After an intimate debut in 2009, January saw the second installment of the anticipated, but largely unknown, annual film festival Seen and Heard. Dedicated exclusively to screening the works of emerging and established women filmmakers, this event may run the risk of scaring off those troubled by the concept of omission in the name of equality. Yet after attending each session of its bursting-at-the-seams four day program, it became clear that although, as creator Lucy Randall admits, "feminism is definitely not a dirty word during the festival," Seen and Heard is by no means an all-woman, man-hating, burning-one's-cone-shaped-bra event. Rather, it offers a sober criticism of the international film industry.
Held at the Inner West's The Red Rattler, the festival opened with a night dedicated to fiction and documentary shorts, alongside a talk from filmmaker Sunny Grace. The second day turned its attention to Indigenous Australia, the highlight of which wasScarlett Pictures - six short films produced by Kath Shelper; the now well known producer of Samson & Delilah. The festival's Gala night featured creative and documentary shorts with a live performance from Sydney band Fag Panic. It closed with a collection of experimental shorts, including My Life Without Steve, directed by the marvelous Gillian Leahy, who was also the guest speaker of the night.
In the late 1980's Linda Nochlin famously asked in Women, Art and Power and Other Essays, 'Why have there been no great women artists?' In response she argued that generating works of art of any medium is by no means a "free, autonomous activity", but determined almost solely by a person's social situation. For this reason, women, along with anyone else who "did not have the good fortune to be born white, preferably middle class and, above all, male" were subject to exclusion from the ranks of artistic genius.
To its credit, Seen and Heard's eclectic program appears to echo this very sentiment. Although the festival advocates the need for direct female involvement at all levels of movie making, and creates a forum for greater exposure and appreciation of women filmmakers, a sense of inclusiveness permeates the entire festival. If anything, more opportunities for women is not the be all and end all for this festival, but simply the first step towards a more vibrant and compelling film industry which embraces not only stories but auteurs of greater diversity. This is epitomized in Randall's ambition "to include Indigenous perspectives, perspectives of people with disabilities and queer perspectives, and create a program of films to show that everyone can make a film, able bodied or otherwise."
Attracting a mixed demographic, Seen and Heard seems to have ticked most of the boxes - offering an assortment of experimental and more orthodox films alongside relatively engaging guest speakers and exciting local performers. Each night, although completely different, was a delight made all the more sweet by the free entry, cheap beer and brilliant venue. So if you're unfazed by inoffensive post-feminism, definitely watch this space.
Sabrina Sokalik has recently completed a Bachelor of Art Theory at the College of Fine Arts and is soon to commence a Masters of Art Administration. She is currently traveling in South America working as a freelance arts writer.