Producer Renee Pollonais addresses The Power of the Vagina
Last night, film festival patrons were treated to The Power of the Vagina, a documentary short that explores issues of women’s sexuality. The film is comprised of interviews with various experts and people in the street, all of which prompted much hilarity in the theatre, as well as a few cringe-worthy moments. Absent at the screening was director, Jimmel Daniel, who is currently in London screening the film (to standing ovations) at the Portobello Film Festival. Present at the screening was producer Renee Pollonais, a third-year student in the UWI film programme, whose documentary short, Directions, won a People’s Choice Award at last year’s trinidad+tobago film festival. Bruce Paddington, our festival founding director, moderated an entertaining Q&A; with Renee after the screening.
Not surprisingly, the first question was how the concept to make The Power of the Vagina came about. Renee explained that it was Jimmel’s idea and that he was inspired by a Lady Saw video in which the Jamaican singer grabs her crotch, as per usual. So Jimmel approached Renee for some technical help (Renee has been in the media business for some 10 years), and the film was born. They started out by asking all sorts of people questions, and then looked for a common thread and built on that.
The second question dealt with reaction they received, especially on the street where Jimmel holds up a large “VAGINA” sign at the side of a busy road. Renee said that the director had been a bit nervous and that she had driven around with the sign in her trunk for weeks before he got up the courage to unveil in public. “I couldn’t hold the vagina sign,” she said. “That would have been another reaction altogether.” At first, the sign received some weird looks; some people cheered while others asked, “Why not a “PENIS” sign?” But, overall, Renee and Jimmel were surprised at the reaction they received, as a lot of people had much to say.
When asked how we can get copies of the film, Renee replied that they are still trying to secure some copyright issues. Bruce then spoke briefly on the fact that it’s great to see a student film paired in a screening with a professional Cuban film (Horn of Plenty) and that the BA in Film programme at UWI really works in providing such an opportunity for fledgling filmmakers.
One criticism received last night was that there should have been a wider cross-section of women speaking in the film, but, as Renee explained, their choice of subjects was a matter of convenience. Inevitably, the question of how much it took to make the film arose. Renee replied that, as a student at UWI, it cost nothing, really, as the equipment was free and she and Jimmel did everything together in a true collaboration. “Were there any problems between you and Jimmel working on a film of this nature,” one patron wondered. “Yes,” Renee replied. “But any issues we set aside. The film mattered enough to us not to go down that road. Things were relatively balanced. And, anytime there was an argument, I would take a time out to cool down a bit.”
Renee then spoke about the overall experience of making a film noting that it’s great that technology is such today that it’s relatively easy for anyone to make a film, all that’s needed, really, is a project that you’re excited about. And, if you need technical help, you could always ask someone with experience for help. “But the thing that propels it most is passion.”
Finally, from the back of the theatre came the inevitable question, asked, of course, by a man: “When will you make a movie about the almighty penis?” Renee laughed and said that it’s being discussed. Bruce ended the Q&A; with the quip: “That would be a hard movie to make.”
A still from The Power of the Vagina, which will be shown again this Friday, September 25 at 11.00 pm at MovieTowne, POS, as part of a special late night screening of short films. It also plays again with Horn of Plenty on Thursday September 24, 8.00 pm at MovieTowne, POS and Sunday September 27, 5:30 pm at MovieTowne, Tobago. On Friday, 25 September it will be shown with Jacques Roumain and Racing Definitions at the Institute for Critical Thinking, UWI