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There you Are!

I would like to congratulate you for successfully stumbling on my ripe blueberry of a blog. Now that you’re here, I’m afraid you’ve chosen to cross into prohibited territory (also known as my mind) but you will not be electrocuted or hanged or decapitated (although I am a zealous misanthropist and would love some human heads for my latest collection), but, even better, you will have to endure my horrendous thoughts and venomous writing. I know you’re wondering what you have done to deserve this. I also know that you must have done something because you deserve this.

Have an inspirational time here, as long as you’re here, before it’s too late, before you’re gone, gone as in dead, dead as in eternally nonexistent (unless you’re a believer of reincarnation, afterlife, or lucid dreaming).

Welcome to my world! I’m quite sure you’re feeling right at home with my warm welcoming thoughts. Certainly, this blog will not express my entire world, one that is naturally infinite, however, it will speak. Now listen.

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About Witches

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Rungano Nyoni’s feature debut I Am Not A Witch is not about magic. While watching the film, I felt a mysterious force binding me to its protagonist and her story but I couldn’t understand why. For days to come, I would ponder and try to decipher why this film had shaken me so. After rewatching it, I absorbed more and slowly the picture became clearer. I Am Not A Witch is not about magic. It’s a powerful portrayal of womanhood in the Me Too era. Set to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons symphony, it untangles the social perception of womanhood on screen for everyone to see and, hopefully, understand. And for me, it was the perfect parable, reflecting my struggle as a young woman attempting to decide who she is in today’s world.

The film tells the story of Shula, a young child who is accused of being a witch in an African village where witches are put on display for tourists. Clothed in blue garments and white make-up, the witches are lined up as a tour guide explains that to control the witches, they are tethered to spools of white ribbon whose free ends are attached to their backs; they cannot fly. Additionally, witches get scars on their foreheads which heal “like a tattoo.” Three physical elements identify a witch as such: blue garbs, facial scars and white make-up, and most importantly, the white ribbon tied to their back. Witches are marked and, therefore, cast as pariahs in the social context. When Shula is declared a witch by locals, she is questioned by the police to verify the accusation. What follows is a tragicomic segment where witnesses spew their reports to prove Shula is a witch. A woman describes her as “friendless” with no relatives. A man recounts how Shula cut off his arm with an axe, only to reveal it was only a dream he had. Later, a villager spots Shula and shouts “You’re the witch who ate all my relatives!” As a child who is lost and confused, Shula stays silent, neither confirming nor denying the accusations. She is then sent to witch camp where she gets her own ribbon. At first, I am baffled by Shula’s inaction. Why doesn’t she defend herself? After some thought, I realize that I too often opt for silence during heated debates involving my behavior. I lack energy and gumption to explain myself; at times it’s because, like Shula, I myself don’t really know how to explain my own thoughts, but at others, like many women, I don’t want to upset anyone; it’s a fear-borne silence. A silence I select to avoid potential conflict arising from a disapproving relative or a conservative bystander. A silence endemic to every woman who is not strong enough to look others in the eye and speak her mind because the dialogue can spiral into name-calling, slut-shaming, and inevitably, heart-breaking. So we don’t speak and they write our story for us, for me, for Shula.

 
During the initiation ceremony, Shula is locked in a closet and given an ultimatum: to keep the ribbon and stay a witch or cut the ribbon and turn into a goat. By sunrise, the locals knock on the door and ask, “Is there a witch in there?” Shula utters her first words in the film in response: “Yes there’s a witch in here.” At this point, it becomes clear that being a witch has nothing to do with evil forces or the paranormal; being a witch is a choice, it means accepting the role that society boxes you in. Out of ignorance, or fear, or innocence, Shula chooses “witch” over “goat” and agrees on society’s perception of who she is. Similarly, every day all around the world, women accept society’s terms and conditions on what to say or how to behave out of ignorance, fear, or innocence because to rebel or stand their ground would deem them “goats” – outsiders who are discriminated against because they are not playing the roles they’re supposed to play; they get fired or blocked or crucified or ostracized simply because their version of “woman” is not the same one accepted by society. And so we settle on being witches; born and raised and tamed in a society that allows what it, and only it, deems appropriate and decent and “woman”.

