time with their relatives. A lawyer for The Innocence Project, a legal organisation specialising in getting innocent people out of prison, explains that “it’s only when you see the families and communities that you really understand the prisoner.” 

I think the series here is making the point that the police should have spent longer getting to know these families and communities before they incarcerated innocent men, but it fails to show in what way the families and communities of the real perpetrators were any different.

The series touches on the US’ problem of putting retribution before accuracy or rehabilitation and the way in which racial elements play into this problem. The Innocence Files draws a comparison between the overarchingly black population of prisons and a sort of modern-day slavery: in the second episode, the camera pans to a shocking landscape. Working the cotton fields of a Mississippi prison is a vast, imprisoned, black community, and the series suggests that a number of them are innocent. This is the same prison that, in the years after the abolition of the slave trade, continued to rent out its black inmates to work on plantations. 

 

“The series touches on the US’ problem of putting retribution before accuracy or rehabilitation and the way in which racial elements play into this problem.”

​​

The series has a number of villains but, unlike most crime dramas, the villains are not the murderers: they are the lawyers, the police and the justice system. The series’ first three episodes feature an evil dentist. Often being brought in on trials as an expert witness, and having made numerous mistakes resulting in the incarceration of innocent (black) people, he aligns criticism of his former methods with criticism of Confederate statues. 

The dentist argues that it is as anachronistic to criticise the statues (‘part of history’) as it is anachronistic to blame him for putting innocent people in jail. His argument is that, as DNA testing was not advanced when he gave his expertise, his use of flawed ‘bite mark evidence’ as certain proof of guilt was entirely justified. “I will not be erased” are his parting words to the camera.

The series is about the ways in which the justice system has failed innocent people. Bite mark evidence is its first target, witness identification its second, and corruption and misconduct within the justice system its third. It is clear after an episode that the first two constitute unreliable evidence – but this message is drummed in for over six hours. Admittedly, the series also depicts unsuccessful attempts at changing the laws – where people refuse to discredit evidence that is pretty much proven not to be accurate. But the viewer is on The Innocence Project’s side sooner than the series seems to anticipate.

The most interesting aspect of the series lies in its discussion of misconduct within the justice system. We watch police and DAs fight to keep innocent men in prison, more afraid to admit their mistakes than to do the right thing. The relationship between the police and the DAs described as symbiotic, ‘almost invit[ing] misconduct’. We watch detectives manipulate witness testimonies, hide and ignore evidence and even blackmail witnesses into giving false statements in order to support their unproven and often racially biased ideas. A memorable line is the comparison of witness testimonies being moulded into shape like sausages in a factory. This legal system, coupled with its racial bias, leaves minorities powerless and weak, with the idea that if a black or Hispanic person ‘didn’t do it this time, it’ll be them next time’.

This documentary is weak, but it advocates for change. In a system where we see defence lawyers turn to reporters to set people free, there needs to be a change. The laws need to change. Politics need to change. But most of all the problem is with a racial bias so profound that the series’ many villains simply can’t see their own mistakes.

 

 

Featured photo Barbara Rosner

 

 

‘Stop Filming Us’ – Questioning Neocolonialism through the Camera Lens

‘Stop Filming Us’ – Questioning Neocolonialism through the Camera Lens

ARTS + CULTURE

‘Stop Filming Us!’ – Neocolonialism through the Camera Lens

Isolde MacDonagh

3rd June 2020

 

Posing questions, not answering them – Joris Postema’s Stop Filming Us wants to show us the city of Goma you don’t see in UNICEF’s pity-inducing photos of miserable children. But can he portray the Congolese reality without becoming part of the problem?

 

For me, this question is answered early on. Postema, in this documentary, works closely with several African filmmakers and photographers to capture the ‘real’ Goma, a city in the northeast of the Democratic Republic of Congo.  In a meeting, he asks his Congolese co-workers about his Western team: “Did we do anything neo-colonial in the past few weeks?”. “Of course,” Ganza Buroko replies. He lists Postema’s mistakes. “Ah – so we start again,” says Postema. They laugh. “No, we continue.”

 

This film doesn’t try to be perfect. Postema is as much of a student as his viewer, and the documentary comes across as a work in progress. In Stop Filming Us, Postema follows the lives of three Congolese filmmakers and photographers. The first of these is Mugabo Baritegera, an artist and photographer who roams the streets looking to capture the Goma he himself experiences. Baritegera explains that when he looks at the sad Congolese faces in photos released by the media, he does not recognise himself. Happiness is a significant part, not only of the Congolese life but of the Congolese identity (already so attacked by colonialism). When Westerners portray Goma as an unhappy place, they continue to destroy the Congolese identity. “We don’t even know what we have forgotten”: this is a phrase that stands out, as Postema watches the Congolese discuss their history. Baritegera is filmed building a new art gallery, where he can display his work. When the gallery is completed, at the end of the film, we see for the first time the people of Goma taking photos of one another that are not loaded with political messages – they are simply enjoying themselves.

 

“When Westerners portray Goma as an unhappy place, they continue to destroy the Congolese identity”

Unsurprisingly, there is a strong feeling about photography in Goma, many seeing it as the exploitation of their faces for money. Ley Uwera, a photographer working for NGOs, takes the photos she is paid to take, knowing that they do not represent her country. We watch her photographing a refugee settlement, where she moves children aside, stages photos, and asks people to stand in awkward positions in order to capture exaggerated unhappiness. Her photos ignore the life and the happiness that is also present in the environments she photographs. 

 

Stop filming us” is a familiar cry in Postema’s 90-minute film, and every time we hear it, we are aware of Postema’s contradictory position. “Go Home”, Postema is told. But he does not. Instead, Postema films the filmmakers. He films those who have exploited the Congolese with their cameras. He films the prison-like appearances of the high-security gates to the countless NGO headquarters, in what are arguably the most powerful shots in the film. Postema’s documentary watches the people who are creating videos that shape the world’s understanding of Goma. There are two primary examples of this. Postema’s observation of Uwera’s work for the NGOs, but also an episode where Postema films Baritegera making a (beautiful) film showing the positive side of Goma but omitting a street fight and the arguments that happened during his shoot. Although this film was the aesthetic highlight of the documentary, it omitted perhaps what a Westerner would describe as the truth.

 

Photo by: Joris Postema, Stop Filming Us

 

But can a Westerner criticise the Congolese for not being truthful enough in their representations of their own cities? Westerners, naturally, have no right to define truth, but Postema’s documentary wants to understand why these more negative aspects of Baritegera’s film do not come into Baritegera’s depiction of the ‘real Goma’. Postema asks his Congolese film crew why Baritegera might have omitted what, for a Westerner, would be important details. They give varied answers – the violence is boring, normal, not something to talk about. 

 

Stop Filming Us is a discussion. Postema’s opinion is visible in the editing and what he has chosen to film, but he includes different perspectives wherever he can. This makes for the film’s strange structure: it is a film that ends several times. Twice Postema shows his latest version of Stop Filming Us to the Congolese and asks them what they think of it, and twice the ensuing discussion is included in the film. This, of course, symbolises that this discussion has in no way ended with this film. We think again of Buroko’s words, at the beginning of the documentary: “we continue”.

 

There are questions that remain by the end of this film. Should Postema have just gone home? Should the NGOs, arrogant and unwanted, go home? Or do Westerners have a responsibility to fix what they broke? A scene of Baritegera chanting “if you watch, you are complicit” targets the film’s audience: we, also, are part of this discussion. But to what extent?

 

 

Featured photo by Joris Postema