10 Great Short Films that Comment on Modern Women

6. Removed – Naomi Uman (1999)

This experimental short film takes archival footage from an unusual source: porn from the 1970’s. The filmmaker takes scenes from a genre that objectifies woman like no other, but completely changes it’s meaning by literally removing the women in it. She does so in a very feminine way, by using nail polish remover and bleach to paint over the women’s body frame by frame, leaving only men, whom she then tints with what seems to be a pink marker.

By doing so she plays with the spectators’ voyeurism, also known as the interest in spying on people while they are engaged in intimate behaviors, and scopophilia, or the pleasure that derives from looking. She blocks the subject that the eye hopes to see, detracting from and rebelling against the original meaning of porn, where the woman is an object of pleasure. Therefore, when this “object” disappears, it startles the spectator and causes him or her to reconsider the vision that porn, as a reflection of society, has on women.

This satirical take on the male gaze disfigures women to the point where they become nothing but a white silhouette moving through space, questioning women’s representation in film. An interesting element that reinforces the idea of an altered order is the upside-down numbers shown the middle of the film.

Sound is another aspect that helps the idea get across. The original sound of the porn clip is left untouched. Therefore, it results even more evident that the female voice can be seen as powerless in a patriarchal society, for their contributions to this short film are practically reduced to gasps and moans.


7. Undressing My Mother – Kevin Wadrop (2004)

If there is one word to describe this short documentary film, it’s “intimate”. This visual piece by the Irish filmmaker Kevin Wadrop lasts under 5 minutes, but even in such a short time it became the winner of the Sundance Film Festival in 2005.

A deep, serene voiceover of an old woman narrates a few memories of when her husband was alive. Her voice accompanies images of her physical and emotional nudity, presented as if she was a map, exploring the textures if her body unraveled to the viewer by precise contour lights. The acknowledgement and acceptance of a body that is so different from those sold in publicity gives the film a huge warmth and honesty that, along with the voice of the protagonist, moves the viewer.

There is a rich and unconventional exploration of the visual in which close-ups are fundamental. The use of light is completely expressive, helping establish a strong cohesion with the rest of the elements in the film, including the montage.

Overall, this piece shows a woman’s introspections about her life and her body, making her stand literally and figuratively naked in front of the camera. By showing an unconventional beauty, it questions the ideals of perfection that are constantly sold to women today.


8. El orden de las cosas (The Order of Things) – Alenda Brothers (2010)

This short film portrays another woman who is also completely naked, but unlike in Undressing My Mother, this nudeness is a reflection of a woman’s helplessness towards a situation of oppression as she tries to hide her bruised body. This piece critiques patriarchal society through a simple plotline that is filled with symbolism.

By exaggerating a situation of gender oppression, the Alenda brothers provoke a reflection on the roles of men and women today, as a result of centuries of tradition, and suggest that this order of things should be changed.

The character of Julia, the wife, is frozen in time and doesn’t age while everything and everyone around her does. Her timelessness places Julia as a mere spectator who has no power over the situation that she is a victim of. She is bounded to a bathtub inside a bathroom that always has its door open. She never speaks a single word.

Meanwhile, Marco, the husband, justifies this oppression by telling her that he will always take care of her, that this is for her own good, and that hitting her hurts him more than her. Likewise, their family friends judge and advise them to keep the order of things, because that is how it has always been.

Lastly, there is Marquitos, the son. He tries but fails to brake with the tradition, proving that only Julia can break free. All these characters inhabit an almost dreamlike space with minimalist, but very expressive scenography, and objects that become strong symbols.

The most important symbol is the belt that Marcos desperately looks for during most of the film, for it represents his domination and it maintains the order of things. It is the materialization of the patriarchal tradition, for it was passed on from his grandfather to his father, then from his father to him, and he hopes to one day pass it on to his son, who is also named Marcos.

The bottom-line is that violence and the sense of gender superiority are inherited. Marquitos, the son, tries to end this by not telling his father that he found the belt, and by telling his mother to run away with him, but as it was previously stated, his efforts are useless. Julia hides the belt inside the bathtub, reinforcing the idea that she has the power to hand it over and accept this oppression, or break free.

Two other important symbols are the bathtub and the water drops. They reflect the passing of time, and how nothing changes. The constant falling of drops into the bathtub may mimic in a way the ancient Chinese torture method, where something that appears to be harmless becomes painful as it prevails through time.

However, drop-by-drop Julia gets the courage to break the order of things. A powerful image is shown when one of Julia’s tears falls into the bathtub, and this is the last drop before her liberation. The symbol of water then evolves into the vast ocean, and Julia is finally free.


9. Sidewalk – Celia Bullwinkel (2013)

This short film, written and directed by the New Yorker animator Celia Bullwinkel, addresses the topic of how women perceive their own body. A small girl walks on the sidewalk and as she advances she becomes older, going through adolescence and adulthood until she reaches old age.

The soundtrack consists of jazz music by Josh Moshier and it accompanies the whole sequence as the woman is confronted to the street, her meeting point with society. Without a single word, her relationship with her surroundings and with herself are exposed, evidencing themes like sexism, inconformity with the way she looks, the desire to grow up fast when she is little, and the fear of old age.

A constant travelling of the camera follows the animated walker. During this journey, the changing of the seasons mimics the different stages of life that she is going through. Sidewalk has been exhibited in over 25 film festivals around the world, including Festival Anima Mundi in Brazil and the Annecy International Animated Film Festival in France.


10. Ma maison est un thermos sous pression (My House is a Pressure Thermos) – Maika L (2014)

This time, a woman who lives alone, caught in routine, is portrayed. The use of stop motion shows how accelerated her life is, and how she can’t escape from it. For most of the film she is only shown while she is inside her house, and whenever she exists the screen goes to black. This speaks directly to the title.

The same sequence of everyday actions is repeated three times: she wakes up, cooks and eats breakfast, puts her makeup on, leaves the house, comes back, reads the newspaper over a glass of wine, and goes to bed.

It isn’t until the fourth time around that things change. Her attitude when waking up and cooking breakfast seems much more relaxed. The stop motion effect is absent in a shot of boiling water, speaking directly to the tittle. She then does her makeup in a very messy way. The sound of a boiling pot, or thermos, accompanies her actions.

Finally, she “explodes” through the rebellious act of creating posters that speak to women’s issues today, showing that she has a public opinion on these issues, and that she can express them and make a difference even within her normal routine. This is the first time that she is shown outside the house, hanging the posters around town. This is a low budgeted short film that depicts various issues of modern women. It isn’t always about male oppression, but also about the pressure of society and routine.

Author Bio: “Salvana” is composed by two people, like a chemical compound. Two different views of the world and the moving pictures. Both study Film and Television in the National University of Colombia.