True North: New Canadian Cinema
Director April Mullen Starring Natalie Krill, Erika Linder
When you’re at film festivals you don’t always have time to sit and watch all the credits. The ‘boring’ bit. You’re dashing around trying to make you’re next film, and you aren’t too interested in who provided the catering. But for BELOW HER MOUTH I stayed and savoured every single name as it scrolled through. From production designer to best boy grip, from gaffer to transport coordinator, every member of the crew for this film was a woman. If all those names had been male you would’ve just watched the credits for the majority of all films you’ve watched ever.
April Mullen’s BELOW HER MOUTH is essentially a love story – between two women whose lives probably would have never crossed paths in everyday situations. Jasmine is engaged (to a man) but suppressing feelings she has been hiding for years. Dallas is carefree, a roofer, a “true tomboy” who falls hard for ‘straight’ Jasmine. The story is clichéd, and putting two women as the central leads doesn’t change that. Stephanie Fabrizi’s screenplay is simple, and the dialogue a little clunky, giving us no real indication why these two have fallen for each other, aside from their physical attractiveness. But the passion and love is clear to see on screen. However, what is interesting is the difference that having a female DOP (Maya Bankovic) makes on a film such as this. The sex scenes were highly erotic but did not feel pornographic. At no point did you feel you were inside the mind of a 16 year old boy, living out his fantasy through a lens. It was intimate and daring; women’s bodies were laid bare on the screen but hardly seemed sexualised. They were normal, naked, and in love. Despite pitfalls in the writing it still displayed an honest look at the struggles and yet fluidity of sexuality.
The argument that ‘we don’t choose based on gender we choose based on skill’ isn’t valid when the ratio of male to female crew is still so unbalanced. We NEED films like this to come forward and take a stand. While we live in a world in which we still need women’s film strands at film festivals, while Girls on Film still need to exist to push a female agenda in cinema, then choices such as the one this films production team took are necessary.