It's been almost a year since the 2016 US election, and the decisions of Trump's government continue to threaten women's healthcare and reproductive rights. For this year's All-American High School Film Festival, we asked young female filmmakers to create short films around the theme "2020" — referring both to the idea that hindsight is 20/20, as well as to the next presidential election.
Four teenage girls took what they've seen from the past year, and turned it into art. First up, 17-year-old Susannah Joffe's film How You See Us, born out of a school field trip to Washington DC that happened to fall during President Trump's inauguration. "We were visiting a national monument and there was a man in his mid-50s with a woman his age," Joffe tells Refinery29 over the phone. "He looked at me, and he catcalled me. I've had people whistle and make noises at me before, but I'd never had someone say explicit sexual words to me until that moment."
That incident triggered an emotional response — and a need to channel her anger into art. "I wanted to show my perspective on what's going on in a new way," Joffe says. "I made it for people who don't understand what it's like to be a girl in this society, especially with someone like Trump for president." Audio of President Trump's vulgar words is jarring against Joffe's ethereal images of girls helping other girls, a visual rebellion against the idea of womanhood so often presented in media. Read Joffe's full director's statement below.
How You See Us
Name: Susannah Joffe
Director's Statement: "Austin is a sheltered city, especially if you have gone to liberal private schools your whole life. When my madrigal choir went to Washington DC during President Trump’s inauguration, I finally understood what people meant when they said, 'We live in a bubble.' I saw countless parents holding the hands of too-young children wearing 'Make America Great Again' caps. When a man in his mid-50s decked out in Trump merchandise catcalled me in front of my classmates, I broke down. I was angry that I had been kept in the dark, and I found myself enraged at everyone who supported someone so hateful.
"When I got back to Austin, I channelled my anger into art and created How You See Us, which expressed my feelings on misogyny. I used the contrast of Trump's language to the beauty and purity of the flower projections, glitter, dance, and the teenage girls. I have found that making art is better than just being angry at different perspectives, which is hypocritical to my values because you never know someone’s experiences that contribute to their beliefs. Being exposed to a different environment strengthened me as an artist because I realised that I have a purpose bigger than just doing well in school but can actually make societal change through film. How You See Us is my way of giving a voice to all the women who are done with being disrespected, and I hope it encourages men to rethink the over-sexualisation of women in society."