I saw this film: Women Talking directed by Sarah Polley

Yesterday I saw Women Talking, and it absorbed me in a way no other film has. I loved it, and could watch it again and again.

Women Talking is based on the 2018 book by Miriam Toews. I have not read it, but research tells me that her novel is a response to the sedation and rapes that took place in Bolivia, in a remote Mennonite colony. The day-to-day life of the women and children in this community would have shared similarities with the author’s own conservative Mennonite up-bringing in Canada.

The rapists in Bolivia used a veterinary anaesthetic to sedate their victims. It was years before the abuse was exposed, and finally acknowledged as not being satanic or imagined by the women and girls. The case went to trial in 2011.

If the idea of a film about rape is putting you off, let me tell you that no act of sexual violence is shown. Rather this is a film about consequences, about women, about collaboration and forgiveness. The camera’s focus is on these profoundly isolated and educationally deprived females, who have to decide for themselves what to do, their first act being to find the language to negotiate their collective response.

Polley, with the most extraordinary care and cast, allows the women to feel for the words. Their meetings are set in a hayloft where they address each other across generations and different degrees of harm. The minutes are taken by a gentle male school teacher, who witnesses their discussions – the bitter arguments, the respect, the listening, the anger, the pain and their faith.

Please don’t let any possible reservations you may have stop you from going to watch this film. It is encouraging, despite the trauma at its core.

Here’s a link to an interview with the director and cast.

Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2023

Heard an interview with Eliza Carthy on This Cultural Life

Eliza Carthy kept me company on a slow drive through London today. I know her, but only via memories of the annual Sidmouth folk festival where she was always one of the big names. We loved the festival, and the community and generosity around the sharing of music.

The interview began with her childhood, and her folk musician parents, whose music soon swept her up on to the stage with them. Once there her reputation grew and grew. Like her parents, she became one of English folk music’s greats, and was on a roll, until the pandemic struck. Suddenly there was a void where there should have been performances, and in the background her mother was desperately ill. I could feel the courage and cost in her voice when she spoke of that time, saying that being well known in the world of folk music, meant that many assumed they would be well off … but they weren’t. She described folk music as a ‘cottage industry’, and said it received little official support during the pandemic.

The interview left me wondering why we undervalue so much of our cultural life.

The positive news is that, Eliza Carthy is performing again. I think her next performance is at the Barbican on the 4th of February.

Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2023

The Photographers’ Gallery – London

The Photographers’ Gallery, in the Soho Photography Quarter in London, is a brand new space to me. In case it might be to you, here’s a little more about its history.

The gallery opened in 1971 in Covent Garden, and was the first space in the UK dedicated solely to photography and photographers. The founder was Sue Davies OBE (1933 -2020) who, for many years, played a crucial role in building the community of artists and enthusiasts around the gallery, and in raising money to support the exhibitions. As the gallery grew so did awareness of the power of photography. Sue Davies was the director until 1991.

In 2008 the gallery moved from Covent Garden, and after a bit of re-arrangement, opened in its new building in Ramillies Street in 2012. The area around it is now known as the Soho Photography Quarter (just off Oxford Street). I loved the feel of the area, and of the gallery as soon as I stepped into it.

Before my visit I did a little research into the gallery. I found this under Visitor Information on its website:

“Photography, curiosity, and respect for people’s health and safety is encouraged everywhere”

I look forward to visiting again.

Here is a link to an article about Sue Davies OBE, including a short audio

Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2023