One of Sydney Film Festival's "10 Women Filmmakers to Watch" talks gender equality and her obsession with families and adultery.
Danish film director Frederikke Aspöck has wasted no time networking during her stay in Sydney for the Sydney Film Festival. When I first meet her she's busy talking and exchanging notes with two women in the lobby of her hotel. It's only afterward that I realise that those ladies could easily have been two of the few female filmmakers here at the festival.
"Very few women make movies compared to men, which is insane, even though the biggest audience in the world is women", says Aspöck.
"In Denmark, where I'm from, half the students who go to film school are women, but only a small percentage of films that get made are by women. So what happens to them? Something has to be done."
Helping to continue the conversation is the Sydney Film Festival's 10 Women Filmmakers to Watch showcase. It's an initiative by the European Film Promotion and Variety magazine that honours ten of the most promising European women filmmakers. Aspöck is one of them.
Unafraid to admit that she is "obsessed with family", Aspöck's films are the kind that divulge in the light and shade of family life, the messed-up love that can happen when the unit is shaken up and the goodness that is innate in each and every one of us.
Her contribution to the festival is Rosita, a comedy about a young man from a small fishing village in Denmark who falls in love with his father's transnational Filipino bride. Like many of her other films, it's a cocktail of emotions, disappointment, hope, love and hate. Oh, and adultery. Definitely adultery.
"I always throw a bit of adultery in there", she says. "Adultery and infidelity I find interesting. It can be so banal but it can be so harmful."
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While Aspöck is the first to admit that Denmark has a big community of Thai women who are married to Danes, the idea for Rosita was actually not hers. " A woman gave it to me", she says. "Her uncles are Norwegian and a lot of them are married to Filipino ladies so since I wanted to set the story in Denmark and we wanted Rosita to have English as a language to communicate with, we decided that she was Filipino because Thai ladies usually don't speak English."
For anyone thinking that there's a political agenda happening behind her film, don't. Remember Aspöck is obsessed with family.
"I have not set out to make a political movie" she says. "I have deliberately tried to make a film where I show the positive version of what can happen to these ladies who come all the way from a South East Asian country and go to Europe."
"In Europe we only hear about the sad stories in the press, the ones who end up in prostitution because they're forced to live by themselves because their husband beats them. The press is victimising these ladies, but they don't see themselves as victims because it takes a ton of courage and strength to leave your family behind and start a new relationship with someone you don't even know. All this takes a lot of dedication and an active person and I've tried to show that in Rosita".
There's no good and there's no evil in this film, and that's the way Aspöck likes it. "Every person in my film, and in all the films that I make, are people trying to do their best," she says. "They mess up horribly along the way because that's what people do and that's how I love people the most. Not perfect or bad, just doing the best they can."
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