Berlin Feminist Film Week Preview: To be a witch

Still from the Love Witch featured on indieberlin

“Feminist film is not about genre, it’s about perspective.” indieBerlin is teaming up with the Berlin Feminist Film Week to tell you what it really is all about. And to do this, we’re talking to Elle Peril, who will perform at the screening of Love Witch. (Contains nudity)

The Berlin Feminist Film Week is back for the fourth year with a week dedicated to the exploration of feminist topics through cinema. We return to Babylon for the opening screening before moving the festival to our main hub AGORA Rollberg. The week will end with a party at ACUD.

This is not just a story about women and men
This is about those in power

In Hollywood narratives, characters who aren’t white, straight or male are often left in supporting roles. Progress towards equal representation is slow. We’re here for the cinemagoers who don’t feel represented by mainstream cinema.

Over the course of the week, there’ll be documentaries, features, shorts, porn, horror, comedy, experimental and more. And these films tell of all genders, skin colours, sexualities, ethnical backgrounds, shapes and sizes.

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But the picture we’re going to look at here is – at least on the surface – about another, seldom-mentioned marginalised group: witches. Over to Elle Peril.

A weirdo all my life

Historically, witches have been persecuted for being too independent, sexual, or knowledgeable. I never used to fit in at school; I’ve been a weirdo all my life. So my witchcraft is about expressing myself creatively and sexually without any shame, and about honouring my connection to the earth.

We who abide by no authority
We who represent the silent majority

I wrote the poem after watching the film, because I wanted to link the exploitation of the Earth to the suppression of feminine power. I’m not talking about women. I’m talking about certain qualities that society dismisses, when it celebrates dominance rather than cooperation.

Elle Peril performing Athena featured on indieberlin

In a world with so much happening, one can feel helpless when it comes to effecting change. My poem is an incantation written for a ritual, awakening the participants to their personal power. 

So what is this film?

The Love Witch is a larger-than-life story about a woman who enchants hapless men but whose power eventually destroys her. There’s an obvious appeal for self-identified witches like Elle. But it’s also a metaphor for the struggle of the marginalised. The protagonist finds a way to fight an oppressive system using the power of beauty and sexuality – only for that power to entrap her in the same system.

When the state fails us, community will keep us alive
When we find family in strangers

This message is stunningly realised thanks to filmmaker Anna Biller’s extraordinary principles, who has spurned the digital age in favour of an authentic technicolor aesthetic. What’s more, she designs the set and costume herself. And as with many of the Berlin Feminist Film Week’s screenings, The Love Witch is accompanied by something that will enrich the audience’s understanding of what they see: in this case, Elle’s performance in ritual, with fellow women artists Christine Crook, Aggie Davies and Zlena van Lunarem.

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Elle Peril performing Athena featured on indieberlin

Other events have other takeaways. Here we turn the spotlight on two nights that will tell the stories of people of colour, so often overlooked in feminist dialogue. First, the Hooligan Sparrow panel discussion honours those who put everything on the line for their activism. Then Cecile Emeke, the creator of Strolling, appears in person to host a Q&A about black diaspora.

The Berlin Feminist Film Week goes beyond the brief of most film festivals. This isn’t just independent art, this is indispensable activism: media representation for underrepresented groups can’t be undervalued, whilst film has always been the most effective method of engaging unlikely audiences, for better or worse.

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This is a big year for awareness: be there for awareness in action, at the Berlin Feminist Film week. Find the full program and tickets here.

Elle’s performance is in collaboration with Aggie Davies (prop design), Christine Crook (costume design), Selina Mayer (the photography in this article) and Zlena Van Lunarem.

This article was written by drawing on diverse content by Elle Peril and Karin Fornander, edited and collaged by Jem Bosatta.

Student small fry, country boy in the big city, with inky fingers and a travel guitar.

Student small fry, country boy in the big city, with inky fingers and a travel guitar.

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