Representation in Audiences - An interview with She's En Scene's Amanda Craig by Scott Wilson

She's En Scene

She’s En Scene is a Glasgow-based community cinema, screening films made by women for women. Men regularly ask its founder, Amanda Craig, why they cannot attend. They want to watch films made by women too. They already are, she suggests, pointing to the plaudits bestowed upon the likes of Lynne Ramsay and Andrea Arnold.

In her experience, women are not talking about female directors or the technical stuff. That is where She’s En Scene comes in. “I did a screening of Prevenge by Alice Lowe,” she says. “A lot of women said, ‘I would never have watched this,’ but now they have and they’re like ‘she did that in eleven days while pregnant?’ I went to a Q&A screening and Lowe brought her child in, and when you see that you think ‘why aren’t women doing this? Let’s do it then!’”

Amanda embodies this ‘do it’ attitude. She remembers She’s En Scene taking off, with lofty goals in mind, wanting to achieve everything in six months. “But it takes pure loads of time,” she says, not without enthusiasm. While she might have hoped for everything to move faster, she never doubted the workload.

 All images and logos courtesy of Amanda Craig

All images and logos courtesy of Amanda Craig

We meet to discuss her project, but what happens instead is a free-flowing stream of consciousness about the state of the industry. She’s En Scene was founded pre-#MeToo, the hashtag rally cry for those who have experienced sexual abuse while working in film. Weinstein may have bust open the conversational dam, but women have long known the industry’s multifaceted problems.

We talk about terminology. Camera operator vs camera man. In academia, Amanda says, it is always the former, the gender-neutral option. “If I hear camera man, I’m going to think that’s not for me.” Representation is at the heart of She’s En Scene. If you can see it, you can be it.

This year’s Oscars ceremony was the 90th instalment, and the first to ever feature a female nominee in the category of Best Cinematography. For 89 years, women have not seen it. In March, Roger Deakins took home the Oscar for his work on Blade Runner 2049 (2017), but it is Rachel Morrison’s nomination for her work on Mudbound (2017) that felt most like a success story.

We swing back to She’s En Scene. One of the films Amanda has screened is Andrea Arnold’s Fish Tank (2009). It is a morally complex film about a teenage girl on a council estate. Angry and aimless, she strikes up a flirtatious relationship with her mum’s boyfriend. She is too young for him, he knows that, but the film does not have a moral sense of righteousness.

“Do you think,” Amanda says, “if you were in a mixed cinema, with men and women, that it would be a safe space for the topic of Fish Tank?” No, I don’t.


She’s En Scene meets in Govan, a predominantly working class area without the cultural capital of nearby Partick and Finnieston. Amanda strongly believes in the need for a cinema in the area, but acknowledges that, so far, the screenings mostly draw women from elsewhere in the city. Even so, it is bringing people into an area with an unfair reputation.

Just like women deserve to see films created by them, so too do people in Govan deserve access to art as much as those in the city’s bourgeois west end.

“It’s all about trying to tackle isolation” she says at one point, neatly summing She’s En Scene up. She wants it to be for the community, and to not cost too much. She wants it to be a safe space where women not only have a chance to talk about cinema, but to organise and plan their own projects too. She wants the community to shape She’s En Scene, and has no ego when it comes to new ideas. A friend suggested a potential name change in the future, to which she replied “you’re f**king right!”

It is an enthusiastic and exciting conversation. She’s En Scene will undoubtedly grow and grow with Amanda at its helm, and she is keen for it to shift and develop how it has to so that women take something from it. Whether it is a safe space to discuss cinema or it is a conversation that leads to future collaborations and creations, it is a community for those who have long been without one. If you can see it, you can be it, and thanks to She’s En Scene, more and more women are seeing it.

If you would like to keep up with She's En Scene and get involved with their events, visit their JustGiving and Twitter pages!

This piece was written by Scott Wilson - you can find out more about Scott via their Twitter and Common Space Author's page.

The impactful depictions of mental health and illness in The Snake Pit and Gaslight by J Simpson

Please note: This piece contains spoilers as well as discussion of abusive relationships, institutions, and psychiatric treatment of mental illness. 

Adapted from the novel by Mary Jane Ward, based on her 8-month treatment at Rockland Psychiatric Center in Orangeburg, NY, The Snake Pit (1948) tells the story of Virginia Cunningham, played by Olivia de Havilland.

Virginia is a lively, talented, and creative woman, who suffers from occasional fugue states. She floated through life, untethered and unmoored, as a kind of Bohemian free spirit. No one was able to get close enough to notice anything unusual. It is not until she meets Robert, played by Mark Stevens - a book publisher who had seen Virginia's writing - that someone is able to notice anything amiss.

