Glasgow Film Festival 2020 sits over International Womens Day this year, and coincidentally there is a key focus this year in the programme on female filmmakers with the Women Make Film strand. Part of this strand includes a five part screening of Mark Cousin‘s 14 hour documentary, Women Make Film. Mark spoke with The Fountain about the film in more depth, as well as the onerous but pleasurable process it was to select the films for this thorough documentary.
TF: Now it’s quite a year for the Glasgow Film Festival isn’t it with a very strong programme and certainly with it giving something back towards women filmmakers, how do you feel about that?
Yes I think it is a very strong year for the Glasgow Film Festival, it’s always going from strength to strength. It has always shown films by many women filmmakers but this year like many other film festivals, it’s doing a lot more and that’s fantastic. I am on the board of Michael Moore’s film festival in Traverse City, Michigan, and a few years ago we did 100% women filmmakers so every single director was a woman. And so people are doing lots of stuff and Glasgow’s programme is fantastic I think.
TF: Their Women Make Film strand is something else, it reminds me of a regular night Kate Hardie used to host in London, do you want to elaborate on that strand?
Think of Edinburgh Film Festival in the 1970s when they did their major discoveries. Clare Johnson did it and Lynda Myles did it, so people are really saying look back at our movie history, there are loads of great women in it. So it’s great that Glasgow’s doing that and the films that they are showing, particularly the Jacqueline Audry film, pretty heavily criticised and suppressed by the male critics in France and so on, I am delighted that they are showing one of her films in particular. And of course, Larisa Shepitko’s films The Ascent is one of the best films ever made. It’s simply one of the best war films ever made, one of the best films full stop.
TF: What inspired you to screen your 14 hour documentary at the Glasgow Film Festival and in this fashion of five parts?
Well, they invited me, you know it’s screening all around the world, I go to New York tomorrow where it is screening, I was thrilled. I love the Glasgow Film Festival to be honest so I was delighted. It is a work I have been working on for many many many many years and it is a global look at the great female directors and guess what, it was made here in Glasgow and Edinburgh. I think we are quite proud of the fact that here is where this film has been made. Biggest film on the subject ever has been made in Edinburgh and Glasgow.
TF: That is quite fascinating, and it must have been so also to work with Tilda Swinton on this project.
Yeah, I have worked with Tilda Swinton many times, we go way back, so we did The Ballerina Ballroom in Nairn and we did a pilgrimage in which we pulled a cinema across Scotland. I was honoured that she would work on this one. I sent her the rough cuts. She texted me saying, “I am fourteen minutes in and I love it.” So this is a 14 hour film and after 14 minutes she texted saying that she loved it. I think one of the reasons that she liked it is that it is treating these filmmakers as filmmakers, it is not talking about them as women particularly, it is just looking at them as artists, and I think to talk about them in other ways might have been revictimising them in a way, and we didn’t want to take a victim story. And then I pushed my luck and I asked Tilda if she would like to Executive Produce the film and she said yes and I was thrilled.
TF: Regarding the process, it must have been a difficulty to go through all the films that had been made by women filmmakers, what were the highlights when choosing the films, it must’ve been a difficult process?
Well it was a very pleasurable process but yes, it was a lot of work, huge amounts of work to watch all that stuff, cause there’s loads. People say “how do you say this material” or people say, “I have been studying women’s film for twenty years and I have never heard about a lot of this stuff” and all I did was Google great female filmmakers from Bulgaria, great female filmmakers from Japan, great female filmmakers from Argentina, great female filmmakers from Mexico, and the information is out there. And then the difficult bit is watching all the stuff, there’s thousands of films to watch. There used to be an old phrase, to have an inquiring mind, you know, and the people I work with do. Just because we haven’t heard of a great female filmmaker from Venezuela, doesn’t mean there isn’t one, it just means we haven’t heard of her.
Women Make Film begins on 6th March at 5:30pm as part of the Glasgow Film Festival