WOW has been celebrating the riches of world cinema since 2001, bringing an eclectic, intriguing, and moving selection of films from around the globe to cinemas across Wales. WOW presents a selection of the very best in world cinema – and sometimes a film from Wales too.
‘The film that was banned from the Annecy International Animated Film Festival,’ while being a somewhat click-baity headline, is the reason you might have heard of this Chinese independent animated feature film. Have A Nice Day was programmed in competition in the world’s largest celebration of animation in 2017, but was suddenly removed from the festival’s line up just the week before. The festival cited ‘official pressures’ and that the decision was ‘imposed on them,’ by (what was largely reported at the time as) Chinese government officials.
I was attending the 2017 festival and, let me tell you, nothing makes me want to watch a film more than a government not allowing me to! The film was successfully released to a handful of other international animation festivals following the furore at Annecy, however, I didn’t get my chance to see what the fuss was about. Imagine my delight, then, on finding out it was coming to my home city!
It’s International Women’s Day this week (March 8th) and by way of marking the celebrations, it’s traditional for WOW to train it’s lens on women’s filmmaking around the world. Usually we focus on the handful of F-Rated movies in the current festival programme, but this year something different has happened. For the first time, 50% of the WOW Festival programme is F-Rated.
Since announcing this, we’ve been praised for being “groundbreaking”, but considering that approximately half of humanity would describe themselves as women or girls, the fact that half the films in WOW’s programme have been made by women shouldn’t really be anything remarkable, right? 100 years on from (some British, mostly white and wealthy) women first gaining the right to vote, shouldn’t this ground have been broken a long time ago?
Although 2018 coincides with both the centenary of women’s suffrage and the popularity of #metoo, this year’s 50% F-Rated programme hasn’t been a conscious response to either. Rather, it’s come about through a long-term commitment to sharing films made by women around the world, and a deep appreciation for the interesting ways that women’s voices can shed light on particular experiences.
That said, if there’s one film in this year’s festival that does tie into the mood of #metoo, it has to be Tunisian director Kaouther Ben Hania’s tense and at times nightmarish Beauty and the Dogs, in which a young woman, Mariam, fights back against the normalization of evil. From Mariam’s perspective, the trauma of a rape and its aftermath is cruel, but for the hospital staff and the police she encounters, it’s just another day at work. The difference between these two attitudes, that of personal tragedy and the insensitivity of institutions, defines the tone of the film.