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Unruly Bodies




disorderly and disruptive and not amenable to discipline or control.

Our bodies are all unique and perhaps in 2020, we should be living through a time in which they are all accepted and understood. However we're constantly bombarded with information and images from social media, health organisations and governments of how our bodies should look, how they should feel and how they should work. Our bodies are still supposed to conform to gendered and societal expectations and when they don't, the consequences can be brutal. This programme of shorts ranging from non-fiction to comedy celebrates bodies disrupting the norms of convention, bodies disobeying enforced binaries and bodies that don't meet our own personal expectations.



Introduced by Eljae with poem needlework

Eljae's poetry centres on the doing of relationships, and the ways in which we make ourselves as people. Previously featuring at nights such as Boomerang and Poetry and Shaah, with publications in the likes of The Colour of Madness, Sawti Zine, and the upcoming Azza fi Hawak Folio, Eljae is now looking to publish her first pamphlet.

Photograph of Eljae by Brown Sugar Movement

Dangerous Curves (2016) directed by Merete Mueller featuring Roslyn Mays

Pole dancer Roslyn Mays gives a glimpse into her world and defines sexiness on her own terms in a society that often only presents one narrow version of desirability rooted in heterosexuality, patriarchy, white-supremacy and capitalism.

A Prickly Subject (2018) directed by Helen Plumb & written by Anam Cara

A poetic account of a woman grappling with the decision of whether or not to embrace her body hair, exploring internalised shame and societal expectations of gender.

The Space In Between (2014) directed by Lucy Brydon featuring Morgan

Morgan an American living in London gets ready for work and discusses gender identity, gender binaries and the power of clothing in 'passing.'

End-O (2019) directed by Alice Seabright & written by Elaine Gracie

This comedy centred around two sisters with endometriosis shows the everyday struggles of living with a condition which has been around for centuries with little advancement in treatment or understanding.

Everything Feels Like Water (2019) directed by Jolade Olusanya & written by Theresa Lola

Young People's Poet Laureate for London Theresa Lola articulates the experience of anxiety and depression with a powerful metaphor.

Vessels (2015) directed and written by Arkasha Stevenson

Set in Los Angeles, trans woman Diamond undergoes a dangerous procedure due to not having access to universal and trans supportive healthcare.

tenderfluid (2019) directed and written by Liberty Antonia Sadler

In Sadler's own words "celebrating the hypnotic plasticity of a larger body, 'tenderfluid' is visible softness as protest; a counterpoint to the rigidity of diet culture, cis- heteronormativity and toxic of weight gain and queerness as failure."

Thank you to Eljae for sharing such a moving and powerful poem and to all the filmmakers for allowing their films to be included in the programme.



When I started thinking about what I wanted to say with this programme, I started to think about the multiple ways bodies are intentionally and unintentionally unruly to ourselves and society. How sometimes they don't meet our own expectations or society's. How they don't always function or look how ourselves and others want them to. I thought about what the desired aesthetic and function of a body in our society is and why. How that desired body type differs from culture to country. I thought about labour; which bodies are deemed productive and which bodies serve different forms of labour. I thought about how much labour certain bodies are told is required to be 'presentable' and the time and labour we put into making our bodies meet the expectations of others. I thought about pleasure and how much pleasure we withhold and is withheld from our bodies and never even discovered. I thought about all the ways our bodily needs and desires were not met by the institutions created to serve them. How sIow science and medicine have been to progress with the needs of certain bodies. How alternative understandings and teachings of the body and the ways to treat it had been relegated behind scientific understanding. I thought about how unfamiliar our bodies can seem to us; the disconnect felt between mind, body and soul. How little we know about our own bodies, what they need and how to remedy them ourselves. I thought about the ways some bodies had been and are violated, exploited and policed by individuals, states and nations. I thought about barriers. I thought about which bodies were free from scrutiny, exploitation and violation. I thought about which bodies have become politicised by others and themselves. I thought about the visibility of bodies and the variations of visibility and how the varying ways bodies are rendered either visible or invisible serve different purposes. I thought about the ways we can use our bodies to subvert the status quo. How they can be used as a tool of resistance. How we can collectively use our bodies as a means of protest. How much agency and autonomy we have over our bodies and desires and what the consequences are when we exert bodily autonomy. I thought about this and so much more. I recently watched Jasleen Kaur's Ethnoresidue; at the very beginning Kaur says "Bodies are archives" ― I am still thinking.

