Last Tuesday we attended the Passion For Freedom Festival’s second screening at the Tea Embassy Gallery, where Laura Jean Healey’s “The Siren” (pictured above) was screened to great acclaim. “The Siren” was born of reading mermaid stories – “all written by men”, Laura notes – where “sirens” are portrayed as impossibly beautiful, nude seductresses. Laura uses this implied seduction to reverse power roles in film – the “masculine” gaze of the camera is turned in on itself by a meeting with the inaccessible. This masculine-feminine dichotomy plays well into the festival’s strong feminist theme, which also featured Martha Mosse’s now-notorious performance of “The Slut, The Spinster And The Perfect Woman”.
The main event of the night was the feature length film “Girl Rising”. The film presents a series of stories of female defiance and empowerment in shockingly unfair circumstances, to the woeful narration of well-known voices such as Liam Neeson, Anne Hathaway, Cate Blanchett, Meryl Streep and Alicia Keys. The girls’ names are Sokha, Wadley, Suma, Yasmin, Azmera, Ruksana , Senna, Mariama and Amina (you find out more about their stories here). All suffer from the same kind of structured disenfranchisement that the festival, with its emphasis on freedom, seeks to blow away. The film is associated with girlsnotbrides.org, a charity devoted to ending child marriages, and keeping girls in school.
The pieces were followed by an agreeable Q&A and discussion of feminism, multiculturalism, the objectification of women, and the importance of the artist. The festival is a manifestation of the belief that storytelling can drive change, and there is a common thread to be found here –between female empowerment, defiant individualism and pure artistry. We strongly recommend our readers seek out the final event of the PFF this Friday, 6.30pm at the Tea Embassy Gallery, Union Street.