ReFrame Film Festival: Three Things that I Watched

Sexy Baby – Directed by Jill Bauer and Ronna Gradus

This was very much a “documentary about sexiness and the cyber age.” There were three main subjects in the film: a 13-year-old girl, a 22-year-old who undergoes labiaplasty, and a 33-year-old former adult entertainer.

In the description given by ReFrame, they quote one reviewer who says, “The fascinating thing about Sexy Baby is that it presents horrifying images – without editorializing.” I don’t think this reviewer was right to say that the documentary was not editorialized. I think the women they chose to follow and the interview clips they used showed a clear message from the directors.

There is no way you could have left that documentary thinking “sex is good” or “porn is good.” Also, their placement of certain images at the end showed a very clear editorialization. The last thing you see in the film is three still images: one of the teenage girl, an almost porn-star-like-but-not-quite image of the young adult, the overly photoshopped and sexualized porn star, and a baby. Putting an image of a baby next to something is always used to provoke a certain emotion from people and sends quite a clear message.

I don’t quite know where I stand on the issue of pornography or the affects of a hyper-sexualized society on young girls, but I don’t like how this film was disguised as being objective. It was a well done documentary and these perspectives are important ones to be considering anyway. Overall, it was a very depressing and confusing film. I think you should see it though, maybe.

Status Quo? The Unfinished Business of Feminism in Canada – Directed by Karen Cho

status quo feminism

I really enjoyed this documentary. It focused on violence against women, access to abortion, child care, and all the politics in parliament about it as well. I came into it very critical. “Are diverse people and experiences shown?” Yes. “Are they going to talk about this thing?” Great, they just did. “But how could they miss this thing!” Oh there it is. Indigenous women were very present which was great. It even went as far as to critique Canada’s exploitation of women transnationally (through the live-in-caretaker program). I think it did a really great job of outlining the main feminist movements and issues in Canada.

However, one major problem I found with the documentary was the lack of trans voices. Everything was about solidarity amongst women and referring to each other as sisters. I think they should have shown some trans women to make it very clear that they are women and sisters of the movement. I was also concerned about this because one of the main interviewees in the film was from the Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter, a shelter that publicly excludes trans women (this was even taken to the Supreme Court, check it out: Kimberly Nixon v. Vancouver Rape Relief Society).

So while nothing in the documentary itself spoke against trans women, and this could have just been an innocent oversight, I think this omission could potentially be taken as excluding trans women from the movement (which is not cool). There were also a few slips of anti-prostitution sentiment which were certainly not needed.

Overall, it was a really great documentary and everyone should go see it.

The Square – Directed by Jehane Noujaim

the square egypt

This was a fucking fantastic documentary. Yes, fucking, fantastic. It is a comprehensive film about the revolution in Egypt over the past three years. Even though you might have followed the news, this film makes you understand the movement a lot more because it is told from the perspective of Egyptians in the middle of the revolution.

It also gives you insight about the internal politics within the revolution itself and shows where the original protest went wrong and how the wrong people came into power. It puts you on the ground level of the experience and sometimes uses mobile phone videos from other perspectives. There is some very horrifyingly graphic content, but it is used as needed.

I loved all the shots spanning Tahrir Square and the surrounding area to show how many people were on the streets in protest. One of the shots from summer 2013 showed millions of people in the streets and it was a really beautiful and powerful image that I will never forget. It’s hard to fathom that many people standing up for a cause, especially because of how apathetic Canada seems to be.

There were some very heavy topics, but it was not a cynical film. I left the documentary feeling very empowered and it gave me a lot to think about.

About Sara Ostrowska 34 Articles
Sara has been editor for Volume 47 (2012-2013) and Volume 48. She is a fourth year Philosophy and Political Studies undergrad. Her main interests are Canadian politics, and issues of law, justice and rights, feminism, and ethics. She is also a programmer on Trent Radio. You can follow her on twitter here!