Review: #Female Pleasure
by Muriel Del Don
- LOCARNO 2018: Female sexuality takes centre stage as Swiss director Barbara Miller presents her latest documentary in Critics’ Week at the Locarno Film Festival
Having already bagged the Amnesty International Award at the San Sebastián Film Festival for her documentary Forbidden Voices (2012), Barbara Miller is once again taking on the absurdities of the patriarchal world – a world from which women are perennially excluded - in her latest work, #Female Pleasure [+see also:
film profile], which world premiered this week at the Locarno Film Festival.
#Female Pleasure tackles the topic of sexuality in the 21st century from a woman’s perspective, arguing that pleasure is a universal right and refuting the ancient and stifling patriarchal structure which would have us believe that pleasure is a realm reserved for men, and men alone.
In her latest documentary, the Swiss director fixes her lens on five brave women who have made the decision to rebel against the chauvinist societies which seek to destroy them. With respect and a healthy dose of humour, Miller follows their rebellion, where their weapon is their sexuality, which they live freely, with joy and respect. Despite the very different cultures in which they are fighting, these five modern heroines are united by a common goal: to take (back) control of their lives.
As a direct result of the societies in which they live, where religious dogmas and chauvinist stereotypes reduce women to mere sexual objects or reproductive vessels, our protagonists have experienced depersonalisation in its purest form. Their personal annihilation was experienced as an assault, cruelly enacted by a society which places zero value on women. Galvanised by a burning desire for change, the heroines of #Female Pleasure confront their torturers, holding up a mirror to the absurdity of their “logic”.
Theirs is a successful struggle which finally enables them to assert their sexuality – a sexuality which has been stifled for far too long. Miller’s documentary exposes audiences to the horrors that are faced by too many women, all around the world, and all in the name of a patriarchal society which reduces the female body to a human incubator. But the film’s protagonists are women who assert their right to choose how they live their lives, in spite of it all, taking back control of their emotions and their bodies - bodies which are no longer reproductive casings, but repositories of emotion, and vectors of pleasure and pride. The director creates a puzzle of lives which are successfully pieced together almost by miracle. Through her lens, the suffering of the five protagonists in #Female Pleasure is transformed into strength and courage personified.
What this documentary seems to want to tell us is that it’s never too late to assert our right to exist. Women can and must assert their sexuality, not for the sake of duty, but in the name of pleasure, because this sexuality fast becomes a weapon with which to fight a patriarchy-prison of grotesque proportions.
#Female Pleasure was produced by Mons Veneris Films, Das Kollektiv für audiovisuelle Werke and Indi film in co-production with SRF, RTS, RSI, ARTE and Teleclub. International film sales are managed by CAT&Docs.
(Translated from Italian)
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