Clermont-Ferrand International Film Festival 2024: In the Land of Women


Every year, the Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival (2-10 February 2024) unveils a captivating array of short films from a designated country as part of its geographical retrospective. This inspiring showcase grants audiences the rare opportunity to embark on a cinematic journey, (re)discovering diverse civilizations, customs, traditions, atmospheres, and narratives from around the globe. Since announcing its candidacy for European Capital of Culture 2028 in March 2023, Clermont-Ferrand has begun to embrace its European identity more fervently. Indeed, reflecting this, the festival has opted to expand the scope of its geographic focus program for this year. In 2024, rather than spotlighting a specific country, the festival turned its lens to an entire continent. Therefore, the thematic focus was dedicated to celebrating strong female figures, thus casting Europe in an entirely feminine light.

According to Julie Rousson, a member of the festival’s international selection committee and one of the curators of the “Eurovisions” focus, the Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival has demonstrated a longstanding commitment to gender equality. Indeed, it was among the trailblazing film festivals to endorse the 50/50 charter back in 2018. “The short film industry appears to be more egalitarian in terms of films directed by women and those directed by men. You can see it in the submissions: 60% of the films received at Clermont are directed by filmmakers identifying as male, and 40% by filmmakers identifying as female.” Rousson explains. “However, we also address the gender of the films in terms of their subjects: how women are portrayed, narrated, and filmed. All of this has inspired us to focus on female creators and feminist subjects.”

This year’s geographic focus comprised twenty-two films directed by twenty-four female filmmakers hailing from twenty-five countries, including the UK and Switzerland. This curated selection offered a diverse and eclectic array of short films, ranging from reflections on a world in flux to glimpses of the monstrous and grotesque, as well as explorations of aesthetics and forays into the intimate and outward, spanning across generations. Rousson and her fellow curator Calmin Borel aimed to showcase the multifaceted and complex perspectives of female directors, traversing genres, tones, and cultural landscapes. “We included films that have already been featured at Clermont as well as films that are new to our audience. We have also chosen to incorporate the United Kingdom and Switzerland into our vision of Europe. Here, we are not referring to a political Europe, but rather a cultural Europe,” Rousson emphasizes.

These were the following films: All Inclusive by Corina Schwinger Ilić (Switzerland, 2018), The Bird and the Whale by Carol Freeman (Ireland, 2018), Jenn Nkiru’s Rebirth is Necessary (UK, 2017), Diana Cam Van Nguyen’s Love, Dad (Czech Republic, Slovakia, 2021), In Flow of Words by Eliane Esther Bots (Netherlands, 2021), Esther Niemeier’s Tracing Addai (Germany, 2018), Liza, Namo! (Liza Go Home!) by Oksana Buraja (Lithuania, Estonia, 2012), Thelia Petraki’s Bella (Greece, 2020), Symphony N.42 by Réka Bucsi (Hungary, 2014), Deer Boy by Katarzina Gondrek (Poland, Belgium, Croatia, 2016), Bad Lesbian by Irene Moray (Spain, Germany, 2018), Lullaby by Magdalena Chmielewska (Austria, 2021), Son altesse protocole by Aurélie Reinhorn (France, Belgium, 2021), Granny’s Sexual Life (Babčino seksualno življenje) (Slovenia, France, 2021), Tria – del sentimento del tradire by Giulia Grandinetti (Italy, 2022), Entre sombras (Between the Shadows) by Mónica Santos and Alice Guimarães (Portugal, France, 2018), Ensom Cowgirl (Lonely Cowgirl) by Gina Kippenbroeck (Denmark, 2021), Une soeur (A Sister), by Delphine Girard (Belgium, 2018), Manivald by Chintis Lundgren (Estonia, Croatia, Canada, 2017), Holiday at the Seaside (Godišnji na moru) by Cristina Grosan (Bosnia & Herzegovina, Romania, Hungary, 2013), Kaksi Ruumista Rannalla (2 Bodies on a Beach) by Anna Paavilainen (Finland, 2019) and Sorry not Sorry by Julia Thelin (Sweden, 2019).

The theme of female rebellion took center stage in the special program titled “Rebels.” The #metoo movement sparked a significant reckoning in early 2018, leading to a gradual but steady progress for women in film. They have finally begun to occupy both the subject and object positions of reconsideration, both in front of and behind the camera. A notable example is Chantal Akerman’s iconic film Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles, which topped Sight & Sound’s 2022 list of the 100 Greatest Films, marking the first time a female director led this prestigious ranking. This retrospective, comprising twenty-four films made between 1971 and 2021 and originating from twelve countries (twenty fictions, two animations, and four documentaries – 84.5% directed by women), showcased portraits of resilient women at the heart of the works, depicted far beyond the confines of mere housewives or objects of desire. Furthermore, each program commenced with a short film from the H24 series, produced by Arte, offering a glimpse into the lives of contemporary women.

Sarah Momesso, the curator of the retrospective, says that it has been an idea that has simmered in the back of their minds for several years.  The curators started with around four hundred and fifty films, only to select twenty-four short films. The final result included a wide range of films of all genres – documentaries, fiction and animated films dating from 1971 to 2022.  “We wanted to represent as many women as possible from different walks of life, with a variety of profiles and a chosen or forced position towards defiance. Heterosexual or lesbian women, cis or transgender, in Brazil, Iran, France or even at sea. We wanted certain themes to stand out: sound, emancipation, the right to control one’s own body, to live as one wishes. The theme “Rebels” in English and “Insoumises” in French are two words that define all these women for us very well whether the rebellion is explosive, gradual or prevented,” shares Montesso while Rousson adds, “We have chosen, for the “Rebels” retrospective, to present a bit of the antithesis of the victimized or passive woman often seen in certain artistic mediums. We showcase resilient women, women in struggle, women in their plurality, cisgender and transgender women, women from around the world united by challenges, a world that continues to treat them differently from their male counterparts. There are films from various eras, illustrating how the feminist struggle has evolved.”

