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Strong Women and Supportive Men
by Shelly Schoeneshoefer

Each year I go to the Filmfest Hamburg and  wonder how many women directors there are.   A few years ago the festival said that they would try to invite more  women directors so I decided to take a count.

Film Categories

Freihafen9 male directors2 female directors
Hamburger Filmschau 8 4
Veto! 8 3
Transatlantik 7 4
Asia Express 10 2
Voilá! 11 1
Vitrina 13 1
Eurovisuell 3 3
Mexiko Deluxe 8 0
Kaleidoskop 23 6
16:9 (TV) 16 3
Michel Kinder und Jugend Filmfest 6 7
The Winning Film Directors 6 3

So, If I wanted to become a director, it looks  like I would have to work in children‘s films , or work in North America but  not in Mexico, France or Asia.   Surprising this year was to see how many of the films had strong female  characters despite having male directors. A perfect example of this is French  director Paul Verhoeven‘s film ELLE. Michele is the daughter of a psychopath  and has a reputation for being a tough broad that has everything under her  thumb. Even with the opening scene when she is sexually assaulted, she fights  back hard enough and keeps her cool where any other woman would fall apart. In  the Indian film 2 GIRLS, director Jeo Baby says women should have the same rights  as we do since they are just as much a part of our world. It is only natural to  want a strong woman or, as in this case,a strong  girl. In BENEATH THE SILENCE, Daphna’s  husband Menashe is suffering post-traumatic stress syndrome which was a result  of the Six-Day War, and she is left to be the strong one of the family to pull  it together for their young son Shlomi. The brilliant Iranian film  INVERSION,  by director Behnam  Behzadi,  shows how Niloofar is being  forced to move out of Tehran by her siblings due to her unwed status, despite  the fact that she runs a tailor shop and has a group of women depending on her.  She then makes a surprising stand against this male dominated society.

  There were also several surprises among the  women directors. The Bulgarian film GODLESS by director Ralitza Petrova,  created an icy cold environment where gray-colored walls, corruption and  heartless men seem to rule this world. The main character Gana’s only chance in  life seems to be taking care of old people and stealing their IDs to make extra  money.  Is there any chance of a  different life for her? In SAMI BLOOD by Amanda Kernell, we look at a woman who  chooses to run away from her northern Lapland roots and tries to fit into the  mainstream Swedish life styles.  It is a  struggle that pushes her to fight the ethic prejudges of the times. I can  honestly say that I felt that this year’s Hamburg Film festival, despite its  ratios of having more male  than female  directors, was successful in honoring the strong women role models that are  often not present at the films.  I look  forward to what they will come with for next year.