Emma Kiely interviews UCD filmmaker Gemma Bovenizer who just released her first short film “This Is Not Consent”.
On a brisk Thursday morning, second year philosophy and sociology student Gemma Bovenizer braves the cold to meet me for a coffee and a chat about her first film, This Is Not Consent, and all the pressing issues that the film brings to light. Gemma screened her film at the monthly meet-up for student filmmakers “The Film Scene”, in Workmans and entranced a room full of people, whilst also alerting us to the hushed issue of consent in Ireland.
Dublin native Gemma, like nearly every girl in Ireland, was horrified by the Cork rape trial where the victim’s thong was used as evidence in defence of the accused. This, along with the infamous Paddy Jackson case, inspired Gemma to turn to visual art in order to contribute to the expanding conversation about consent in Ireland. Gemma recalls noticing that although these two cases instigated much talk about consent, no action was being taken. “It was being shown that there was a problem, but there wasn’t anything being done to try and help the problem or show people that it exists every day and not just in these big cases.”
This is at the heart of what This Is Not Consent is discussing; girls face discomfort, fear and threat in regards to consent every day. In all places, work and college, as well as pubs and nightclubs, Gemma observes that, “being touched inappropriately on a night out or even when you’re dressed, how you want to dress…someone interprets that as they can treat you a certain way.”
The film is a visual piece with no dialogue, because it doesn’t need any to present its message. It shows several young women taking off pieces of clothing in front of a projector casting up images of news articles about the two aforementioned rape trials. Gemma comments on her decision to have all of the girls wearing their everyday casual attire rather than outfits for nights out as she “wanted to show that it happens even when you’re not thinking it could happen.” As we, the public, have become so accustomed to hearing about girls having their consent disregarded by men during nights out and parties, it is easy to forget that this is a problem that girls face all day, every day.
Although consent is very much an issue that people in every country face, Gemma and I spoke about why it seems that, as of late, Ireland has been caught in the eye of the storm. She observes that it is not the actual issue that Ireland struggles with, but the way in which we discuss it and we do not follow through with a solution to the problem. She says “it’s so ingrained in our society to be hush-hush about things” especially amongst older generations. She also notes that aside from consent, sexuality has remained an undiscussed topic in Ireland, commenting, “talking about sex outside consent is quite taboo”. This is an extremely truthful observation as it seems only younger generations are open to talk about sex and the pleasure of it. Amongst the majority of older generations, the topic of sex is still stained with a feeling of shame and is very much hushed into silence.
Social media is a very effective platform that is extremely beneficial to the expanding of important discussions, and aids people in speaking up about important problems. Gemma highlighted this as she said “people are more bold on the internet and they say what they really want to say.” However, Gemma went beyond her phone screen and decided to go that extra mile and instead of telling us how she felt, she showed us. She turns to visual storytelling and brings a radiant truth to the old saying “a picture paints a thousand words.” The young women’s blank expressions are indicative of the way in which Irish people have become accustomed to hearing atrocious news such as a seventeen year-old rape victim having her thong used as evidence against her. Gemma explains that she felt that the “visual aspect of the film would impact people more” rather than dialogue or writing.
The film ends with an ever harder smack of reality as Gemma included the phone numbers for every rape crisis centre around the country. Thinking it was to further the impact of the film, I asked Gemma to explain why she ended the film with the directory and she explained that she simply wanted the audience to know that there are places to go for help; “Not that I wanted to put it in to benefit the film, but to benefit those watching it if anyone was impacted by anything and see numbers and know that there is help.”
It was interesting to learn from Gemma how useful and beneficial a tool social media has become in aiding a filmmaker. Gemma explained that she cast her film through Instagram and also employed a musician to score it through Twitter. Other than that, Gemma completed the film entirely by herself, directing and editing it in her own house over the space of a few days. It was inspiring to hear how one of the most impactful short films I’ve seen in a while was made in such a minimalist environment. However, with such a talented and devoted filmmaker at its core, it is not a surprise. Gemma told me that the film has received a very positive reception with boys applauding the film and girls telling her how powerful an impact the film had on them. What adds to the power of the film is that Gemma made a conscious decision to release it on the UN International Day of Violence Against Women as she felt it “was such an important topic and to release it on that day would be the most impactful.”
In terms of her next project Gemma intends to maintain a topical core to her work, with her next project surrounding life after Ireland repealed the Eighth Amendment. Although we, both pro-choicers, thought it would be sunshine and daisies, Gemma points out that we clearly have a long way to go. Only a few weeks ago a woman was denied an abortion in Dublin after being told that she had a foetal abnormality, which Gemma so aptly points out “is not what we voted for”. Gemma expressed an interest in furthering her career into feature-length films but says that she would like the core of her work remaining topical and surrounding current social and political issues.
Gemma also expressed how free and open she feels to talk about these kinds of issues with her fellow students in UCD. Commenting on the transition from secondary school to UCD she says “things like that were not as talked about as casually and openly as they are here.” We agreed on the sense of an open communicative unity in UCD and that most students are as Gemma says “so open to talk about things”.
After interviewing her, it is safe to say that Gemma, although a year younger than me, is my role-model. Resourcefully and self-dependently, she brought life to a hushed issue in the hope that we can bring Ireland to a time where there will no longer be mishandled rape trials and girls can feel comfortable and safe whatever they are wearing. Where people will understand that no means no. With her film, she penetrated the suffocating silence that our long conformity to the Catholic Church has brought upon us. It is filmmakers like her who give the microphone to what we really should be listening to and to further conversations into actions.
Gemma is also an accomplished photographer and you can check out her work on her Instagram @gemmabovenizer. After the interview, This is Not Consent was accepted into the “Girls Impact The World” film festival.