Monday, 19 October 2015

BFI Film Festival - Dégradé

Continuing my theme of female protagonists, Dégradé, directed and written by Palestinian filmmakers Arab and Tarzan (also known as Mohammed Abunasser and Ahmed Abunasser) is about a group of women, different ages, different lives who have all come to a salon one afternoon. Set against and actually filmed during the 2014 war in Gaza, the film has comedic moments but there is an uneas, almost uncomfortable feeling throughout the film as the women are at first friendly or tolerent of each other and then turn on each other with unlikely characters taking a stand to unite them and calm everyone down.
The main story is about 12 women who are all in a salon and are forced the lock down when shooting begins outside. All the characters have their time to talk, making it clear who they are. Amongst them is a wealthy women who is negotiating her divorce with her lover. Another customer is bride to be who is accompanies by her mother, her mother in law to be and her daughter. A pregant woman and her sister. Two neighbours who are polar opposites, one very religious, the other a pill popping liberal, or at least that what she appears as. The salon owner, a Russian immigrant and the hairstylist who is preoccupied as her boyfriend is one of the men outside involved with the shooting.

Each character is defined in what they believe and are aware of what's happening around them and unfortunately, all seem to accept their 'place' in their own stories/lives. At least the characters that have more to say than others. Obviously there is a bigger issue happening outside and it isn't really discussed, not in a serious way. It is mentioned and when the shooting starts, several of the characters say 'something has happened outside'. They don't say anything about shooting, even when then they have to barricade themselves in. In an effort to calm themselves, the salon owner continues working on the bride while the wealthy women gets annoyed with the hairstylist who almost in tears from the stress. They all just try to continue as calmly as possible.
The location was an excellent choice, where else would a diverse group of women go, a salon. Although I'm tempted to compare to Nadine Labaki's 'Caramel', its definitely not the same. Not the same country to start with but the idea of women coming together in the salon. I also thought of Hitchcock's Lifeboat, as the only location used is the salon, both floors. The one location created the perfect atmosphere, at first a source of annoyance, then violence, then camaraderie.

The producer of the film at the Q&A said that there aren't many films featuring women in Gaza. He made a point that the women of Gaza do all the things that any other women do, talk about lovers, take drugs, have political views and that this film is meant to reflect this. Woman have to be shown and heard too. With such an array of characters, they are heard. But I can't help feeling that more should have been said.

Overall, a brilliant cast and interesting film showcasing views that barely get seen.

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