Film’s revealing look at bare-breasted warriors

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September 6, 2013

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Stephanie Bunbury

Stephanie Bunbury

Film and arts writer

View more articles from Stephanie Bunbury

Kitty Green, independant Melbourne filmmaker whose first feature, a doco about Ukranian topless feminist protestors Femen, will have it's premier at the Venice Film Festival next month.

Impact: Independant Melbourne filmmaker Kitty Green's first feature, a doco about Ukranian topless feminist protestors Femen, premiered in Venice. Photo: Simon O'Dwyer

They emerge from a van bare-breasted, festooned with flowers and screaming, waving banners declaring they are not prostitutes.

Femen, the Ukrainian equivalent of Pussy Riot, certainly knows how to make an impact.

''What they do can be seen as a kind of theatre,'' says Australian film-maker Kitty Green, whose documentary about Femen drew a strong, keen audience at its premiere at the Venice Film Festival on Wednesday. ''But they don't mind how many people are on the streets. They care how many cameras there are. They're a PR movement in a lot of ways.''

Green, 28, was visiting her grandmother in Ukraine when she first called the Femen collective to ask if she could shoot some of its protests.

Soon she became the groups' in-house videographer, shooting protests every day or two and sharing a flat with the four women who were the heart of the movement.

They were in Venice, dazzlingly blonde and made up like movie stars. They take their clothes off, says an activist called Inna, because women's bodies are frightening.

''When men see naked women, whom they are used to seeing only in their beds, out of control in the streets and screaming against them, they are really afraid,'' Inna says. ''They see the dominance of centuries starting to be destroyed.''

Green, 28, from Melbourne, stayed with Femen for 14 months. It was this intimacy that allowed her to get to the heart of the organisation and its odd svengali Victor, who moved in on the nascent movement, took over fund-raising, planning actions and picking the prettiest girls to put in front of the camera. As they all now admit, he was the patriarch in a movement against patriarchy.

As she was shooting, Green's constantly engaging film became the story of Victor's defeat.

''We decided to trust her and show her all of our life,'' Inna says. ''It was something like a revolution; for other people who see this film, they will see that you can kill this patriarchy inside yourself.''

In one of the film's most hair-raising sequences, they relate how they were kidnapped by the Belarus secret police, dumped in a forest near the border and told to find their way home. Green was seized, too, but taken by the Russian secret service and deported.

Paris is now the centre of Femen. Four of the Ukrainians are now based there, but they stress it is now international, with about 300 ''sextremists'', as they call themselves, around the world.


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The mission of the "FEMEN" movement is to create the most favourable conditions for the young women to join up into a social group with the general idea of the mutual support and social responsibility, helping to reveal the talents of each member of the movement.

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