Mona Khizam is a force of nature. A truly international citizen, this fiercely intelligent and beautiful woman, became a film-maker, not from a conscious decision to become a director but out of a drive to tell her story. Born in Australia, of Lebanese parents, she has always had a strong sense of being “international”.
In my first eighteen years abroad [in South-East Asia] I had a sense of being at the top of the heap: good job, loads of dosh…just a good life. Then I went to Sweden, and thought that I was an international citizen, but then found out that actually I was just a foreigner. Actually just an immigrant. Actually just a filthy immigrant. I have a huge amount of respect for Sweden, and especially the social contract. But being there made me into a film-maker, because I had things to say, and I couldn’t say them. So I took myself to film-school in Sweden.
Not content with telling her own stories, she also had a history of enabling others to tell theirs. Whilst still in Sweden she started the Stockholm International Women’s Film Festival, which she called SAGA after the Norse goddess of stories and the keeping of secrets. When Mona instigated a similar festival here in Adelaide, she decided to keep the name SAGA, and make it a sister-festival to the original in Stockholm.
Build it and they will come. And bloody hell they have come!! I went from no volunteers to 38 volunteers. In one week we had twenty entries: by the next week we had 800!
Over the two and a half days of the festival, there will be much more than just an amazing array of films. On the line-up are comedy, spoken-word performances, theatre, music, food and drink, and many other activities. A panel on the Sunday, consisting of five women involved in the film-making industry will talk about such vital matters as funding, distribution and the like.
In many film-schools it’s at least 50% of women studying. Yet ten years down the track it’s nowhere near 50% of women in the industry. Certainly some women take time off to have children and so forth, but really the bottom-line is about funding. It is about while male privilege. And prejudices so deep that we don’t even see them. Over 93% of directors are male. And it’s not that men don’t make good films. But we get an over-abundance of the male gaze, which means we don’t have very rich, nuanced, female characters.
With no entrance fee, no restriction on genre, and no restriction on length, entrants into the festival have been incredibly varied, including two-minute works, experimental, art, feature length and documentary.
SAGA runs from Friday 1st June to Sunday 3rd, with a special opening night on the Friday.
If you would like to support the festival, their crowdfunding campaign will open on Chuffed in a week’s time.
Read more about Mona Khizam here.