 
Instead of staying in witch camp and spending hours doing menial field work, Shula’s taken in by a government official, Mr. Banda, to pick out thieves among potential suspects and prophesize rain during droughts. Shula rarely speaks yet is continuously spoken of. Mr. Banda repeatedly refers to her as “[his] little witch” and “government property.” The lexicon used illustrates Shula as a reference, never the reference point. To villagers and thieves, she’s a witch. To Mr. Banda, she’s property. Shula never leads but is led to TV interviews and police lineups. Mr. Banda shows her off on a TV show while advertising “Shula eggs” as a new farm product. He arranges the suspects and asks her to identify the thief among them. Shula is used by others as a means to various ends, none of which benefit her or are even chosen by her. The film’s name is deceptive because Shula never says “I am not a witch” for she never gets the chance to explain or explore herself; this is not her story but a story about her. Her real story begins with one word: “No.” When she locks Mr. Banda out of his truck and refuses to open the door for him, she repeats, “No.” This incident marks her first, and only, act of volition in the entire film. Embellished with the canonical No that echoed through endless stories from victims of sexual assault in the Me Too uprising, Shula’s story finally begins.

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Later, Mr. Banda drops off Shula at his house where his wife is to take care of her. Shula finds a spool of white ribbon in the wife’s bedroom and exclaims “You have one as well?” The following monologue takes place.

“I used to be like you when I was a kid…They said I couldn’t go anywhere,
they said I couldn’t cut the ribbon or do anything. They said if I cut the ribbon, I’d turn into a goat. Now, I didn’t turn into a goat. And do you know why? Respectability…Respect through marriage. Do you know how I became this way? Because I did everything I was told…I did it all without question.”

Even though no longer attached to the spool, the wife becomes attached to something else: a ring. The “respect through marriage” she so proudly boasts of is nothing but another social scheme to objectify her as a mindless reference that does “it all without question.” The “respectability” which comes with a cost, the cost of hiding her identity as a woman, is only skin-deep; she now walks stripped of her ribbon, but it still stays with her, silently spooled around a ring.

 
Not unlike the Jews whose very own star of David was used against them as a sign of public shame during the Holocaust, the witches’ womanhood, or more accurately, society’s perception and institution of what is or isn’t “woman”, is personified as white ribbons coiled around spools. It too is used against them, to shame and limit them. These spools become part of the witches’ mandated identity, they cannot escape it because it is part of who they have become, yet they learn to be ashamed of it through society’s manmade mongering. Afterwards, the wife goes out and her spool, hidden under a tarp, remains in her shopping cart. She is encircled by strangers who yell “Come see the witch…we know them” then uncover and expose her spool. Despite the obvious association one can make between the ribbon and past actions that haunt or trouble us, I found myself seeing more than shame in this scene. I saw my identity, tarred and taunted. This white ribbon, it’s mine but it belongs not on a spool but on walls and in streets and out loud. My white ribbon is part of me as it is part of every “witch” but it is not to control or tether us – it is to empower and embolden us. The spool merely represents what society spawns about me; similar to the wife’s, mine is also concealed, because I don’t want to confront others and change their minds about who I am; it’s a task I am not up to. Not yet. However, when my white ribbon unfurls, telling tales I probably don’t want to revisit, they will be my tales and only mine. I may not be ready to uncoil my ribbon and tell my story as I want to tell it yet, but I know it doesn’t belong on a spool manufactured by society.
Minutes before her death, Shula admits, “I should’ve chosen to be a goat. A goat is better.” I understand her words and they deeply resonate with me. I look back on where I am and how I got here. I shouldn’t have accepted their spool, even if it meant becoming an outsider. But, more importantly, I don’t think I should have to face an ultimatum between social acceptance and ostracism when it comes to my identity. Should I? I reconsider and argue that those ultimatums are what make us who we are, those choices are what free us. I’m tied and I long to be untied and I’m afraid of what being untied means. When Shula or the wife anger Mr. Banda, he threatens, “I’ll toss you back to where you belong” reminding them of the witch camp. Will I, too, go to witch camp if I cut my ribbon? Will my family members click their tongues and cast disapproving looks if I come out as who I am? Will my friends retreat from the person they thought they knew because she no longer fits in their version of “woman”? What about my neighbors, my colleagues, my coworkers? Will they “toss” me into their list of blocked contacts? I can’t know but I have a crippling feeling of anxiety that always stops me at the last minute; I drop the scissors, I don’t cut my ribbon.

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I am tired of everyone’s opinions and standards lurking around every corner. I am tired of slut shaming, pro-life, conservative misogynists who rant about what women should be and never think about who women want and choose to be. I am tired of their imposing comments on what a woman should wear or say or look like. I am tired of their guidelines, their recommendations, their implicit instructions about what women should or shouldn’t do. When to get married (before bars and arranged dates become your best friends), when to be home (before dark or too dark or too drunk), when to say what you think you saw your boss do (not now), and when to come out (never). I look at my white ribbon and I know it belongs to me. But I no longer want it following me around like a ghost with whom I have unfinished business. I want to completely unspool it and make a dress out of it, a dress I can wear comfortably and proudly. The villagers can keep their spool but the ribbon, my ribbon, will accompany me always and I don’t want to hide it. I don’t want to hide me.

filmqueer Award Winners 2018

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Artwork by Sonia Alins for the 24th Catalonia Latin American Film Festival

Artwork by Sonia Alins for the 24th Catalonia Latin American Film Festival

The wait is over! It’s time to announce the first ever winners of filmqueer Awards. Here we go!

