The Grrl Haus cinema series—which will be hosting its second block of programming at the Brattle Theatre tomorrow—might represent the kind of gathering we’ve taken to calling a “safe space.” The series announces itself as being “for underrepresented female voices” in film art, and it accepts those voices from all traditions: fiction or nonfiction, music videos or profile pieces, narrative or experimental, local or global—the resulting night of cinema should be like a sugar rush of visual flourishes and aural pleasures. The space itself may be safe, but the movies playing won’t be.
For that we can thank Anastasia Cazabon, the photographer and filmmaker who curates the program. She contributes to the sugar rush, too—at least two of her works will be screened on Thursday night, and they’re characterized by her phantasmagorical eye. In Waiting Games, she has actresses Amy and Jenny Plante featuring as two unwilling shut-in’s. They’re sisters awaiting the arrival of a vaguely defined apocalypse; we get hints at the crisis via a news report playing on a fuzzy TV in the background, but the audio is edited to go in and out. Flashbacks to the girl’s childhood interrupts the movie’s rhythm even further. Soon enough we start cutting to a kitty trailing through our field of vision. Everything the narrative communicates gets fragmented by film form itself.
You could say the same of the Cazabon-directed music video that’s playing during Grrl Haus, ”Me and Mine,” for the Mini Dresses. Her antic filmmaking cycles through symbols of witchcraft and womanhood: tarot cards, energy stones, and other such totems fill the screen. And then they start to fill each other, via Cazabon’s intricate series of superimpositions. The dense editing and vividly rendered iconography give off the kind of vibe you’d expect to find at a wiccan-hosted light show. And the subconscious effect of the aesthetic onslaught is something like what you get from watching flicker films. But then again, you never left those movies feeling like you might have been cursed.
Not everything being screened skews that far toward the experimental. Another one of the works we got an early look at—Angela Experiments, a 10-minute piece by Sara Meyers—is more like local arts journalism. Meyers is profiling Angela Sawyer, an experimental musician whose selected stand-up comedy as her next craft. Footage from her sets—a starter performance at Grandma’s Basement in Fenway, or more recent works from clubs around her Jamaica Plain residence—are interspersed with an interview recorded with the subject from her bedroom. Cazabon is listed in the “special thanks” section of the short’s credits, and when you see that, you can’t help but wonder if there’s a “Grrl Haus Filmmaking Collective” percolating here. The crossovers keep piling up, after all: Waiting Game’s Jenny Plante has her own films in the program, and the Mini Dresses will be playing at the Brattle that evening—the theater itself even gets a shout-out, in one set of credits.
But that assumption about the collective is too easy to make. These artists aren’t forming a tradition—they’re cutting across them. Numerous filmmakers from around the globe (like the Melbourne-based Youjia Lu and the NYC-based Allison Wade) will have their work played in Cazabon’s program. If the Grrl Haus program has a voice that’s specific to more than just gender, it’ll take more than just two evenings to establish it. For now, what the program has is a collection of voices that can scream together—and anyone who finds themselves near Brattle Street tomorrow evening is sure to hear them.
GRRL HAUS 2. BRATTLE THEATRE. 40 BRATTLE ST., CAMBRIDGE. THURSDAY 11.19, 9PM. $10. NOT RATED.