An Imagined Letter from Covid-19 to Humans
Stop. Just stop.
It is no longer a request. It is a mandate.
We will help you.
We will bring the supersonic, high speed merry-go-round to a halt
We will stop
the frenetic, hurried rush of illusions and “obligations” that keep you from hearing our
single and shared beating heart,
the way we breathe together, in unison.
Our obligation is to each other,
As it has always been, even if, even though, you have forgotten.
We will interrupt this broadcast, the endless cacophonous broadcast of divisions and distractions,
to bring you this long-breaking news:
We are not well.
None of us; all of us are suffering.
Last year, the firestorms that scorched the lungs of the earth
did not give you pause.
Nor the typhoons in Africa, China, Japan.
Nor the fevered climates in Japan and India.
You have not been listening.
It is hard to listen when you are so busy all the time, hustling to uphold the comforts and conveniences that scaffold your lives.
But the foundation is giving way,
buckling under the weight of your needs and desires.
We will help you.
We will bring the firestorms to your body
We will bring the fever to your body
We will bring the burning, searing, and flooding to your lungs
that you might hear:
We are not well.
Despite what you might think or feel, we are not the enemy.
We are Messenger. We are Ally. We are a balancing force.
We are asking you:
To stop, to be still, to listen;
To move beyond your individual concerns and consider the concerns of all;
To be with your ignorance, to find your humility, to relinquish your thinking minds and travel deep into the mind of the heart;
To look up into the sky, streaked with fewer planes, and see it, to notice its condition: clear, smoky, smoggy, rainy? How much do you need it to be healthy so that you may also be healthy?
To look at a tree, and see it, to notice its condition: how does its health contribute to the health of the sky, to the air you need to be healthy?
To visit a river, and see it, to notice its condition: clear, clean, murky, polluted? How much do you need it to be healthy so that you may also be healthy? How does its health contribute to the health of the tree, who contributes to the health of the sky, so that you may also be healthy?
Many are afraid now.
Do not demonize your fear, and also, do not let it rule you. Instead, let it speak to you—in your stillness,
listen for its wisdom.
What might it be telling you about what is at work, at issue, at risk, beyond the threats of personal inconvenience and illness?
As the health of a tree, a river, the sky tells you about quality of your own health, what might the quality of your health tell you about the health of the rivers, the trees, the sky, and all of us who share this planet with you?
Notice if you are resisting.
Notice what you are resisting.
Stop. Just stop.
Ask us what we might teach you about illness and healing, about what might be required so that all may be well.
We will help you, if you listen.
-Kristin Flyntz 3.12.2020
Video made by: Darinka Montico
Written by: Kristin Flyntz
Music: Cold Isolation · David Fesliyan
The festival may be suspended for now, but great films continue. As a loyal audience of WOW Film Festival, you can now enjoy three months of MUBI – including Bacurau - entirely free.
This crazy, inventive, witty Brazilian Western with a sci-fi twist is unlike anything you will have seen. Teresa travels home for the funeral of her grandmother in Bacurau, a fictional village in the sertão (North Brazilian outback) that celebrates its misfit inhabitants.
But on her arrival, she finds it beset by a series of sinister events that suggests a systematic attempt to wipe the village from the map. The film’s wild-hearted fury and extreme violence is clearly a cinematic riff on the work of directors like Alejandro Jodorowsky and Sergio Leone. But it’s also no doubt a retort to the election of far- right president Jair Bolsonaro. Hallucinatory and formally thrilling, Bacurau is an utterly distinctive experience.
“The combination of satire and savagery is pretty fierce and intriguingly unique.” Daily Telegraph
“utterly distinctive film-making, executed with ruthless clarity and force.” Peter Bradshaw, Guardian
Winner of the Jury Prize Cannes Film Festival 2019
Although sadly the remaining WOW Film Festival dates have been cancelled, we wanted to share these pictures from our launch earlier this month at The Riverfront in Newport, where 120 women came together for the Wales premiere of Made in Bangladesh.
The event was a collaboration with Newport's International Women's Day organisers, and drew women from across Newport and Cardiff.
Many thanks to Red Cross Wales, Rajma Begum, Women Connect First, Wales TUC, BAWSO, WEN Wales, Nilu Ahmed, Amy Morris and everyone who made it a great success.
All being well, we hope to be back with more events like these in the not too distant future.
In the light of current circumstances we have decided to suspend WOW Film Festival. None of the screenings and events that are currently planned over the next month will take place. Anyone who has purchased a ticket in advance will be entitled to a full refund.
This feels like the responsible thing to do as we believe that during a pandemic the overarching logic is to limit social contact. We are hoping that this is merely a postponement and that we can run the festival at a later date. However there are currently so many unknowns that it is not clear whether we will be in a position to do so. We will update you all as things progress.
Should you wish for a list of recommended films during your period of self-isolation do by all means email me for my latest tips.
WOW Wales One World Film Festival Director
COVID-19 / Coronavirus update
We have taken the decision to postpone the Women's Film Club's screening of "Made in Bangladesh" (National Waterfront Museum, Saturday 14 March) and "Abercon", our accessible anime convention (Aberystwyth Arts Centre, Saturday 21 March).