Wait. It’s important to remember that my choices are highly subjective and reflect, not the quality of the film and its aspects, but rather my personal taste. I chose my favorite and not necessarily the best films.

The winners of the first annual filmqueer Awards are…

Best Film

WINNER: The Handmaiden – Park Chan-wook

Nominees:

Call Me By Your Name – Luca Guadagnino

Good Time – The Safdie Brothers

Personal Shopper – Olivier Assayas

Phantom Thread – Paul Thomas Anderson

The Florida Project – Sean Baker

 

Best Leading Actor

WINNER: Daniel Day Lewis – Phantom Thread

Nominees:

Adam Driver – Paterson

Joaquin Phoenix – You Were Never Really Here

Robert Pattinson – Good Time

Timothée Chalamet – Call Me By Your Name

Vince Vaughn – Brawl in Cell Block 99

 

Best Leading Actress

WINNER: Sally Hawkins – The Shape of Water

Brooklyn Prince – The Florida Project

Eili Harboe – Thelma

Jessica Chastain – Miss Sloane

Kristen Stewart – Personal Shopper

Saoirse Ronan – Lady Bird

 

Best Supporting Actor

WINNER: Michael Stuhlbarg – Call Me By Your Name

Barry Keoghan – The Killing of a Sacred Deer

Richard Jenkins – The Shape of Water

Steve Buscemi – The Death of Stalin

Willem Dafoe – The Florida Project

 

Best Supporting Actress

WINNER: Lesley Manville – Phantom Thread

Catherine Keener – Get Out

Kirsten Dunst – The Beguiled

Laurie Metcalf – Lady Bird

Sylvia Hoeks – Blade Runner 2049

 

Best Ensemble Cast

WINNER: Dunkirk

Nominees:

Get Out

I, Tonya

The Death of Stalin

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)

 

Best Screenplay

WINNERS: Call Me By Your Name – James Ivory TIED with Phantom Thread – Paul Thomas Anderson

Nominees:

Get Out – Jordan Peele

Lady Bird – Greta Gerwig

The Death of Stalin – Armando Iannucci

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) – Noah Baumbach

 

Best Cinematography

WINNER: Bojan Bazelli – A Cure for Wellness

Alexis Zabe – The Florida Project

Anthony Dod Mantle – Trainspotting 2

Paul Thomas Anderson – Phantom Thread

Roger Deakins – Blade Runner 2049

Sean Price Williams – Good Time

 

Best Score

WINNER: Jonny Greenwood – Phantom Thread

lexandre Desplat – The Shape of Water

Hans Zimmer – Dunkirk

Jonny Greenwood – You Were Never Really Here

Oneohtrix Point Never – Good Time

 

Best Animated Film

WINNER: The Girl Without Hands – Sébastien Laudenbach

Coco –  Lee UnkrichAdrian Molina 

Mutafukaz –  Shôjirô Nishimi, Guillaume Renard

Window Horses – Ann Marie Fleming

 

Best Documentary

WINNER: Faces Places – Agnès Varda, JR

Nominees:

78/52: Hitchcock’s Shower Scene – Alexandre O. Phillipe

David Lynch: The Art Life – Jon Nguyen

I Am Heath Ledger – Adrian Buitenhuis, Derik Murray

The Work – Jairus McLeary, Gethin Aldous

 

Best Foreign Film

WINNER: Raw – Julia Ducournau (France)

Nominees:

Aloys – Tobias Nölle (Switzerland)

On Body and Soul – Ildikó Enyedi (Hungary)

Thelma – Joachim Trier (Norway)

The Handmaiden – Park Chan-wook (South Korea)

The Insult – Ziad Doueiri (Lebanon)

 

Best Directorial Debut

WINNER: Columbus – Kogonada

Nominees:

Get Out – Jordan Peele

Lady Bird – Greta Gerwig

Manifesto – Julian Rosefeldt

Most Beautiful Island – Ana Asensio

Raw – Julia Ducournau

 

BEYOND

WINNERS:

Cure for Wellness – Gore Verbinski

mother! – Darren Aronofsky

Oh Lucy! – Atsuko Hirayanagi

Princess Cyd – Stephen Cone

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets – Luc Besson

World of Tomorrow: Episode 2 – Don Hertzfeldt

filmqueer Awards 2018

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Artwork by Sonia Alins for the 24th Catalonia Latin American Film Festival

Artwork by Sonia Alins for the 24th Catalonia Latin American Film Festival

If you haven’t heard, let me tell you.

