Growing up in Ukraine, Oxana was always aware of the challenges that faced the people around her. By the time she was a teenager, her artistic talents and passion for iconography almost led her to a life in a convent. Persuaded by her mother Oxana changed her mind and began studying philosophy, eventually deciding to form Femen with her friends Anna, Inna, and Sasha. The group has grown into a well-known organization throughout the world, and Oxana’s drive and determination keep her moving forward, despite the many consequences of the groups radical actions.
I Am Femen isn’t the first film to look at the Femen organization, as the 2013 film Ukraine is not a Brothel explored the same group. These two films couldn’t be more different though, which only adds confusion to the story of Femen. Ukraine is not a Brothel seemed to reveal an almost sinister motive behind the group, with allegations that it was founded by Victor Svyatski, a man who seemed to have little interest in feminism. It also seemed that the women cared very little for what they were protesting against, merely being told what to say.
With I Am Femen, we’re given the completely opposite picture. The film follows Oxana, a founding member of Femen, as she prepares for protests, speaks about her life before the group, and deals with the repercussions that come from their demonstrating. She’s incredibly intelligent, a very talented artist, and passionately devoted to her cause and to each protest. Arguments over the way Femen handles these protest, usually going topless to provoke attention, are going to be endless. They certainly get their message across, and it obviously sparks conversation though.
What viewers can’t deny is the strength of Oxana’s spirit. Nothing holds her back, and in places like Ukraine, or Belarus, where they protest, the fear of being arrested or even murdered is real. To continue fighting to have your message heard within these dangerous places takes an unbelievable amount of courage, something that many of us couldn’t say we had. Her intentions are pure, but with two strikingly different views on Femen, it’s hard to find the truth. At least with I Am Femen, we can find one real fact, and that is that Oxana is a woman who speaks her mind, and is fighting for the rights of people everywhere.
Is I Am Femen screening worthy?
This is an incredibly powerful film, not so much because of the promotion of Femen and the groups ideas, but because of the strength of Oxana. She is an inspiration to all of us, and proves that no voice is too small to matter. All it takes is a little courage.
I Am Femen screens on Tuesday, October 7, 2014 at Bloor Hot Docs Cinema as part of Cinema Politica. The screening will be followed by a Q&A led by York & Ryerson professor Marusya Bociurkiw. Check their website for more information.