Film Reviews

Review: ‘Behind the Shutters’

Hot Docs 2019


Behind the Shutters
(Belgium, 50 minutes)
Dir.: Messaline Raverdy
Programme: World Showcase

At the start of her pregnancy, director Messaline Raverdy moves into her grandmother’s house. While there, she speaks to the older woman about her life, tracing her own maternal heritage, while interviewing the women who worked at her grandfather’s coffee factory. At the same time, she corresponds with a nun from a nearby Carmelite monastery. Considering the various roles women take on, Raverdy allows the richness of hidden feminine histories to unfold.

Behind the Shutters has a certain whimsy to it. Vintage ads, wordplay, and cute songs pepper the film, while the use of Super 8 footage creates a beautiful, if quaint, look. The style is reminiscent of the work of Agnès Varda, in the use of striking visuals with particular focus on the domestic, personal introspection, and a joyful sense of curiosity. But what is refreshing about Raverdy’s film is that this is not simply an appropriation of a Varda-esque style: she backs up her aesthetics with politics.

Agnès Varda was masterful when it came to a fanciful formality matched with in-depth political expression. Raverdy capably does the same. She speaks to her grandmother to learn what life as the wife of a factory owner might have been like. She speaks to worker women, who detail the way the labour of the factory impacted them, and how they perceived the Raverdy matriarch. She contemplates the nuns in her neighbourhood, who, outside of society, have their own form of freedom. And she explores her own changing body as she prepares to become a mother. Examining the diverse roles women take up in society, Raverdy creates a uniquely sensitive ode to the women around her.

Behind the Shutters screens:
-Thurs, May 2 at 5:30 PM at TIFF Lightbox
-Fri, May 3 at 4:00 PM at TIFF Lightbox

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