This year I decided to take matters into my own hands and create my own film awards.

Brace yourself for *drum roll* the first annual filmqueer Awards!

 

Why filmqueer? 

That’s my username on Letterboxd. And I like it.

 

What are the filmqueer Awards?

filmqueer Awards are my personal take on last year’s films. They are 1000% subjective with no specific criteria. I picked my FAVORITE films, not necessarily the best ones – the categories are all still dubbed Best but that’s only for the sake of practicality; a pragmatic misnomer.

There is a total of 14 categories. Each category includes a minimum of three and a maximum of six nominees. Some categories are classic, others original.

One original category is the Beyond Award category; it is similar to “special mention” except there are no nominees, only winners. As lame as that sounds, it is particularly important that I highlight these films because they may have been overlooked, underrated, or misunderstood and I reeeeally want more people to watch (or rewatch) these films. My perception of these films ranges from thrilling, to heart wrenching, to what the fuck. And it’s my pleasure to share them with as many people as possible.

I also eliminated the Best Director category and merged it with Best Film because…I can never really tell the difference, to be honest. In addition, I don’t have many technical categories (editing, sound mixing/editing, VFX, etc.) due to my limited knowledge of these fields. However, I hope that over the years I expand my knowledge to include more elaborate categories.

Nominations are listed below. The winners will be announced on April 28.

Note: Some of the nominees are officially 2016 productions but were released in my region later in 2017 hence their presence among my nominees.

Here we go!

 

filmqueer Awards 2018 – appreciating my favorite films of 2017

Best Film

Call Me By Your Name – Luca Guadagnino

Good Time – The Safdie Brothers

Personal Shopper – Olivier Assayas

Phantom Thread – Paul Thomas Anderson

The Florida Project – Sean Baker

The Handmaiden – Park Chan-wook

 

Best Leading Actor

Adam Driver – Paterson

Daniel Day Lewis – Phantom Thread

Joaquin Phoenix – You Were Never Really Here

Robert Pattinson – Good Time

Timothée Chalamet – Call Me By Your Name

Vince Vaughn – Brawl in Cell Block 99

 

Best Leading Actress

Brooklyn Prince – The Florida Project

Eili Harboe – Thelma

Jessica Chastain – Miss Sloane

Kristen Stewart – Personal Shopper

Sally Hawkins – The Shape of Water

Saoirse Ronan – Lady Bird

 

Best Supporting Actor

Barry Keoghan – The Killing of a Sacred Deer

Michael Stuhlbarg – Call Me By Your Name

Richard Jenkins – The Shape of Water

Steve Buscemi – The Death of Stalin

Willem Dafoe – The Florida Project

 

Best Supporting Actress

Catherine Keener – Get Out

Kirsten Dunst – The Beguiled

Laurie Metcalf – Lady Bird

Lesley Manville – Phantom Thread

Sylvia Hoeks – Blade Runner 2049

 

Best Ensemble Cast

Dunkirk

Get Out

I, Tonya

The Death of Stalin

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)

 

Best Screenplay

Call Me By Your Name – James Ivory

Get Out – Jordan Peele

Lady Bird – Greta Gerwig

Phantom Thread – Paul Thomas Anderson

The Death of Stalin – Armando Iannucci

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) – Noah Baumbach

 

Best Cinematography

Alexis Zabe – The Florida Project

Anthony Dod Mantle – Trainspotting 2

Bojan Bazelli – A Cure for Wellness

Paul Thomas Anderson – Phantom Thread

Roger Deakins – Blade Runner 2049

Sean Price Williams – Good Time

 

Best Score

Alexandre Desplat – The Shape of Water

Hans Zimmer – Dunkirk

Jonny Greenwood – Phantom Thread

Jonny Greenwood – You Were Never Really Here

Oneohtrix Point Never – Good Time

 

Best Animated Film

Coco –  Lee UnkrichAdrian Molina

Mutafukaz –  Shôjirô Nishimi, Guillaume Renard

The Girl Without Hands – Sébastien Laudenbach

Window Horses – Ann Marie Fleming

 

