SCREEN DIARY: WOFFF Best Of The Fest UK Tour 2019

We ventured into the wilds of Waltham Forest to imbibe the warming spirits of Mother’s Ruin & (really) enjoy the Women Over 50 Film Festival’s ‘Best Of The Fest’ pop-up event, part of a new UK tour. Here’s our RADIANT CIRCUS writeup.

Screen Diary: WOFFF: THE MATCHMAKER d. Leonora Pitts (2017).
Screen Diary: WOFFF: THE MATCHMAKER d. Leonora Pitts (2017).

Introduced by festival director Nuala O’Sullivan and the loyal band of board members behind the community interest company that is the Women Over 50 Film Festival (WOFFF), the ‘Best of The Fest Tour 2019’ popped-up at Mother’s Ruin gin palace in E17 for an afternoon of cocktails and shorts.

We landed a little late – having been to the Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme at ICA earlier in the day – arriving in time to catch about two thirds of the shorts. The principled brief for the festival – films featuring women over 50 either in front of the camera and/or behind the lens as writer, producer or director – gives rise to a boldly multi-faceted programme. As you’d expect from Take One’s Feminist Film Festival of 2018, some of the films put perspectives on ageing within male-dominated structures front and centre, whilst others simply beam from the same, rich talent pool. Reminiscent of SUPAKINO’s Turbans Through Time event at the London Short Film Festival, this is the kind of calm but determined radicalism that creates vital stepping stones for change by simply eliminating the argument. What (always) matters is the quality of filmmaking and the resultant increase in the creativity and diversity of stories that get told. All measures are met by the joyful – sometimes angry, always robust – programming at WOFFF.

Mother’s Ruin was full of an enthusiastic audience – none quite so vocal perhaps as the venue’s bar manager, leading big-hearted whoops, laughter and applause after each short from behind his dispensary – showing that this annual event is heading from strength to strength as a barometer of social change.

Screen Diary: WOFFF: GOOD GIRLS DON’T d. Ana de Lara (2017).
Screen Diary: WOFFF: GOOD GIRLS DON’T d. Ana de Lara (2017).

Of the many moving images on offer, here are our highlights:

LADY M d. Tammy Riley Smith, 2018
Samantha Bond stars as an actor seeking to be cast as Lady M in a new production of The Scottish Play. Rejected for the role because of her age, she invokes other overlooked older women – all destined to be cast as hags and witches – to summon a powerful argument for more dynamic casting.

TOUGH d. Jennifer Zheng, 2016
Bold primary colours create a stirring backdrop for this animated exposé of childhood cultural misunderstandings as generations finally talk across time. Simply beautiful.

THE MATCHMAKER d. Leonora Pitts, 2017
An audience pleaser as son Sam tries to help is mother avoid ‘Alz’ in a mixed retirement home offering both independent and assisted living. Rhea Perlman is considered to be the perfect match but undermines – and maybe misconstrues – Sam’s true intentions. Great comic writing and performances are served up with a slow cinema take on CASABLANCA.

GOOD GIRLS DON’T d. Ana de Lara, 2017
Another North American crowd-pleaser as a young Filipina-Canadian girl seeks to buck the traditions of her conservative Catholic family and enrol to play basketball. It will take a miracle… and lo, one comes to pass, but not before the threat that playing sport will turn her into a boy – “you’ll grow a penis!”– is hilariously exposed.

SNAKE HIPS LULU d. Lulu Keating, 2018
What a climax.. Dawson City resident Lulu Keating recounts her life story and wonders if she might be the reincarnation of Snake Hips Lulu, legendary dancehall girl of the Klondike Gold Rush. Along the way we learn of the toll taken on Keating’s body from her enthusiastic participation in the summer of free love, resulting in new hips from too much “load-bearing exercise”. After all, “You can’t always be on top”. Glorious.

As to Mother’s Ruin, we tried the Dutch Old Fashioned and something with blueberries from the Winter Cocktail menu: both were expertly mixed and come highly recommended. We didn’t have quite enough time between shorts to grapple with the 80+ gin menu, which will surely be fuel for a further visit.

And that’s the meat of it…

Thanks to Mother’s Ruin, Nuala and her festival team for an inspiring afternoon full of arresting shorts, great company and body-warming cocktails. Catch the ‘Best Of The Fest Tour’ in venues outside London and make a visit to the Brighton-based festival when it returns (21 to 22 SEP 2019). All the links are below.

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Featured image: TOUGH d. Jennifer Zheng, 2016.

Radiant Circus