Ah, January. The start of a new year. Some people take this time to make resolutions and think about all that they will accomplish in the next 365 days. We here at Film Combat Syndicate take the time to reflect on last year’s events (books, films, etc.), but also to gear up for everything that will be released this year. And that includes film festivals! Yes, we are getting ready to cover the 7th edition of the Final Girls Berlin Film Festival (FGBFF) which will run from February 3rd through the 6th.
What’s that? You don’t know anything about the Final Girls Berlin Film Festival? Let me enlighten you:
The festival is Berlin’s premier showcase of horror films made by women* and non-binary filmmakers and will return to City Kino Wedding for their full program of feature films, short blocks, talks by international horror specialists, and a retro screening. In addition to the live line-up, FGBFF will offer most of their short film programs online for worldwide on-demand access during the festival.
The line-up so far includes feature films, shorts, and talks/workshops. Here is what we know so far:
WE ARE ALL GOING TO THE WORLD’S FAIR – Berlin Premiere
Dir. Jane Schoenbrun, USA, 2021
“I want to go to the World’s Fair. I want to go to the World’s Fair. I want to go to the World’s Fair.” Say it three times into your computer camera. Prick your finger, draw some blood, and smear it on the screen. Now press play on the video. They say that once you’ve seen it, the changes begin… In a small town, a shy and isolated teenage girl (Anna Cobb in a stunning feature debut) becomes immersed in an online role-playing game, wherein she begins to document the changes that may or may not be happening to her.
HELLBENDER – German Premiere
Dirs. Toby Poser, Zelda Adams & John Adams, USA 2021
A mother and daughter live in the middle of nowhere, relying only on each other. Teenager Izzy spends most of her time in nature and her home studio rocking out with her mom. Her mother doesn‘t want Izzy to go near anyone else – for fear of disaster. Is this maternal overprotectiveness, or is there something supernatural at play? This witchy coming-of-age film directed by the Adams family (mother Toby Poser, daughter Zelda Adams, and husband/father John Adams) is a thrilling and emotional ride exploring family dynamics, the changeability of identity and notions of power.
HERE BEFORE – Berlin Premiere
Dir. Stacey Gregg, UK, 2021
When a new family moves in next door, their young daughter, Megan, quickly captivates Laura (played to paranoid perfection by Andrea Riseborough), stirring up painful memories of her own daughter who died several years previously. Before long, Laura’s memories turn to obsession as Megan’s unsettling behaviour begins to convince her of something supernatural. As Laura’s determination to get to the bottom of it becomes all-consuming, her family begins to fracture and the line between the extraordinary and the real becomes ever more obscured in this haunting story about a mother’s love.
YOU ARE NOT MY MOTHER – German Premiere
Dir. Kate Dolan, Ireland, 2021
It’s the week before Halloween and Char’s mother, Angela, has inexplicably disappeared. All that remains is her abandoned car. When she returns home without explanation the following evening, it becomes clear to Char and her grandmother, Rita, that something is amiss. She might look and sound the same but Angela’s behaviour has become increasingly frightening, as if she has been replaced by a malevolent force. When Halloween arrives, a night steeped in ancient myth and legend, Char realises that she is the only one who can save her, even if it means potentially losing her forever.
Dir. Frida Kempff, Sweden, 2021
Molly, a woman who has just experienced a traumatic incident, is unnerved by a haunting knocking sound from upstairs in her new apartment building. As the noises become more desperate and increasingly sound like cries for help, she confronts her neighbours, but seems to be the only one that can hear them. In an unsettling quest for truth, Molly soon realises that no one believes her and begins to question if she even believes herself – a realisation that is perhaps even more chilling.
GOOD MADAM – German Premiere
Dir. Jenna Cato Bass, South Africa, 2021
Tsidi, a single mother, is forced to move in with her estranged mother Mavis, a live-in domestic worker caring obsessively for her catatonic white ‘Madam’. As Tsidi tries to heal her family however, a sinister spectre begins to stir.
Dir. Lynne Stopkewich, Canada, 1996
Sandra is attracted to primary post-mortem. Death is something she wants to get close to. In her quest, Sandra lands a job at the local funeral parlor. So begins her initiation into the funeral industry and the hidden world of undertaking. While studying embalming, she meets Matt (Peter Outerbridge), a lonely intense medical student. Faced with Matt’s mounting obsession and conventional notions of love, sex, and death, Sara finds that sometimes there is a way of crossing over.
