Archives for category: Culture

Here’s something I wrote recently with my Magic Lantern Film Club hat on…

In Saudi Arabia, men and women are two very different groups indeed. This has grown out of custom and tradition, rather than any religious doctrines. It means that, in public and in the cities at least, the sexes are segregated. If you happen to be born female, you are forbidden to drive, can’t go out in public without a male chaperone and spend your entire life under the ‘protection’ of a male guardian who decides all the important things for you.

It is a culture portrayed in our next film, the wonderful Wadjda (Al-Mansour 2012). The film is the story of a defiant 10-year-old girl who wears sneakers to school and hangs out with boys. She becomes set on getting a bicycle so she can race (and beat) her friend, avoiding the restrictions of Saudi womanhood for as long as she can. It’s a touching and funny coming of age story, showing the strong relationship between a girl and her mother. I can’t think of many other films off the top of my head where this relationship is the central one in the film.

Wadjda-FILMBut Wadjda is not just a good film. It is the first feature film made entirely in Saudi Arabia (a place where access to cinema is limited) and is the first made by a female Saudi director. She made it in spite of the restrictions she faced (she had to direct the street scenes via walkie-talkie from the back of a van). This important piece of cinema enables us to have a little window on this closed and conservative culture, where girls can’t play in the playground because there are some workmen nearby who might see them and don’t ride bicycles because it is believed it will prevent them from having children.

I’ve never been to Saudi, I know I look at this culture with Western eyes and many Saudi women are happy with the way things are (though many also want change). But quite frankly the society portrayed in this film disgusts me – if this was discrimination based on race, there’d be global outrage. As it is, it’s just the way they do things there. Well it’s not right. The way I see it, restricting the freedoms of 50% of people because of their physiology is simple oppression.

506102288Here at Magic Lantern Film Club we don’t have a political agenda for our programming. We try to be inclusive and offer everybody the chance to participate in the wonder of watching a film, of being transported elsewhere for a while. But Mel, Jenny and I are three independent, well-educated, liberal women. We have opinions on gender equality. We like to see strong female characters in film, a medium we love.

Because as well as being magic, cinema has an important role in illuminating the ways in which other people live and addressing injustices. The recent 12 Years A Slave opened many people’s eyes to just how inhuman, degrading and downright awful American slavery was. (By the way, Wadjda‘s not like this at all. There’s no harsh feminist message rammed down your throat. It’s as much about the bicycle as a symbol of freedom, or just a sweet film about growing up.)

I want to see a world where people aren’t divided and categorised so much, not least based on gender (a social rather than biological construct). Maybe cinema can help us get there.



I had a morning of art and popped in to the lovely Graves Art Gallery in Sheffield to see The Triumph of Maximilian I. It’s a parade of images (500-year-old woodblock prints!) commissioned by the Roman Emperor in the early 16th century to make sure he was remembered. The intricacy of the prints is astonishing, and it really is no wonder that the artist/printer spent 10 years on them.

Each print has a blank space that was intended to show accompanying verse written by Maximilian, but this never got printed for some reason.

Nevertheless, ‘triumph’ certainly is the fitting word – and what a great word too! It comes from Latin via Old French in the late 14th century and is now associated with both motorcycles and bras.

Sheffield’s best festival starts this Friday, so I’m spreading the word…

Named after a 1984 track by Sheffield band Cabaret Voltaire, Sensoria (emphasis on the penultimate syllable) has just been getting better and better every year. It is a festival of music, film and the intersection of the two. This year’s highlights include a residency by KLF man Bill Drummond and local band 65daysofstatic performing a live soundtrack to the 1972 sci fi film Silent Running (as well as Bibliotheque Discotheque that I mentioned in an earlier post).

The word ‘sensoria’ appears in the dictionary (pronounced differently) as the plural form of ‘sensorium’, which is “the sensory apparatus or faculties considered as a whole”.

So if you’re in Sheffield 29 April to 8 May, make the most of the sensorium stimulation on offer. Full details of everything happening are on the Sensoria 2011 website.