Take One Action film festival takes place in Edinburgh and Glasgow from September 12-23 and shares powerful stories from 27 countries. Event screenings bring together communities, filmmakers, politicians, journalists, campaigners, businesses, academics and artists that want to inspire and to change the world. International, empowering, creative, accessible and questioning are the five key values of the festival. Follow-on digital and weekend screenings in Aberdeen & Inverness create further opportunities for debate and social networking.
This year’s festival focuses on female trailblazers. With over forty films screened during the festival, sixty percent of them are directed or codirected by women. Moving Docs documentaries Golden Dawn Girls and Silvana also screen during the festival. “These are two extremely topical stories, which are presented through markedly different documentary approaches,” says festival director Tamara van Strijthem. During the imprisonment of the male leaders of Golden Dawn, women take matters into their own hands. Dafni, Jenny and Ourania, three generations tell the story about their political belief and leadership since 2015. However, the Golden Dawn Girls are not the only female characters that play a leading role in the festival. Swedish rapper Silvana Imam uses her voice to fight for the equality of women. The lesbian, feminist and anti-racist punk rapper grows to be an icon for women and forms a couple with Swedish pop-artist Beatrice Eli.
Get to know more about the Moving Docs Scottish partner, Take One Action, from the executive director of the festival, Tamara van Strijthem.
“Our mission statement was to make world-class films about issues of global concern more widely enjoyed and discussed by diverse communities in the UK”
1. What are your criteria for selecting the documentaries you screen at your festival?
We have many different criteria, encompassing thematic and artistic considerations as well as local and global contexts. The films should be relevant to our focus, which is social and environmental justice – with a strong emphasis on people power. We love to present films that allow our audiences to find their own connection to stories of global significance. Take One Action is a film festival: artistic quality and, where relevant, journalistic integrity are both paramount; whether fiction or documentary, live action or animation, the films we screen are creative works that reflect a plurality of voices and approaches in contemporary cinema. We also tend to prioritise films that do not solely focus on the ills of the world, but also offer a sense of hope – and inspiration. Celebrating diverse voices and women’s empowerment has been a key focus of our festival for several years, and this is reflected both in the stories we spotlight and the filmmakers we champion – with sixty percent of the films in our programme this year having been directed or co-directed by women.
2. What drew you to the Moving Docs titles, Golden Dawn Girlsand Silvana?
These are two extremely topical stories, which are presented through markedly different documentary approaches. The rise of the far right in Europe (and many other parts of the world) is a reality we cannot ignore, and Golden Dawn Girls makes it possible to grapple with the mechanics, motivations and drive of a group of people that are so protective of their image. It’s an uncomfortable watch, at times, but utterly fascinating. Silvana is just such a charismatic, complex and talented individual; at first I found her incredibly annoying and feared she had little of substance to say – but she is fiercely intelligent and I was completely awed by her. I was also really taken by how much she allowed her vulnerability to be explored on screen. The fact that the film was directed by 3 female filmmakers, working in a completely non-hierarchical, collaborative fashion, also made the film more intriguing, as this is a unique approach (which is not without its challenges).
3. Are there any films you would rather not screen because of their sensitive/controversial topics?
That is an interesting and difficult question. I am profoundly perturbed by what many people refer to as “No Platforming” and it’s not something I would ever want to espouse, but there are films I would struggle to justify screening. We do have strong ethical guidelines governing our approach to everything we do, including where we would accept funding from, and this obviously also informs the type of films we screen. I’d like to think that, thanks to the way in which we present films (all of our screenings are followed by audience-led discussions), we also have the opportunity to contextualise a film – from its production to the way it is perceived – so as long as a film doesn’t feel exploitative or sets out to spread hate of misinformation, we would consider it.
Over the years, however, we have moved away from screening films that hit you over the head with how grim the world is… We do tend to privilege films that offer a sense of hope, a source of inspiration in terms of how change can and does happen. Yet there are films that just demand to be seen in the context of festivals such as ours, and realities you can’t turn away from – such as the war in Syria, the fate of the Rohingya… I wouldn’t want to shut ourselves off from sharing such films, but I wouldn't want our programme to consist solely of hard-hitting docs.
“Film watching is an inherently passive experience, but our events challenge this”
4. What do you hope people take away from your screenings and events?
Our primary hope is that people will have been able to experience a connection between their lives, their realities, and the stories explored on screen –and that they will have appreciated the film we shared with them, of course! Beyond that relatively passive experience, however, we also hope that people will have connected to their own power to make a difference on the issues they care about, that the conversations we foster at our events will have empowered them into their own journey of change – beyond the screen(ing).
5. Why do you think it is important to gather people together to watch documentaries and discuss certain topics?
When we first started the festival, we had an important role to play in widening access to films and documentaries. Accessing international cinema – and especially documentaries – is a lot easier now, but we still have an important role to play in bringing people together to do so. There’s such a huge difference between watching a film on a laptop and experiencing a film on a big screen, with other human beings. We want to continue to provide opportunities for the communal exploration of the stories, ideas and questions at the heart of positive social change. Every single one of our screenings features an audience-led discussion, which enables further reflection – whether with journalists, academics, grassroots campaigners or policy makers. Film watching is an inherently passive experience, but our events challenge this; not only do they challenge passivity, they also challenge apathy and hopelessness – and that’s one of the aspects I value most about our work.
6. What is something new that you are excited to share with your audiences this year?
We look at ways of responding to the wider cultural and social landscapes and to audience feedback on a constant basis. We experiment with different settings and different venues – and this year we’ll be working in our most boutique venue ever: a two-seater cinema in an old police box on a busy North Edinburgh street, screening a special programme of short exploring bio-diversity, social change, kindness… We’re also excited to be hosting live performances by music and spoken word artists (after our screenings of Silvana), and to be expanding our collaborations with other festivals and community organisations, with a special programme of short films programmed by members of Glasgow’s refugee community, and a couple of events mixing international food and films: two of the best things in the world!
Want to know more about Take One Action? Visit the website www.takeoneaction.org.uk or Facebook, Take One Action film festival.
International Media and Entertainment Management student and Intern at Moving Docs