SHORT FILM PROGRAMS
I. SOCIAL ILLS
The Goldfish — Dir. Ashley Paige Brim, USA, 2021
She Whistles — Dir. Thirza Cuthand, Canada, 2021
Smile — Dir. Joanna Tsanis, Canada, 2021
Dedication — Dir. Selina Sondermann, Germany, 2021
The Expected — Dir. Carolina Sandvik, Sweden, 2021
Beta Male — Dir. Marianne Chase, UK, 2021
Dana — Dir. Lucia Forner Segarra, Spain, 2021
Menarca — Dir. Lillah Halla, Brazil, 2020
Fire Season — Dir. Jacqueline Kramer, USA, 2021
Watcher — Dir. Meg Swertlow, USA, 2021
Massacre — Dir. Maïté Sonnet, France, 2019
III. MEDICAL HORROR
Our First Priority — Dir. Ariel Baska, USA, 2021
Occupational Hazard — Dir. Ursula Ellis, USA, 2021
Freya — Dir. Camille Hollett-French, Canada, 2020
They Called Me David — Dir. Lindsay Hallam, UK, 2021
Hysteria — Dir. Jenna Payne, USA, 2021
The Living — Dir. Cleo Handler, USA, 2021
Updated — Dir. Nivi Pedersen, Greenland, 2021
Red is the Color of Beauty — Dir. Beck Kitsis, USA, 2021
Inch Thick Knee Deep — Dir. Anatasha Blakely, USA, 2021
Hannya — Dir. Eva Muñoz, France, 2021
Sister — Dir. Mikaela Bruce, Spain, 2020
Girls Night In — Dir. Alison Roberto, USA, 2021
Murderers Prefer Blondes — Dirs. Mika Bar On Nesher & Mary Neely, USA, 2021
V. QUEER HORROR
Gay Teen Werewolf — Dir. Andy Rose Fidoten, USA, 2020
Itch — Dir. Susannah Farrugia, UK/Malta, 2021
Protection Spell — Dir. Maren Moreno, USA, 2021
Sundown Town — Dir. Mylo Butler, Produced by Tamia Bailey & Yajarrah Paul, USA, 2021
The Cost of Living — Dir. Alice Trueman, UK, 2021
Bitten, A Tragedy — Dir. Monika Estrella Negra, USA, 2021
New Flesh for the Old Ceremony — Dir. Elizabeth Rakhilkina, USA, 2020
MonsterDykë — Dir. Kaye Adelaide & Mariel Scammel, Canada, 2021
Verified — Dir. Ali Chappell, Canada, 2021
ARM — Dir. Jill Worsely, UK 2021
It Came From the Kitchen! — Dir. Jessica Salgado, USA, 2021
Young Forever — Dir. Stevie Szerlip, USA, 2021
Victim No.6 — Dir. Nancy Menagh, USA, 2021
Posted No Hunting — Dir. Alisa Stern, USA, 2021
Crafty Witch — Dir. Laura-Beth Cowley, UK, 2021
Death Valley — Dir. Grace Sloan, USA, 2021
Visitors — Dir. Kenichi Ugana, Produced by WATANABE, Japan, 2021
Ghoul Log — Dir. Christine Pfister, USA, 2019
Three Ways to Dine Well — Dir. Alison Peirse, UK, 2021
Demon Juice — Dir. Shannon Brown, USA, 2021
Binge and Purgatory — Dir. Rebecca Kozak, USA, 2021
Misophonia — Dir. Julianna Robinson, USA, 2021
Such Small Hands — Dir. Maria Martínez Bayona, UK, 2020
VII. MENACING PRESENCES
Sleep Without A Dream — Dirs. Prudence Njeri & Benji Irwin, Canada, 2021
Inheritance — Dir. Annalise Lockhart, USA, 2021
Brackish — Dir. Christa Boarini, USA, 2021
Housekreeping — Dir. Kyle Dunbar, Written and Produced by Rebecca Callender, Canada, 2021
Piece by Piece — Dir.Chloé Sirois, Canada, 2021
Sudden Light — Dir. Sophie Littman, UK, 2021
Cloud — Dir. Joséphine Darcy Hopkins, France, 2020
TALKS & WORKSHOPS
QUEER AUTHORSHIP, SPECTATORSHIP, GAZE, AND SENSIBILITY
Lecture by May Santiago, adjunct professor at George Mason University
In “Queer Authorship, Spectatorship, Gaze, & Sensibility in Horror,” May Santiago examines the use of queer bodies in horror films, specifically in how horror films differ in context when the author (director and/or writer) is queer or non-queer. She will also track how the use of queer bodies and queerness has been used in horror films — from The Old Dark House (1932) to Knife+Heart (2017). Finally, she will propose the idea of a queer sensibility, where queer authors in the horror genre infuse their films that star non-queer leads with a certain brand of queerness.
