It’s been a crazy past few weeks with work and travel, but I was fortunate enough to take a much needed break recently and spend some time at the the 3rd Annual Nevada Women’s Film Festival.
This year’s festival was held at the idyllic Big Springs Theater inside of Springs Preserve. For those of you unfamiliar with this hidden gem in Las Vegas, it’s a self described “180-acre attraction…. featuring botanical gardens, museums, family events, traveling exhibits and trails”. It’s a literal oasis in the midst of the urban desert landscape of Las Vegas (the eponymous Springs quenched the thirst of the early pioneers) and also the home of Divine Café, which features one of best views (and Happy Hours) in Las Vegas and regularly hosts a variety of live music acts.
Needless to say it didn’t take much arm twisting to convince to me take some time away from a hectic schedule on a beautiful Nevada Saturday afternoon, and I was fortunate enough to catch a screening of Where to, Miss?.
Director Manuela Bastian’s documentary tells the story of Devki, a woman in India who feels trapped by the traditional constraints of her culture and seeks her own sense of freedom by driving a taxi. Filmed on location in Delhi, the filming techniques seem to mirror the story and internal struggles of Devki and propel the narrative through contrasts in imagery. Indeed the indoor scenes of her crowded home life come across almost intentionally claustrophobic at times, just as Devki must feel when she contemplates whether she should resign herself to the traditional roles her family wishes for her. Likewise, the outdoor scenes at Devki’s father-in-law’s house in the country seem at first a welcome pastoral respite from the mania of downtown Delhi, as if to demonstrate at first that she may be in a new and more beautiful place. Eventually these scenes become more intentionally mysterious and contemplative, and when Devki stops to soak it all in she realizes while she may be in a different spot geographically, her heart and mind are still in the same place-yearning for the freedom of driving her taxi. As such the taxi scenes are perhaps the most exhilarating and rewarding of the film, and their grittiness lends an underlying buzz of nervous excitement, as if anything could happen at any moment. Clearly it is this excitement and the sense of freedom that Devki craves, and it is an understandable story for anyone who enjoys a nighttime excursion in the city, the freedom of living one’s dreams (consequences be damned) or simply enjoying a good drive. In this sense, despite being filmed in what appear at times to be facially stifling urban confines, Where to, Miss? could easily be considered a “road” movie, even if the journey is largely a metaphysical one. Adding to the gritty mysteriousness of Devki’s journey is the bluesy rasp of vocalist Clemens Rehbein of Milky Chance, who contributed to the film’s soundtrack including the atmospheric title track.
The film, which won the “Best Documentary Feature” award at this year’s festival, is an excellent example of the mission of the Nevada Women’s Film Festival to “celebrate and support the fair representation of women in film”. Another excellent example is The Track, directed by UNLV film professor Brett Levner and produced by “Nevada Woman Filmmaker of the Year” May May Luong. The Track opened the Nevada Women’s Film Festival with a special Thursday night screening at the new Eclipse Theater in downtown Las Vegas. I was fortunate enough to catch a screening of The Track at last year’s Las Vegas Film Festival and thought that the film was a wonderful project which told a very personal story about the unfortunate reality some women face in the sex trafficking industry in Las Vegas with grace and compassion.
Overall I am very glad that the Nevada Women’s Film Festival has continued for a third year, and look forward to attending the festival again next year. If they continue to keep featuring quality films such as these the Nevada Women’s Film Festival should continue to be a powerful force in the Las Vegas artistic scene. For more information, go to http://www.nwffest.com/.