Anastasia Cazabon undoubtedly understands the plight and hard-won triumphs of women in the film industry. Though her name is not associated with big budget umbrellas such as Sony or 20th Century Fox, her progression in the independent film circuit hasn't been without the overwhelming feeling that women voices were limited or, worse, excluded in the art of filmmaking. “I had gone to the Massachusetts College of Art and Design and I would say that there were 5 women to every man. So how was it possible that in the video/design/photo/film community, the industry was so male dominated?”
Impassioned about filmmaking since a teenager, Cazabon is today the founder of her own film festival, GRRL HAUS CINEMA. "A labor of love" event held at least twice a year, submissions from women filmmakers eager to join the unique movement span the visual textures of animation, stop-motion, documentary, and live action in telling their stories in short films. Its inception was jettisoned in 2014 after the cinephile and artist had been emotionally filled to the brim with the reality of sexism...and her creativity. "I had been making films for the past five years [by 2014] and working in film/video production in Boston. After working on various video production projects I was feeling that my voice wasn't being heard. And I was constantly being talked over or not getting credit for my ideas. It was incredibly frustrating. This was when I decided to actively pursue projects that were lead by women. And I instantly felt relief and most importantly respected."
When GRRL HAUS CINEMA first screened, it consisted of two of Cazabon's films and music videos she had directed for local Boston bands, in addition to her friend Jenny Plante's work, a performance by Gracie Jackie, and Amy Plante selling her indie line of clothes, art, and flair. By the second year in 2015, the roster had grown to include more short films by not just friends but fellow female filmmakers, and Cazabon curated it herself. "I started thinking about more unconventional ways of utilizing the space and wanted people to interact with space in a different way. I had just come back from a summer in Berlin and really enjoyed the way art spaces and theaters there were presenting work in unconventional ways. I wanted to bring some of those ideas into GRRL HAUS and [begin] highlighting video art."
Prior to familiarizing myself with her simmering ambition, I only knew of GRRL HAUS CINEMA through the status updates of The Brattle Theater's official Facebook page. The Brattle is the current home of GHC screenings and where Cazabon was once an employee of Cambridge, Massachusetts' only repertory art house.
On December 19th, the date GRRL HAUS screened its last showing of 2016, the packed house of Brattle was a mix of Cazabon's circle and curious attendees. In our talk for BUST, it was a sensitive point of Cazabon to allude that Boston wasn’t exactly an epicenter of offbeat art. (At least that's what it feels like). GRRL HAUS CINEMA is a necessary burst of idiosyncrasy in a city excessively celebrated for its debonair reputation.
"The [first] event was really well-received, and the first thing I noticed was how the audience wasn't primarily our friends and family. I was thrilled that people I didn't know personally came out to support our work. This is when I realized how important an event like this [was] to a city such as Boston. Even though [the city] is filled with students and universities, there really aren't that many creative outlets available for people, especially for women. Unfortunately, the city seems to be more and more interested in making money and less interested in the arts and creating spaces and events for creative people."
Current initiatives like the Roxbury International Film Festival, Boston Underground Film Festival, and Boston Hassle have joined GRRL HAUS' mission of embracing the kookiness Boston has to offer. For December's curation, in which submissions were the triple the amount from 2015, Under the Underground, another independent outfit promoting pro-women, intersectional feminist work, fine-tuned the selection for winter 2016.
I can attest that the shorts were confrontational and chimerical. For an hour and a half, my eyes gave the projector before me my undivided attention and I was caught up in imaging how these filmmakers, all women creators, came up with their ideas, and fearlessly brought them to life.
I was terrifically jealous of the work I witnessed in "Battalion to My Beat," the story of a young Algerian refugee girl who believes her calling is in fighting against occupation, by Eimi Imanishi. "Tippi at Squam Lake," by Alison Folland, Daphna Mero, and Jenny Plante, was a visual reimagining and examination of the intent and effect of the male gaze in using real audio from actress Tippi Hedren's auditions for Alfred Hitchcock. (She was later cast in two of his films, The Birds and Marnie. His reported infatuation with Hedren was inspected in the 2012 HBO film The Girl).
By Jessica Renzelman, "From The Skin In, From The Skin Out" was a documentary on a young woman outlining the growing pains of her sexuality and sexual identification, spliced with archival footage of quotes and footage on how the media has policed women's bodies. "Palace 2011" was a tender response to the influence of corporate domineering, as a historic, beautiful building of 1920s Jerusalem had been bought to become a Waldorf Astoria hotel, as told by Samantha Adler de Oliveira. And there's no way to overpass the story of "Bluebeard" where a woman discovered her boyfriend's bizarre nocturnal transformation.
What's next for GRRL HAUS CINEMA is a massive expansion into the international. This summer, the fest will be having its first showing of 2017 in Berlin, Germany, where Cazabon currently resides. She was personally invited by "an art residency called Picture Berlin" to "curate an event as a part of their program." Having already asked a few filmmakers to participate, she is "Excited to open [GRRL HAUS CINEMA] to more conceptual, experimental films and video art." Her own festival will return to Boston's Brattle in either late 2017 or 2018.
In between curating her latest opportunity, brainstorming film concepts, and freelance photography gigs, Cazabon is a video editor to keep the lights on at home. She remains a fan at heart in viewing films and is an aficionado of avant-garde work such as Daisies by Vera Chytilova, Agnes Varda's Vagabond and Cleo from 5 to 7, and Dario Argento productions. Anastasia is also humbly one of us in that she too cannot get enough of viewing seminal 1990s pictures like Clueless and Dazed and Confused on repeat.
Check out GRRL HAUS CINEMA on Tumblr, Facebook, and Instagram to stay up to date on showings and submission details.
Top photo: GRRL HAUS Eye Logo courtesy GRRL HAUS CINEMA
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Shardae "Shae" Jobson is a writer, editrix, and self-confessed music and pop culture geek. Boston-bred and New York City trained, she has written for The Improper Bostonian, The Source, JET, StyleCaster, HelloBeautiful, and VIBE. She upholds eccentric icons like Boy George and Grace Jones and continues to be inspired by their fancy footstep in arts, fashion, and leisure. Follow her on Instagram at @lavish_rebellion and her blog Lavish Rebellion.