The films presented in the “Rebels” retrospective were 10cm au-dessus du sol (10cm Above Ground) by Valérie Urrea and Nathalie Masdurand (France, 2021), Le cri défendu (A Call for Help) by Charlotte Abramow (France, 2021), Valérie Urrea and Nathalie Masdurand’s Le chignon (The Debate) (France, 2021), Elsa Amiel’s Fan Zone (France, 2021), Beach Flags by Sarah Saidan (France, 2014), Ovidie and Corentin Coeplet’s Un jour bien ordinaire (An Ordinary Day) (France, 2019), Hra er en kvinne? (What is a Woman?) by Marin Haskjold (Norway, 2020), Kukla’s Sestre (Sisters) (Slovenia, 2021), Wally Wenda by Diane Russo Cheng (USA, 2020), Egúngún (Masquerade) by Olive Nwsu (Nigeria, UK, 2021), Maimouna Doucouré’s Maman(s) (Mother(s)) (France, 2015), Je les aime tous by Guillaume Kozakiewicz (France, 2016), Blandine Lenoir’s L’Amérique de la femme (The America of Womankind) (France, 2014), Carole Roussopoulos’ Y’a qu’à pas baiser! (France, 1971), Affairs of the Art by Joanna Quinn (UK, Canada, 2021), La dragonne by François Dupeyron (France, 1982), Yi-Shan Lee’s Sisters’ Busy Hands (Taiwan, 2020), Super Nova by Juliette Saint-Sordis (France, 2021), ¿Me vas a gritar? (Shout at Me!) by Laura Herrero Garvin (Mexico, 2018), Cris Lyra’s Quebramar (Breakwater) (Brazil, 2019), Olla (Olla) by Ariane Labed (France, 2019), Alice Seabright’s End-O (UK, 2019), Kleptomami (Kleptomom) by Pola Beck (Germany, 2017), Sungbin Byun’s God’s Daughter Dances (South Korea, 2020).

The “Thrills” program within the retrospective presented five films featuring female leads from every corner of the world while the “Decibels” program’s aim was to satisfy and bring together music and film buffs. The “Bloody Girls” program –full of hemoglobin – offered a selection of horror films for those members of the audience who appreciate strong sensations in which angry and inconvenient heroines take center stage.

Momesso wouldn’t want to assert that this particular retrospective or focus will significantly impact the status of women in Cinema. However, she does aspire to have highlighted portrayals of women and films crafted by female filmmakers in the festival’s other focus areas, hoping to inspire a global audience and industry professionals to expand their curiosity and recognize that the era of the “female trophy” or the “female object,” as it is often labeled in French, and the trope of women as mere sidekicks to male heroes, is behind us.  “All around us, women are reclaiming their rightful place in the Arts, and particularly in Cinema, whether in front or behind the camera: this can be seen by looking at the names of the female directors nominated for Oscars and or the Césars – Long live Justine Triet! So, while we don’t claim to be able to change things, we do have a furious desire to be part of a collective movement,” she asserts.

Rousson echoes her colleague’s sentiment, stating, “I’m not sure if this focus will have an impact on the situation of women in the industry, but I hope it might change some people’s perspectives on what a film by a woman is and what a film with female characters entails. I still hear people saying that female directors are not capable of handling large film productions. That’s false.”

Running parallel to this retrospective and focus, the festival made concerted efforts to mobilize organizations that have ceaselessly been working to increase and recognize the pivotal role of women in the film industry. A dedicated booth at the Short Film Market united these organizations, alongside numerous panels, meetings, and an associative forum hosting local groups committed to supporting women in their daily lives in Clermont-Ferrand. Additionally, supplementary programs were imbued with a feminine perspective. Notably, the juries for all three official competitions were exclusively composed of women. “We haven’t emphasized this too much in our communication, thinking that if someone asked us why or pointed it out, we would simply respond: ‘When there are only men on festival juries, no one says anything!’” Rousson confesses.

In an industry where the voices and contributions of women have (almost) historically been overlooked and undervalued, the Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival emerges as the guiding light of progress and inclusivity. Through its carefully curated retrospectives, dedicated panels, and commitment to gender equality, the festival not only celebrated the achievements of female filmmakers, but also actively worked to dismantle systemic barriers within the film industry. As the curtains close on another successful edition, one thing remains clear: the future of cinema is undeniably female, and the Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival stands at the forefront of this revolutionary movement.


Photo credits: the Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival.

Tara Karajica

Tara Karajica is a Belgrade-based film critic and journalist. Her writings have appeared in "Indiewire," "Screen International," "Variety," "Little White Lies" and "Film New Europe," among many other media outlets, including the European Film Academy’s online magazine, "Close-up" and Eurimages. She is a member of the European Film Academy, the Online Film Critics Society and the Alliance of Women Film Journalists as well as the recipient of the 2014 Best Critic Award at the Altcine Action! Film Festival. In September 2016, she founded "Yellow Bread," a magazine dedicated entirely to short films, ranked among the 25 Top Short Film Blogs and Websites on the Planet in 2017. In February 2018, she launched "Fade to Her," a magazine about successful women working in Film and TV and in 2019, she was a member of the Jury of the European Shooting Stars (European Film Promotion). She is currently a programmer for live action shorts at PÖFF Shorts, Head of the Short Film Program and Live Action Shorts programmer at SEEFest and Narrative Features Programmer at the Durban International Film Festival. Tara is a regular at film festivals as a film critic, moderator and/or jury member.

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