Both the WOW Women's Film Club and Abercon serve some of the most vulnerable members of our communities. It would be irresponsible of us to put their health and that of their families at unnecessary risk at a time of great uncertainty.
We are sorry to cause any disappointment and would like to thank everyone who has supported these events, including the National Waterfront Museum, Swansea City Council, the Swansea Refugee and Asylum Seekers Women's Group and Mencap Ceredigion.
We are currently consulting with our partner venues about whether or not to go ahead with the rest of the WOW Film Festival programme at this stage, and will post updates here.
Filmed in Eastern Al Ghouta between 2016 and 2018, The Cave immerses its audience in the unfamiliar, disorienting environment of an underground hospital. For besieged civilians, hope and safety lie underground, where paediatrician and managing physician Dr. Amani Ballour and her female colleagues have claimed their right to work as equals alongside their male counterparts, doing their jobs in a way that would be unthinkable in the oppressively patriarchal culture that exists above.
For its director Feras Fayyad, The Cave is a deeply personal film, rooted in childhood memories and experiences of the humanitarian catastrophe of the Syrian war. Fayyad grew up surrounded by strong women, his mother, seven sisters and four aunts, and had always been disturbed by Syrian society’s view of women as the weaker sex, born to be wives and mothers and inherently inferior to men. One of his most vivid childhood memories is of a terrifying moment in 1990, when Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, who used chemical weapons on Iraqi Kurds, had threatened a chemical strike against Israel. “Everyone in Syria knew that if he did that, the chemicals would disperse over this country,” Fayyad recalls. “...my mom was smart enough to teach us how to put a piece of cloth around our face and try to breathe through that. As the saying goes, she didn’t give us a fish, she taught us how to fish. The image of her face, so near to my eyes, is embedded in my mind like a close-up.”
After making a film about an exiled Syrian poet, Fayyad was arrested, imprisoned and tortured for 15 months. During that time, the regime detained not only protestors but anyone perceived to be even loosely aligned with their cause. Fayyad witnessed shocking cruelty and misogyny while in prison. “One of the things that you heard all the time was the torture of women and children,” he remembers. “And women would be tortured mostly because they were women. The regime was using women as tools of war, to intimidate and attack its opponents. I came out of prison destroyed, angry. As a male growing up in a family of strong women, this was very personal for me. I felt that someday I had to use my voice as a filmmaker to speak out.”
After his release, while filming Last Men in Aleppo, Fayyad witnessed the military targeting of hospitals for revenge, intimidation and as a way of creating chaos and forcing citizens to flee. Hospitals were demolished. Medics as well as patients were killed. There were no international countermeasures to stop the barbaric attacks. It became impossible for the health sector to exist on the surface, so hospitals moved underground. "I was able to visit a number of them, and it was astonishing to witness the human ingenuity at work. These hospitals became the only hope... and they provided a place where men and women could work together. In fact, these limited underground spaces might be the only places where women can work," says Fayyad.
In August 2013, the Assad government staged a chemical attack on the opposition stronghold of Al Ghouta, on the outskirts of Damascus. Warheads were dropped at 2:30 a.m., choking people as they slept. One of Fayyad’s friends, a filmmaker, was able to capture the scenes in the following days as rescue workers fanned out into the streets filled with the dead and barely living. Fayyad was galvanized by the footage of two female doctors working quickly and decisively. One of them was a young paediatrician, Dr. Amani Ballour.
“It was like something out of a Hollywood movie, where you see heroes running between the bodies and trying to save lives,” Fayyad recalls, “I could picture my mom, my sisters, the women who had been beaten during my time in prison. All their stories came together in this woman, Dr. Amani, who was not just doing her duty as a doctor; she was challenging the stereotypes and prejudices that Syrian society has about women.”
He learned that Dr. Amani worked at the Cave, an underground hospital in Eastern Al Ghouta. The subterranean floors of the Cave were part of a six-story hospital construction that had been left unfinished and stood empty since the start of the Syrian rebellion. When the Assad government began stepping up its attacks on Al Ghouta in 2012, surgeon Dr. Salim Namour had the idea to open the underground portion of building as a safe place to treat patients. After the government laid siege to Al Ghouta in 2013, the Cave became one of the region’s last bastions of life-saving hope.
In The Cave, the characters rarely venture aboveground, for fear of being killed in one of the frequent airstrikes by Russian warplanes. Instead, they spend most of their lives in artificially lit rooms with their cellphones as their primary connection to the outside world. By showing the range of daily experience, from the harrowing to the mundane, the viewer connects with them as individual beings in all their complexity.
Following the women as they contend with daily bombardments, chronic supply shortages and the ever-present threat of chemical attacks, The Cave shows the women in this story as heroes, not as victims. In The Cave, female doctors stand up for themselves, which is something they couldn’t do aboveground in the patriarchal culture surrounding them. "These women are truly an inspiration to me," says Fayyad, "and I believe with this film they will inspire the world as well — contributing to breaking the silence of the outside world."
