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Fantasia ‘18 Review: “Born of Women” short films show daily horrors of female living

Tuesday, August 7, 2018 | Fantasia International Film Festival

By Deirdre Crimmins

Now a mainstay of the Fantasia Film Festival’s annual programming block, Born of Woman showcases some of the highest quality and innovative short films out there.

Sadly, the need to call attention to female filmmakers is a necessity. Fewer than 18% of mainstream films are directed by women, however the worst aspect of that number is that it isn’t budging. Year after year the statistics of women in film, both in front of and behind the camera, either do not change or get slightly worse. Genre film festivals are on the forefront of greater representation of women directors. This year’s Boston Underground Film Festival featured an even split in gender amongst its feature films. Fantasia’s inclusion of the Born of Woman block continues to be another step in the right direction.

Showcasing nine short films from a variety of filmmakers and genres, this year’s Born of Woman block was anything but boring. The sheer expanse of the films therein showed a breadth of new and veteran voices in short filmmaking.

Chelsea Lupkin’s LUCY’S TALE plays with the history of horror, specifically Stephen King’s CARRIE, to explore mean high schoolers. It seems as though every teenager goes through hell before they reach graduation, and Lucy’s own particular physical issues make her years even more insufferable.

Another standout in this already strong program was THE OLD WOMAN WHO HID HER FEAR UNDER THE STAIRS. Faye Jackson’s story of an older woman finding a novel way to deal with anxiety was such a delight to watch with the audience. The old woman’s short-lived triumph over person demons exercised a unique approach to storytelling through an underrepresented protagonist. Sara Kestelman shines as the old woman and truly carries this short film through a wide range of emotions.

Though I thought the plot lagged a bit in areas, the artistry of Hanna Bergholm’s PUPPET MASTER must be given a mention. Her puppetry is beautiful and tragic. It is not everyday that a short film showcases such singular talents, and these achievements must be acknowledged.

Even amongst these amazing films, including the others not mentioned here, the standout short in this year’s Born of Woman block was absolutely Manon Alirol and Léo Hardt’s PETITE AVARIE. The blackest of black comedies shows one of the best breakups I’ve ever seen on screen. Seriously, this dumping scene could easily unseat FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL as most painful breakup ever projected. It is the rare film that you are grateful for subtitles, for without them you would never be able to hear the dialogue above the hysterical laughing in the theater. This was the world premiere of PETITE AVARIE and I am jealous of all the people who get to look forward to seeing this film for the first time.

As always, Fantasia’s Born of Woman is a great point of entry for audiences who are looking to support the next wave of female filmmakers. Keep and eye out for all of the stellar woman here, as they all have earned our attention.

Deirdre is a Chicago-based film critic and life-long horror fan. In addition to writing for RUE MORGUE, she also contributes to C-Ville Weekly,, and belongs to the Chicago Film Critics Association. She's got two black cats and wrote her Master's thesis on George Romero.