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Updated: Jul 13, 2023

Amber Phillips - GGM Film Festival Volunteer, 2021

On March 18th – 21st of March, 2021, GlobalGirl Media UK hosted its very first film festival. Not only was it their first film festival but due to the COVID-19 restrictions, it took place online and it was nothing short of fantastic.

Like many other young women who are hoping to get into the film industry, I volunteered to be part of the post-production team but my role eventually became much more than that. I wanted to be involved in an event that focused on giving young women a voice as well as showcasing their filmmaking talents. It is already so difficult to get a start in the entertainment and creative industry, let alone when you are a woman or from a minority. When I found out that GlobalGirl Media UK’s aim was to give women from all backgrounds that opportunity, I knew that this was the place for me.

GlobalGirl Media Film Festival’s aim is not only to give female filmmakers a platform but to extend learning opportunities to diverse young women, provide networking opportunities with industry professionals and peers, raise awareness for the media training that GGMUK provides, and to promote women in media and film, both behind and in front of the cameras in order to achieve more equal representation in the industry.

The festival itself showcased over 30 short films (from over 150 submissions from more than 40 countries), many of which covered topics that are extremely relevant in this day and age (I’ll get more into that later!) Although the films that were submitted had to be directed by self-identifying women, the festival welcomed all ages and genders.

The event took place over four days:

Day One: A review of the best films in competition, by Anna Smith of the Girls on Film Podcast, with GGM UK founder trustee and documentary maker Sue Carpenter. Lastly, there was a panel talk with Mia Bays and Isra Al Kassi from the charity Birds’ Eye View.

Day Two: The first filmmaker Q&A on Mental Health and Disability (hosted by yours truly), a workshop with Twitch, and the screening of the feature documentary ‘I Am Belmaya,’ followed by a Q&A with the director Sue Carpenter.

Day Three: A career talk with Uzma Mir who is an executive producer in children’s television at the BBC and the second filmmaker Q&A on Sexual Harassment and Violence. There was also a live workshop with Tamara Jacobs, content strategist, and ex-trustee, on finding your voice, and a live keynote session with filmmaker and broadcaster Yalda Hakim who spoke about finding your point of difference.

Day Four: A career talk with Zara Janjua who is a producer, filmmaker, and presenter, our second live workshop with Tamara Jacobs focused on developing your story and the awards ceremony hosted by Anna Smith.

As you can see, it was totally jam-packed!

The films? Incredible. So many issues and challenges that women face every day were bought to the screen; issues from women in first and third-world countries, issues on disability, sexual harassment, gender inequality, and patriarchal issues. If you are a human being, there will be a film (or three) that speaks to you.

One topic that arose time and time again was sexual harassment. Films such as Run Amok and The Museum tackled the theme in two very different ways. Run Amok was a revenge film much like Thelma and Louise and Promising Young Woman whereas The Museum was an animation that explained what it is like to be made to feel like your body is not your own. The filmmaker Q&A on Sexual Harassment and Violence spoke to both of these directors and two others on why they made their films, why they chose the style and tones of the films, and what the directors wanted the audience to take from watching their films. As it was a film festival by women, the ways in which these topics were covered were done so in a touching and relatable way which also allows room for education within the audience.

Other films that stood out were Hattie, Hamada, and Aguan. Hattie was a moving documentary that followed the life of 16-year-old Hattie who suffers from spina bifida, allowing the audience to understand that there is more to someone than their disability. Hamada was about a woman racing driver in UAE and Aguan was about a female rickshaw driver in Bangladesh. Both films challenge the audience’s views on women taking on masculine roles in a patriarchal society.

As a volunteer and (hopeful) future filmmaker, I have been honored to take part in an event that so openly praises women, not to mention having been given the opportunity to host a panel on something that is so close to my heart. I have to say a massive thank you and shoutout to Dami, Yalda, Aisha, and Ami. These four women are not only insanely talented and inspirational but have been so supportive throughout the entire process.

I can honestly say that GlobalGirl Media UK put together a fantastic film festival and I can’t wait to be a part of the next one!

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To celebrate World Book Day, GGM UK blogger Olamide has written a review on a book you will all want to get your hands on asap.

The Vanishing Half is a fictional novel by Brit Bennett, an American writer who has two New York Times Best Sellers; debut novel ‘The Mother’ and ‘The Vanishing Half’. This book follows the lives of The Vignes twins, who are very much identical but grow apart and live drastically different lives as adults with no clue that their fates are intertwined. Many themes are heavily presented in this book, with this review focusing on colourism, survival and identity.

Both the Vignes sisters grew up in a small, southern black community in America called Mallard. The effects of colourism in the black community is heavily highlighted through the perspective of a town of people ‘who would never be accepted as white but refused to be treated like Negroes,’ so basically a town filled with light-skinned black people. When thinking about this I initially thought wow this would not be tolerated at all in some places today, especially if they explicitly discriminated against dark skinned individuals. This definitely had an effect on how they saw dark-skinned people and how others saw them too. Jude is a dark-skinned young woman whose experiences of colourism are shown within the book, and it juxtaposes with the experiences of those who perpetuate that idea. Yet even with this juxtaposition, all the characters of colour are placed under this umbrella of racism and colourism which harms them all and causes some people to harm others. There is so much to dive into with this topic and how it affects all the characters, but I do not want to reveal any spoilers.

