By Women about Women | FrauenFilmTage 2019

In the lead-up to International Women’s Day, the Vienna International Women’s Film Festival once again presents an eclectic selection.

Drawing attention to accomplished filmmakers since 2004, the FrauenFilmTage takes pride in showcasing female talent and topics, with this year featuring 23 movies shown over the course of eight days. Hailing from a wide range of countries, eras and backgrounds, the films presented are as diverse as the women who made them: A Polish war correspondent’s wife breaks down in 53 Wars; The Chambermaid follows the daily grind and newfound dreams of a maid in a high-end Mexican hotel; and Working Woman sees a mother in Jerusalem facing increasing sexual harassment at work.

The Chambermaid © Alpha Violet

Sardinia’s ragged beauty provides the backdrop for two of this year’s picks: Daughter of Mine has a young girl torn between two mothers while Twin Flower tells the story of the friendship between an illegal migrant from the Ivory Coast and the daughter of a human trafficker, budding despite hardship.

The festival is bookended by two screenings of The Third Wife, the critically-acclaimed debut feature of Vietnamese director Ash Mayfair. Inspired by her grandmother and great-grandmother, who were both forced into arranged marriages at an early age, Mayfair’s atmospheric film tells the story of 14-year-old May, the third wife of a wealthy landowner in 19th-century Vietnam, whose only road to status and security is to give birth to a male heir.

In the documentary section, picks include Latifa: a Fighting Heart, the story of a Franco-Moroccan woman who became a prominent anti-jihadi activist after losing her son in a terrorist attack. Yours in Sisterhood, a participatory documentary filmed across the US, is a collage of women reading and responding to letters that were sent to the feminist magazine Ms. in the 1970’s.

In Panoptic, sound designer and director Rana Eid masterfully explores the duality of Lebanon, its liberal consumerist façade hiding a darky oppressive regime (the film was banned by the authorities). Music lovers will appreciate the festival’s cooperation with Fraufeld, an initiative promoting female musicians, whose members Susanna Gartmayer and Verena Ziener will provide live musical accompaniment to the German silent film Die Börsenkönigin.

Die Börsenkönigin © Filmmuseum Berlin – Stiftung Deutsche Kinemathek

The “Tribute” series will honor the work of the internationally acclaimed German director Margarethe von Trotta by showing five of her films, all marked by complex female protagonists. Von Trotta herself will attend the festival for a discussion on March 3.

If you’d like to delve deeper into the world of filmmaking, a number of screenings will conclude with a podium discussion with the director; there’s also an introductory workshop on the technical aspects of lighting on March 9.

With such a variety of films to choose from, the FrauenFilmTage offers a unique opportunity to experience the cinematic vision of some of the world’s leading female filmmakers and explore the stories they have to tell.

Feb 28-Mar 7, various locations.

Note: German movies are without subtitles, while international movies are screened in original language with English subtitles.

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