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Bird's Eye View

The only film festival in the world to celebrate female auteurs brings you the very best in cutting-edge fashion film

The Birds Eye View festival, now in its sixth year, is a celebration of female filmmakers from around the world. For many the film industry is seen as the last bastion of the patriarchal social structure from which it arose. And although Bogart slapping some broad round the face is considered something of a faux pas by today’s standards, the portrayal of gender roles rife in Hollywood films – the ‘hero/damsel’ relation – seems depressingly archaic. This is of little surprise considering that out of the 311 nominations for Best Director in the history of the Oscars, only four have been female and if Kathryn Bigelow wins this year, she will be the first female to win the award. As well as various feature films being screened, including the fabulous The Hurt Locker, documentaries include a history of female matadors, a short season celebrating the brash and the bold of female Hollywood legends such as Marilyn Monroe and Marion Davies and the first feature-length animation ever made, The Adventure of Prince Achmed by Lotte Reineger. One of the most anticipated events is Fashion Loves Film, which presents videos by various fashion designers and photographers including Ruth Hogden, Camille Vivier, Mel Bles and Toyin and will be followed by a panel discussion co-hosted by Jaime Perlman (art director of British Vogue), Kathryn Ferguson and Wendy Bevan. Dazed caught up with a few of this year’s fashion filmmakers to hear how they describe their own work.

Belles Of The Black Diamond Field – Top Shop
The film is about five girls who are haunted by a witch (played by Melissa Auf der Maur) who makes them confront their worst fear. Through these hauntings, each girl learns to balance the light and dark forces within themselves. The inspiration was to create a visual language for a very feminine kind of horror; we wanted to show the beauty of embracing our feminine dark sides. We usually gravitate toward whatever scary, vulnerable, yucky, overwhelming hurdle we are about to face. We love complicated women, the balance of vulnerability and strength. Bringing inspirations of the past into the future. Whatever feels like the scariest place to go that is where we know we have to go! Visual storytelling, the pacing, the atmosphere. You can capture that in a photograph, but in a film you can sustain it, and that is magical.

Kathryn Ferguson – Lady Gaga
Gaga was in London rehearsing for Glastonbury. We only had about forty minutes shooting time with her. I brought lots of mirrors, built a kaleidoscope and we just improvised the shoot on the spot. She was very friendly and open to ideas, which made my life easier.  She really is the making of her own universe, definitely the boss. She put down an original music score for the soundtrack and I then edited the final video. I am very driven by creating a modern psychedelic experience through my videos. I like them to be otherworldly and to take the viewer into another dimension for the few minutes while they watch.

Toyin – David David
I'm drawn to dark atmospheric stuff but I always have a blank canvas when it comes to filming. Seeing as David is a print designer whose patterns are very colourful and bold, I thought it would work better if we chose just an item of clothing instead of the whole collection. When Portia picks up the fabric and dances you can pay attention to all the elements of the film, clothes, models’ performances, interior and atmosphere. The idea is always born once I know who I'll be filming, because I work off what each model can bring to the table. Film allows me to be more fluid, not miss a look or shape created from just being. As a filmmaker I'm still quite green, but naturally excited by it. With stills I sometimes miss many unrecorded moments that happen in a split second.

Sarah Piantados – Nova Dando
It’s a collaboration between the dance group The House of Dangerkat and London designer Nova Dando. Kaiti Dangerkat is a good friend of mine, we've been creatively collaborating for years now. When we do a piece together I aspire to capture the essence of her choreography. For this piece she was highly inspired by the voguing and waaking scenes in the gay / drag community in 1980's NYC. In all my work I strive to understand the artist / designer / stylist / personality I'm working with and represent them through my own style of film and photography. I love film, I'm addicted.

Mel Bles – Craig Lawrence
I'm screening a video made for a young designer showing at Londonfashion week, Craig Lawrence. Craig wanted a piece that not only showed his beautiful knitted dresses but encapsulated the mood of his collection. He really just let me react to the work he had done. I've always found nature and natural forms very inspiring and Craig's knit has that very organic, textural appearance. But it's very sexy and experimental too... so the film really wanted to move towards a meeting of those two messages. Fashion photography plays with a lot of different messages but I think it's mainly about fantasy and identity. Sometimes identities are created to be strange and unrealistic and sometimes real and direct. All sorts. Film can enhance and take those ideas to a new place. Fantasy can be extended and explored.

Monica Elkev – Lina Osterman
Lina's collection concept was the main inspiration and its references to identity, goth attire and rock-inspired silhouettes. The purpose of this project was to replace the conventional catwalk show, displaying her collection in a 3 multichannel video installation. With this project I wanted to explore the boundaries between art and commerce. Employing a more commercial approach than my previous fashion films helped me make the film for consumption, while the use of video art and multi-screen installation gave me freedom to explore the possibilities the medium could give me for experimentation. Fashion video installation is fast becoming an alternative option to the high costs of a catwalk show. Although catwalk shows will never be fully replaced by fashion films, they are, for all their beauty, still ephemeral.