Best Documentary

78/52: Hitchcock’s Shower Scene – Alexandre O. Phillipe

David Lynch: The Art Life – Jon Nguyen

Faces Places – Agnès Varda, JR

I Am Heath Ledger – Adrian Buitenhuis, Derik Murray

The Work – Jairus McLeary, Gethin Aldous

 

Best Foreign Film

Aloys – Tobias Nölle (Switzerland)

On Body and Soul – Ildikó Enyedi (Hungary)

Raw – Julia Ducournau (France)

Thelma – Joachim Trier (Norway)

The Handmaiden – Park Chan-wook (South Korea)

The Insult – Ziad Doueiri (Lebanon)

 

Best Directorial Debut

Columbus – Kogonada

Get Out – Jordan Peele

Lady Bird – Greta Gerwig

Manifesto – Julian Rosefeldt

Most Beautiful Island – Ana Asensio

Raw – Julia Ducournau

 

BEYOND

A Cure for Wellness – Gore Verbinski

mother! – Darren Aronofsky

Oh Lucy! – Atsuko Hirayanagi

Princess Cyd – Stephen Cone

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets – Luc Besson

World of Tomorrow: Episode 2 – Don Hertzfeldt

Salvation N/A

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The Sun has a twin sister and they take shifts watching over us.

 

Blood floods.

Dreams die slow.

Pain rains.

Souls scream no.

 

The Tired reek.

Listen. Insomnia cries.

Their guilt drips black.

Listen. Ghostly hearts spell lies.

 

The Sun has a twin sister and they take shifts watching over us.

Today of tears, fears, and tar

Is too heavy to bear

Even for a star.

The Usual Suspects – Nine Short Stories from Unusual Places

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The white shopping bag crashed into the muddy puddle.

My plastic skin yielded and everything bled out of me.

Fruits rolled and sank. Shampoo oozed out; graffiti on the mirror.

Men with milky shadows and women in cheese wigs passed by me blindly.

A young boy slipped away from his mother, splashed into the puddle, feet like drumsticks.

Fireworks! Tomatoes exploded! Bread shredded and glass shattered! Spectacular euthanasia.

—  The Plastic Bag

 

We’ve been together for a long time.

They all warned us it would end one day.

No! We were defiant dandelions determined to face it all.

It was an early Friday morning when metallic winds stormed our home, slicing me off his bed.

Dandelion seeds blown away.

— Nail & Cuticle

 

You all fear her, as you should, but no one loves her. No one loves her like I do.

You hide under trees and behind curtains to escape her.

Fools! Such bliss to bathe in her touch, her warmth, her love.

She is fierce as fire feeding on the fuel of fission.

I refuse to sit silently; I will not save you.

— Sunglasses in Love

 

They are infinity embodied. I tire with every step. They don’t.

They make their ancestors proud. They keep going up.

To what end? I don’t know but I must find out.

My heart races as I approach the highest level. This is it.

I’m going to make my ancestors proud; I’m going to win this game.

A door with a golden handle awaits me.

I clasp the handle and pull it down. It disappears!

A door with no handle stares at me.

I hear their triumphant laughter echoing behind my back.

Motherfuckers.

— Climbing the Stairs

 

Why me?

My sister grew up to work with fire.

My brother is famous in a museum in London.

Even my baby cousin is an artist, his work in galleries all over town.

But me? I end up kneaded and spread.

My tongue licks every floor, ceiling, and wall.

I cause pain to everyone around me.

I wish I was different. I wish I was…

Ouch!

— Wax On

 

My father always says, “We are immortal.”

We never have to worry about survival or the future.

We know we’re here forever.

Unlike you, poor mortals!

You cower beneath us, mouths watering, eyes racing, then you die.

Meanwhile we watch it all from above.

It’s our time. It’s our era.

We are Big Brother.

— Mighty Bill Board

 

I’m a foot fetishist and proud!

I love their curves and I say it out loud.

I wait politely till I finally get the chance.

Oh what a dance.

To hold a foot, take it inside..

That wild ride!

— The Shoe Wants What It Wants

 

They resent me.

Their eyes need new eyes to see the beauty in the old.

They’re freaks, obsessed with sterile sanity, botched Botox, asinine app updates.

Dust now extinct.

They’re coming after me.

But I’m beautiful and natural just the way I am.

I’m old, not gold, but just as bold.

— Rust in Peace

 

If I was made of ice cream instead of light, I’d be a fantastic combination of strawberry, banana, and kiwi.

I’d be scooped into the biggest cone.

People would pose with me, on Instagram, Snapchat, you name it!

I would be loved and appreciated.

But I am made of light not ice cream.

I am cursed and violated although I mean no harm.

If only they tasted my flavors as ice cream.

Alas, I scream.

— Stuck in Traffic