The theme of survival and all that survival entails really resonated with me and is something I believe will resonate with others too. However, I genuinely believe the theme of deception and survival work interchangeably in this book so it may be hard to identify with the theme of survival initially, especially because we live in different times. Both twins are white-passing (when a member of one racial group can be accepted [‘pass’] as a member of another) characters. One twin decides to live her life as a light-skinned black woman while the other decides to take advantage of the fact that she is white-passing.

Despite the difference in time periods I think I did not realise how our own forms and ways of survival are quite similar to the actions done by the twin who decides to live as a white woman. Some of our parents who migrated to this country, or any western country, may have changed their names in order to assimilate and survive at said country. Changing your name and your whole race is drastically different, I agree, but I do believe they both stem from living in an unjust society and wanting a better life than the one society prepares for you.

In said environment and society, it is also quite difficult to find yourself because of the norms we are expected and pressured to follow. One character especially, Reese, faces this issue and decides to leave all he knows behind in order to truly find and be himself. Reese’s journey is a difficult one and I believe that is how Jude and Reese become a great couple. They both have had hardships with understanding their identity and coming to terms with who they are. Watching them (well reading about them) both grow into who they are is one of my favourite things about this book. It really depicts that not-so-straight path of finding oneself and finding people who are also on this journey.

I really do believe the stories that are told in this novel are amazing and the themes broached such as class, ideas around marriage, mental illnesses, to name a few, are interesting. Momentum built slowly -- I felt like it took a while to get to the depths of the story. However, this shouldn’t discourage any future readers, there is a possibility that starting university had a hand in the matter. Besides that, when I did find my momentum it was really difficult for me to put the book down.

AUTHOR: Olamide Taiwo

My name is Olamide Taiwo and I’m 19. I have always loved to write whether it be poetry, reviews, essays etc. Becoming a blogger allows me to write and publish issues that I see and go through. So I hope the readers hold on because this will be a pleasant but bumpy ride😊.

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There are an estimated 11 million people in the UK with an invisible disability -- a physical, mental or neurological condition that is not visible from the outside, but can limit a person’s movements, senses or activities. I am one of them.

2020 was an unexpected and terrifying year. Nothing happened how we expected it to. For me, my 2020 began with an asthma diagnosis. My diagnosis wasn’t a surprise, it was a relief. I’d always had worries about my breathing (I even had an asthma diagnosis as a child), so it was reassuring to know there are ways to make my life easier. I, like many others, wasn't expecting to deal with my new diagnosis during a pandemic.

1 in 12 adults are currently being treated for asthma. I knew I wasn’t alone. In the first lockdown I only went out to exercise so I didn’t have any concerns for my health. I was almost certain that I was safe. I spent that time working out what my triggers were and speaking to other people with asthma. It was challenging trying to do that at a time where I didn’t leave the house because I didn’t know how my breathing would be when we were finally able to go about “normal” (or the new normal) life.

Difficulties began for me when wearing a mask was introduced. As an asthmatic and glasses wearer, it was incredibly challenging. I had to find a way to breathe properly whilst also stopping my glasses from steaming up. This created a lot of anxiety around leaving the house, and that anxiety made it 10x harder to breathe.

For a while, I couldn’t physically wear my mask all the time. I would always try to begin my outing (usually to the supermarket) by wearing one. I sacrificed my sight to keep it on because of how afraid I was. Part of that fear was definitely a fear of catching COVID-19 because I (like everyone) don’t know how COVID will affect my body. However, a huge part of my fear was the judgement of others. I look fine, like the only thing wrong with me is an unwillingness to wear a mask, when actually that wasn’t the case at all. When I needed to give myself a quick 5-10 minute break from wearing a mask, it was to get my breathing back on track.

I spent the summer of 2020 carrying my inhaler around like a security blanket so people would know that I wasn’t just trying to get out of wearing a mask. The dirty looks and stares were unbearable.

Thankfully I have now managed to find a way that is about 80% effective in allowing me to breathe efficiently and not steaming up my glasses whilst wearing a mask. I feel safer both in terms of the virus and in terms of the judgement from others.

However, judgment still prevails. Mask-shaming has turned to vaccine-shaming, particularly online. People feel the need to know exactly why someone who looks young and healthy has been offered the vaccine before older people. That mindset is completely disregarding those with incredibly serious underlying health conditions (such as cystic fibrosis).

Therefore, it is so important that we respect and show as much understanding to this group of people as we would any able-bodied person. Whether someone has a disability that prevents them from wearing a mask or they have a disability that means they are in a higher category for the vaccine, we should treat everyone with kindness and respect.

Asthma UK has loads of amazing resources for people like me who are trying to understand their diagnosis.

This month's GGM UK podcast is all about invisible disabilities, shielding and COVID. Please listen here if you want to find out more about how 2020 and COVID have impacted people with underlying health conditions.

AUTHOR: Orla McAndrew

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