HOW TO MAKE YOUR OWN HORROR FANZINE
Workshop by artists Nessa Finnegan and Eloise Leigh
In this 90-minute workshop, we will use the DIY format of zines to explore the alternative subcultures and obsessions of the horror community through “Top 5” horror-related prompts. There will be a brief history of zines and how historically they’ve been used to communicate alternative perspectives in horror and feminism. You will make your own 8-page zine using paper and collage-making techniques. All materials will be provided, and everyone is welcome. Witches too.
FREAKS, MONSTERS & VILLAINS – WHO’S AFRAID OF THE UGLY?
Lecture by writer and filmmaker Ervehea Ceji
Originating from the Old Norse ‘ugglig’, meaning ‘to be feared or dreaded’, the term ‘ugly’ is now mostly used as an antonym for ‘beautiful’. Imagining the horror genre without elements of ‘the ugly’ seems almost impossible, as ugliness, often perceived as something disgusting and repulsive, forms the aesthetical basis for the horrors of the genre. In this talk, we are going to explore how ‘the ugly’ is represented in the horror genre by applying an intersectional feminist perspective. We will examine how sexism, racism, ableism, and classism still provide continuities within the idea of the ugly and, thus, in the horror genre itself.
BLOODY WOMEN! BOOK LAUNCH
Q&A with author Victoria McCollum, senior lecturer at Ulster University and filmmaker Aislinn Clarke
Join us for the European launch of Bloody Women! Women Directors of Horror, a new book dedicated to women who have played an integral part of horror cinema, as creators, consumers, and critics, from the very start – shaping and supporting what horror cinema is. This launch will include a discussion about the original and timely content of the new book; a screening of an award-winning short horror film written and directed by one of the authors; and a Q&A with McCollum and Clarke on the subject of ‘Bloody Women’.
BLACK WOMEN IN HORROR PANEL — BITCHES, BABES, AND BADASSES: EXPLORING BLACK FINAL GIRLS IN HORROR HISTORY
Lecture by archivist and historian Adia Cullors
In this lecture, Adia Cullors will discuss the unique and overlooked role of Black final girls in
horror history. With their origins in 1970’s Blaxploitation, Black final girls are often depicted as being highly sexual, strong, matriarchial, and altruistic. Over the past fifty years, these women have evolved to become mainstays of high-profile Black horror films. So long as Black women have been survivors in horror they have also been targets for biting critique and controversy surrounding who should control the role of Black womanhood on screen. Using archival film reviews and opinions pieces this talk will discuss not only how Black women have evolved on the horror screen but also how, over the past fifty years, that evolution has been shaped, challenged, and embraced by Black audiences and critics.
MOTHERS, LOVERS, AND OTHERS: AN EXAMINATION OF BLACK FEMALE CHARACTERS IN HORROR FILMS
Lecture by Stoker Award™ nominated writer Rhonda Jackson Joseph
This lecture is an interdisciplinary examination of varying depictions of Black women in horror films through the lenses of gender, film, and cultural studies. The analysis is rooted in the oppositional gaze as introduced by Bell Hooks and the male gaze coined by Laura Mulvey and will explore how many experiences of Black women in film are horrific and nuanced.
VAMPIRE WITCH SISTAHS
Lecture by Tira Adams, host of the Mistress of the Imaginarium show
This talk will take us on tour through history, from the blues lyrics where The Conjure Woman first shows up to films like SCREAM, BLACULA, SCREAM (1974), THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW (1988), EVE’S BAYOU (1997), and LEMONADE (2016), ending with television shows like TRUE BLOOD (2008 – 2014), and AMERICAN GODS in order to highlight how these women evolved from only occupying the space of the feared communal outcast to being embraced for their feminist ideals, all the while taking viewers on an emotional journey that often ends in self-fulfillment.
So make sure you check back here for our reviews. I can’t wait to see several of these films!