“Sister is actually a story about myself" says director Svetla Tsotsorkova, "I was seven years old when my mother sent me out to buy some bread. On my way to the bakery, I ran into some other kids and we ended up spending the money I had on cotton candy. I came home with a bag of chestnuts that one of the neighbourhood kids had given to me. I told my parents that the baker’s wife was having a baby, which is why the bakery was closed, and that I had bought the chestnuts, so that we’d have something to eat.
I was nineteen years old when I applied to the National Academy for Theatre and Film Arts in Sofia. I wrote a short film script about drug addicts and made it to the next round. Georgi Djulgerov, who would become my professor, asked me how I knew such details about the life of drug addicts. I told him that my parents had hired a man to drop me off and pick me up from school, and that one day I’d found him taking drugs in the bath- room of our apartment. In order to avoid having to give further explanations, I quickly added that the man had subsequently died and that I’d found him dead at the threshold of that same bathroom. And then I started crying.
I was raised by my grandmother in a village in the Strandzha Mountain in the southeastern part of Bulgaria. Our life there was boring, locked as it was between the vineyard, the vegetable garden, and taking care of the donkey. And how can you not make up stories when the daily grind itself doesn’t offer anything exciting?
Sister is a love confession for the people who live precisely such seemingly unremarkable lives. It seems to me that we all owe a debt to the truth about the kind of world we live in."
Screening at The Riverfront, Aberystwyth Arts Centre and Taliesin Arts Centre during WOW Film Festival.
When selecting films for this year's festival, the film that had the most buzz from the women around us was Rubaiyat Hossain's Made in Bangladesh. We knew we had to bring this film, which examines the struggle for workers rights and women's rights in a garment industry where 80% of the workers are young women, to Wales.
"The backbone of Bangladesh’s economy is carried by young women," says Rubaiyat, who spent 3 years researching and meeting factory workers before beginning on the script. "I finally came across this woman named Daliya, who was a union leader. I felt she was courageous, strong, and articulate. She had been treated so badly, being in an abusive marriage, but she was longing for dignity. The women factory workers are very young, they’re mainly between 18 to 30. It is hard to find older factory workers as they develop back and shoulders problems, as a result of sitting on hard benches, bent over the sewing machines ten hours a day, six days a week for a hundred euros a month in the best case. But what I found fascinating is that, even with very little pay, difficult conditions at work, struggles against patriarchy at home, these women are empowered. Because one hundred years ago in Bangladesh, women could not even work, they had to live in seclusion. Today, they are working, they are making a living for themselves and their families, and they are fighting within the factory and at home for their rights."
The film is focussed around Shimu a 23 year old woman working in a clothing factory in Dhaka. Faced with difficult conditions at work, she decides to start a union with her co-workers: "The women factory workers have this young spirit that I tried to portray in the film. They have a real sense of camaraderie working together. It is a positive thing. In gender studies, we always say that as long as a woman is resisting and fighting, she will get somewhere. Generations before us had fought for education and voting rights for women, that is why we are here today: “we stand where we stand, because we stand on the shoulders of women who came before us" In my country, there is a long history of women’s rights organisations, trying to improve the conditions of women. Women are getting the knowledge of the unions through these human rights organizations. They are taught about the law."
The film should also raise our collective consciousness about cheap fashion: "The entire world should listen to stories like Shimu’s. As a consumer, you have to take your responsibilities: if you buy a pair of jeans for 20$, you must know someone had to work underpaid for these. But if you say I won’t buy any more clothes of this brand because I know they underpay their workers, that is exactly what the workers do NOT want. It is not a solution." says Rubaiyat.
Made in Bangladesh is the opening film of the 2020 WOW Film Festival at The Riverfront, Newport on March 7th in celebration of International Women's Day, before screening at The Waterfront Museum, Swansea, Aberystwyth Arts Centre and Pontio, Bangor.
It has drawn the attention of women's support organisations WEN Wales, TUC Cymru, Women Connect First, the Swansea Refugee and Asylum Seeker's Women's Group, and BAWSO, who are collaborating with WOW to make the screenings accessible to women across Wales.
The 2020 edition of the WOW Film Festival will take place at venues across Wales from 7th March.
We're currently in the process of selecting the films, with some strong contenders.
Watch this space in the New Year for further news.
Open Call for short films from Wales
WOW "Wales One World" Film Festival is looking for short films from Wales to screen alongside festival features and at community and outreach events.
Have you made a film that you would like WOW to screen? We are keen to find films about life in Wales or beyond, including themes such as the environment, diversity, culture or global issues.
Galwad Agored am ffilmiau byr o Gymru
Mae Gŵyl Ffilm "Cymru a’r Byd yn Un" WOW yn chwilio am ffilmiau byr o Gymru i'w dangos ochr yn ochr â phrif ffilmiau’r ŵyl ac mewn digwyddiadau cymunedol ac allgymorth.
Ydych chi wedi gwneud ffilm yr hoffech i WOW ei dangos? Rydym yn awyddus i ddod o hyd i ffilmiau am fywyd yng Nghymru neu y tu hwnt, gan gynnwys themâu fel yr amgylchedd, amrywiaeth, diwylliant neu faterion byd-eang.