by James Martin
Freshly returned from Torontos Hot Docs film festival, Marielle
Nitoslawska is thrilled, not just because the associate professor of cinemas
latest documentary, Bad Girl, screened before a sold-out theatre
(the film had already proved itself as a box-office draw when it ran at
Ex-Centris and Cinema du Parc), and not just because Bad Girl was
one of this years festival darlings (the films press-clipping
package is already half an inch thick).
No, Nitoslawska is thrilled because her controversial film is finally
being seen as a film of ideas. At long last, Bad Girl
is out-distancing its reputation.
She created the film for broadcast on Télé-Québec,
with all parties well aware that Bad Girl is about women who make
pornography. All systems were go . . . until Télé-Québec
made a last-minute decision to cancel the scheduled broadcast.
There were rumblings about softening the content, but Nitoslawska held
her ground. After a six-month limbo, during which she subtitled the film
in English in hope of taking it beyond the French public-television market,
an unexpurgated Bad Girl made its Télé-Québec
debut in October 2001.
To say that Bad Girl is simply about women making pornography is
to undercut the films ambitious, thoughtful scope. Shot in a whirlwind
15 days (a crazy schedule which supplied Nitoslawska with
rich material for in-class discussions on dealing with production constraints),
the film is a taboo-busting world tour.
On screen, pundits and participants talk. Many of the women (like impish
porn-star-turned-auteur Annie Sprinkles, or the members of Denmarks
Zentropa studio) freely use the term pornography to describe their work.
Others, such as French director Catherine Breillat (whose controversial
1976 film, Une vrai jeune fille, was only recently released), do
Nitoslawska knew she couldnt really discuss the issue of explicit
sexual representation without showing it. A lot of people discuss
it without having seen it, especially women, so I felt that it was very
important to actually show some of this stuff.
I get a lot of comments after screenings, especially from women,
who say, Wow. Its like some veil has been lifted. Im
no longer afraid of this stuff, and can therefore discuss it more freely.
Bad Girl is an attempt to reverse the taboo, and to have people develop
a critical attitude towards this stuff. I think thats whats
Nitoslawska next travels to Rotterdam, where Bad Girl will be shown
as part of Input, a congress of international public broadcasters. She
then returns to Montreal to begin her sabbatical, during which shell
film a new documentary this one about the traditional rural Quebec
healers known as guérisseurs.
Although her new project may appear completely unrelated to Bad Girl
(the same could be said of Bad Girl and its predecessor, a documentary
about the artist Domingo Cisneros called Sky Bones), Nitoslawska
locates all her films on the same thematic spectrum.
The very last lines of Bad Girl could easily have been the opening
lines of my next film, when [French philosopher] Luce Irigary says, This
is an era of technique. Theres an exploitation of sexuality as technique.
Its a way of avoiding the experiences of connecting with another.
Relating to the Other is the most extraordinary human thing, and the hardest.
I see all my work as putting tentacles out into the underground
rumblings of contemporary life, and I choose issues that are not only
important to me, but also to a lot of the people that I encounter.