Born in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, Australia in 1988, filmmaker Charlotte Mars studied Media Arts at the University of Technology Sydney and took her first steps in the film world as a protegé of director Cate Shortland (Black Widow, Berlin Syndrome, Lore). Her films focus especially on queer identity and the lives of women. After making her debut short film Awake, and two documentaries in collaboration with the director Maya Newell, she produced Amos Gebhardt’s video installation “Evanescence” in 2017. A guest lecturer at the University of Sydney, she currently lives in Sydney and Berlin.
What was your starting point for Girl and Body?
A few years ago I found myself navigating the medical world with an undiagnosed chronic illness, and thinking a lot about the weirdness of hospitals, and how lonely they can be. I was in this headspace when I got an image stuck in my head – of a woman suddenly collapsing on the ground. Pretty much every woman I know has a story to tell about their relationship with their body, and I’m interested in the big and small ways women survive our society, so I was very compelled by the image. I got thinking about how simply taking up space the world brings unseen tensions and pressure upon the body, and wanted to look at the imprint of that on a person. All these ideas coalesced and I began writing the film. Luckily, producer Ella Millard liked what I was writing and we agreed to work on it together!
Do you have a favourite moment in the film? Which one and why this one?
It’s hard to pick a favourite… But one moment that holds a lot of meaning for me is when Yuri (played by Nancy Denis) is in hospital and looks in on a group of patients doing physical therapy. It’s quite powerful because Yuri is struggling to connect with her body at this time. When one of the patients (played by Kate Gill) looks up and returns her gaze, the two women have this beautiful, momentary, silent exchange – of curiosity, fear and loneliness, but also familiarity and recognition. I tried with the film to often sit in the power of a look without words, and this was one of those times. For me, the moment is especially powerful because Kate has the same condition in real life as Yuri; their stories are connected in the film world and the real world. Kate has been part of the film the whole way through and runs an organisation that raises awareness and supports people living with Functional Neurological Disorder (https://fndaus.org.au/) – it’s vital and important work.
What do you like about the short form?
Shorts are freedom. There’s no rules or expectations that a longer form might dictate. So in their shortness, you actually find space for bigger conceptual ideas and more surprising provocations. As a filmmaker this freedom is a real delight. But I also like the practical restrictions of the form. With less screen time, smaller crews and smaller budgets, shorts force you to think really creatively about how to realise a story or idea; there’s an intense closeness to the whole process, and I think the most innovative and unique works come from that.
photo ©Dorothea Tuch