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Photography by Stella Malfilatre

Girls in Film // a network for womxn in the film industry

Nikola Vasakova is the founder of Girl in Film (GiF). Working as a video producer in London, she knew a lot of women who worked in film in different positions but they all did not know each other. Nikola expressed that it can be quite isolating being a womxn in the film industry, so she decided to put together an evening where all of her girl friends in film could get to know each other. The response to this event was an indication of how necessary it is for womxn to support one another through their various positions in the industry. “Straight from the start it turned out this was something that people were really into and lot more people turned up than I expected. It grew from a small gathering of friends to a 200+ guest list of women from the film industry in all capacities,” Nikola explained. With this enthusiastic response, GiF has grown and continues to articulate its core objectives – to connect, champion and support a new generation of female-identifying filmmakers through their events and online platform.

Connected to this is Nikola’s advocacy for finding new ways for visual storytelling from the point of view of the female gaze. “We need stories with the ‘female gaze’ as much as with female sensitivity to characters, their stories, the message that they or the directors want to convey. There’s a lot that’s missing in current film landscape, stories that have for a long time been missing in our discourse whether those they touch on human rights, sexuality or identity and I find this is what interests female directors a lot at the moment, so I’m excited to be giving platform to those voices,” Nikola expresses.

Having hosted events in London, Prague and New York, GiF will be coming to Johannesburg on the 18th of December. In its first GiF event in South Africa,  Zandi Tisani, Bee Diamondhead, Sihle Hlophe, and Phatstoki, will dissect the topic of young womxn spaces, race & politics in the South African film and creative industry.

I had an interview with Nikola to find out more about GiF and the event in Johannesburg.

Who is part of the GiF team and what is everyone’s creative background?

Nikola – I’m the founder, producer and curator of our online output. I’m mostly running GiF in UK on my own but I’m surrounded by incredible women that help me on the way – like Julie Machin who is producing our Jozi event. There’s Julie Zackova who is running GiF in Prague. There’s also a string of freelance writers, spearheaded by amazing Leah Abraham that has contributed many articles to our website. Jaqueline Awuku and Dora Cohnen who researched so much content for the site. Many other people on the way that helped with events, writing, connecting etc, big shout out to Vanessa Dos Santos in US too! I’m connecting with people in NYC to make our event there a regular occurrence.

How has GiF evolved since it first started?

I’m still in awe that from a small idea that started as a friends gathering in 2016 we have now visited NYC, Prague where we now have a solid branch and have come to South Africa! That’s huge for me, I really never dreamt things would happen so quickly and I’m so happy and humbled that women around the world are responding so positively. I’m really excited for the future – I have big plans to 2018 but I don’t want to get ahead of myself yet.

Why do you think it is important for GiF to have an online presence in addition to the events you host?

Events are great way to connect with people IRL instead of just URL – however, not everyone lives in large cities – it’s important to represent voices in different parts of country or different countries and give them platform too – which is why I started the online video platform.

It appears that GiF is based on an intersectional foundation. Could you please share more about this?

GiF has always been intersectional largely due to the community it grew out of. As an immigrant WOC in London, surrounded by other WOC, representation of racial and social diversity was never a question for me. Initial name ‘Girls in Film’ was mainly penned as I liked that it spelled out ‘GiF’ which is a nod to digital culture that we are all experiencing at the moment – rather than routed in the traditional film & TV, GiF mainly represents new generation of filmmakers who’s films are often found online than on terrestrial channels. However, by having ‘girls’ in name doesn’t mean we are ageists or exclusive of non binary, female-identified people. So yes, intersectionality is very important for us to communicate.

Could you share more about the kinds of events you have hosted in London, Prague and New York?

We have hosted screenings, workshops and panel talks with leading figures in the industry.

What influenced your decision to come to Johannesburg this year?

Julie Machin, who is part of our GiF family has been working in Jozi on and off over the years and during her last visit, she decided it would be great to set up GiF event as there are so many great creative womxn doing interesting stuff. Conversation about representation in the industry are as valid here as they are everywhere else and Julie spent some time talking to creatives in Johannesburg to make sure this event is their own and they can decide what they feel is important to talk about.

How did you decide which films would be screened on the 18th?

Curating films for GiF always lies in finding the talented creative voices and stories that are relevant to the audience in each territory. Johannesburg will probably be different to Prague but that’s the exciting part. However, the quality of filmmaking stays the same throughout all our curation. We are selecting films from the speakers but we’ve also chose to open the event with Femme in Public from Jabu Nadia Newman. She’s in Cape Town so a bit of her will be with us and we feel her film will also be a great catalyst to open the discussion about the non-binary representation on and in films.

How did you decide who will be part of the panel discussion on the 18th?

As we are talking about race, we wanted to make sure that women of colour are navigating this discussion and we were lucky to be able to secure these amazing womxn (Zandi Tisani, Bee Diamondhead, Sihle Hlophe, Phatstoki, Palesa Shongwe) to come and share their knowledge and opinions on stage. We also wanted to make sure we bring together highly creative minds and a great representation of diverse voices by their style and industry specificities. Phatstoki is the new generation. Bee is highly successful and navigating in between creative and commercials projects. Zandi is making moves with her TV show in development and her long feature project. Sihle has so much experience and her new film is touring festivals now, and being able to have Palesa Shongwe as the host will bring a lot of knowledge in the discussions.

What are you hoping will be the outcome of GiF coming to Johannesburg?

We hope people leave inspired and that we inject some self confidence in womxn that want to pursue career in creative and film industry. And also hope that this is the first in many more to come!

The event will take place on 18 December at The Bioscope in Maboneng from 18h45.

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