This event was scheduled for 24 March but had to be postponed. Since I put together this programme at the beginning of the year, a lot has happened. In this country and others we've witnessed both the strength and fragility of bodies; we've seen which bodies our government values in their actions and inactions by their response to a pandemic, a refugee crisis and poverty; we've read the ways in which the government has shamed certain bodies for falling ill; we've been reminded which bodies have been historically and are currently deemed disposable either by deportation or death and we've experienced the unstoppable power of bodies collectively protesting, disrupting the status quo, changing both our reality and imagination. The body is a political tool which can be utilised by them and us.

When I first put this programme together, I couldn't find a multitude of short films that encapsulated everything I thought about and wanted to express. I struggled to find short films portraying bodies protesting, bodies in collective activism and resistance. That is purely down to my lack as a programmer. I'm still learning about all the various festivals and moving image spaces nationally and globally. I'm still getting over my trepidation of reaching out to filmmakers. I'm continually learning about the potential of film/arts programming/curation, the way it should function and what it's purpose should be ―refer to Jemma Desai's writings in particular the This Work Isn't For Us paper and series of public conversations. Maybe a film programme shouldn't come with a lengthy contextualisation like this one, maybe it should just speak for itself?

During lockdown I was able to access film programmes and festivals that would otherwise have not been accessible due to time, money and geography. I saw more films that spoke to subversion and resistance; some of which I've included in the list below. In April Emma Dabiri set up the virtual space and book club Disobedient Bodies. The first instagram caption read:

"One of the fundamental rules we were indoctrinated with from childhood is obedience, but obedience to what and to whom?

Obedience is a tool of control and - more often then not - little more than a ploy to diminish and exploit us.

That's why unruliness is requisite. This is a space that celebrates and encourages disobedience in its many unruly forms !"

I hope part of this programme and the list below echoes this. I also hope another part of this programme and part of the list below celebrates what we are made to feel are shortcomings, imperfections and out of place. I hope they both celebrate bodies existing unapologetically disrupting what is valued as the norm. This programme includes a spectrum of experiences, perspectives and ways bodies can be unruly to ourselves and to wider society but it does not include all experiences, all perspectives and all the ways bodies can be unruly. I would like this to become an ongoing programme of films, including feature films, either in list form circulated digitally or as part of a an ongoing screening series by DispatchFMI and anyone else who wants to contribute.

Films and where I've seen them, programmed by brilliant programmers:-

Feature Films:

Unapologetic (2020) by Ashley O'Shay ― BlackStar Film Festival

A Place of Rage (1991) by Pratibha Parmar ― Between Us We Have Everything We Need (Club Des Femmes)

Talking About Trees (2019) by Suhaib Gasmelbari ― Other Cinemas

Short Films:

A Protest, A Celebration, A Mixed Message (2018) by Rhea Storr ― Between Us We Have Everything We Need (Club Des Femmes)

The Homecoming: A Short Film about Ajamu (1995) by Topher Campbell ― Black Pride, Campbell X for Birds Eye View, BFI Player

Passing (2015) by J. Mitchel Reed & Lucah Rosenberg-Lee ― Black Pride, Campbell X for Birds Eye View, BFI Player

The Fat Feeling (2019) by Taliaa Darling ― MicroActs

Spoken Gender (2020) by Ernesto Sazerale ― MicroActs

So They Say (2019) by Ayo Akingbade ― Le Cinéma Club

Happy Birthday, Marsha! (2018) by Tourmaline and Sasha Wortzel ―Amazon Prime

Wash Day (2019) by Kourtney Jackson ― BlackStar Film Festival

COVER/AGE (2019) by Set Hernandez Rongkilyo ― BlackStar Film Festival

We would really appreciate your feedback about the event here:

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