Arts film festival review

“Everything you do is fashion”

Established and emerging artists express fashion through a new medium

A Shaded View on Fashion Film

October 6th, 2016

Museum of Fine Arts

When one thinks of high fashion, photographs of fancy models in designer clothing or long runways surrounded by flashing lights typically come to mind. However, A Shaded View on Fashion Film offers a different perspective of fashion. This film festival, launched in 2008 as the first of its kind by fashion blogger and critic Diane Pernet, studies the drama and power that fashion evokes and demands through artistic and creative performances, films, installations, and documentaries.

A Shaded View is groundbreaking because it departs from the conventional and stationary photographic medium in favor of highlighting the moving image. It is a platform for both established and emerging artists to present fashion by challenging the traditional limitations of film. This unique forum has brought together distinguished figures like Chris Cunningham, Tilda Swinton, Jean Paul Gaultier, Steven Klein, Yves Saint Laurent, Gucci, Sergio Rossi, Yohji Yamamoto, and Givenchy, spawning collaboration across disciplines.  After its debut during Paris Fashion Week, it was showcased around the globe.

The films shown in the A Shaded View screening consisted of some of the winners and favorites of the festival. The Grand Prix winner in 2015, Hungry for Love by Justin Ambrosio, was a short film about two people who are compulsive binge-eaters and face similar social ridicule and romantic rejection as a result. At a diner, they happen to meet and spend the night together roaming around the city, eating anything they can find, enjoying every last morsel, and sharing their dream foods from other countries — until they both end up in the hospital with a health scare. The Grand Prix winner in 2014, Jumper by Justin Anderson, was very different; the film shows a beautiful but oddly robotic, naked man using lust to slowly tear apart an average family. All the characters are outwardly unemotional when together, but the drama increases with each disjointed clip of passion, resulting in a very interesting final effect.

One of the most powerful films was Holi Holy by Manish Arora, the Grand Prix winner in 2013 and a celebration of the widows of Varanasi breaking tradition and participating in Holi. This film starts out in a dusky, serious setting in a village where the main actress, Bishi Battacharya, masked and elaborately dressed, joins a group of young and old forlorn widows dressed in strikingly white saris around a temple. Suddenly, there is an explosion of Holi color and a celebration in the bustling streets of a small village where the widows, newly covered in Holi color, join the community once again with a beautiful and powerful melody in the background accompanied by Battacharya’s voice.

After all the films played, Diane Pernet herself came on stage to talk about A Shaded View and her personal rise to success. She received her first degree in documentary film and entered the fashion world by working as a costume designer for Elle and Vogue. However, wanting to do her own work, she created one of the first fashion blogs and started the first fashion film festival. On making the decision to leave traditional fashion to move to film, she said she was asked, “Do you want to make frocks or do you want to make films?” and she felt drawn to the latter. Pernet is also known as a “godmother of new and upcoming talent.”

This was my first experience of the kind, but I came away from it with so much appreciation for the types of fashion that I didn’t know existed. One of the biggest impressions the A Shaded View screening and Diane Pernet’s Q&A session had on me was that fashion is truly pervasive in everything. In many subtle shapes and forms, it plays an important emotional, social, and political role. Towards the end of her talk, Pernet said, “everything you do is fashion,” and as I let those words sink in and thought about the impact and creativity of the films I had just witnessed, I realized their truth and significance. I would highly recommend these films to those interested in any art form, especially fashion and film.