Not long into their marriage, Robert becomes aware that something is happening with Virginia. She suffers from occasional bouts of disassociation. She seems to experience manic episodes, followed by a fugue state. She threatens to harm herself and others, only to have no recollection of it afterward. After a particular episode, Robert reluctantly has Virginia committed.

The Snake Pit's depiction of how mental illness was treated in the 1940s is a bleak, brutal, and chilling slice of reality. Many of the treatments were inhumane, such as strapping patients into freezing cold baths, locked into place with canvas tarps, or using electroconvulsive therapy, more commonly known as 'electro-shock therapy’.

‘The Snake Pit’ became shorthand for the horrors of how mental illness was treated, used most notably by the late Senator Robert F. Kennedy Jr. in 1965, when referring to the Willowbrook State School on New York's Staten Island. This use, in reference to a cinematic adaptation of a popular novel, had profound implications on the treatment of mental illness in the United States.

Kennedy's investigation into this treatment, alongside an exposé in 1972 by investigative reporter Geraldo Rivera, would lead towards a movement of deinstitutionalisation. Unfortunately this was more like transinstitutionalisation, however, as many patients found themselves in the legal system, due to lack of adequate resources for those suffering with mental illness. 

The Snake Pit is just one, if perhaps one of the most famous, instances where cinematic depictions of mental illness and its treatment would go on to impact popular culture, but one can hardly go a day without hearing the term 'gaslighting' in 2018.

'Gaslighting' is a common technique employed to make someone doubt themselves, or discredit someone’s views. The term is in reference to another grim, black and white cinematic depiction of affected mental health; 1944’s Gaslight.

Gaslight is also an adaptation, a noir take on the 1938 play by Patrick Hamilton, and was the second time the play was adapted for the big screen. Gaslight is the story of Paula Alquist, played by Ingrid Bergman in one of her most mesmerising performances. She meets Gregory Anton, depicted by the sinisterly beguiling Charles Boyer, while studying music in Italy in the wake of her Aunt's murder. 

Paula's Aunt was one of the world's leading opera singers, so beloved she received royal attention, and was gifted with lavish crown jewels. These jewels would prove to be her undoing, as well as the cause in setting Paula on a path towards misery.

Gregory convinces Paula to move back to the house in Thornton Square, and what follows is an abusive relationship. Gregory cloisters Paula away from the world in her Aunt's house. He then begins to manipulate her into doubting herself, and making her think she is losing her mind. Gregory's plan would most likely have worked if it was not for the intervention of the canny Inspector Brian Camerone (Joseph Cotten) of the Scotland Yard.

Both Gaslight and The Snake Pit showcase how cinematic depictions of poor mental health and mental illness, as well as their treatment, can create real change in the world. The term ‘The Snake Pit’ became synonymous with overcrowded institutions and inhumane conditions, whilst gaslighting is noted more and more frequently in the present day.

They both also illustrate the complications in caring for mental health and treating mental illness. They showcase how far we've come, whilst indicating how far we still have to go, as well as pointing out a few missteps at the same time. If there is any prayer of things improving, we must all educate ourselves on mental illness, how to treat it, and the current state of the psychiatric institution, to ensure progress.

This piece was written by J Simpson. You can find out more about J via their Twitter and website!

3 Tips for Watching Films When Living with Depression by Sian Parker

When at my lowest point of living with depression, I found it near impossible to watch and focus on anything. There was so much going on in my mind that my concentration had disintegrated, and I found I had little to no interest in almost everything... Despite so desperately wanting to be invested.

This would be especially noticeable when it came to watching films. I would put one on, it would play and finish, but I would not be able to recall 90% of it. Although I was struggling with my memory too, I would usually end up scrolling through social media on my phone, or become so fixated on the time and it passing, that actually watching the film became my last priority. It was tiring.

At the time, I was in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. In those sessions I discussed my inability but wish to be able to watch films again. Below are the tips developed from the conversations I had with my then therapist, and what I have found to help me enjoy movies once more!

Watch Short Films

Requiring less of my attention span, I found it far easier to sit and watch a short film or two, rather than a two hour long epic. Short films have as much, if not more, artistic substance and care put into them than feature length movies; it is just all condensed down into a more manageable time.

I have also found their varying length to be great way to gradually increase time spent watching, depending on how long I felt able to sit for. With a host of genres and themes available, there are plenty to choose from too - so take note of how you're feeling and watch accordingly.

There are tons of short films to be found on YouTube, but Short of the Week is a great resource too.

Schedule Intervals

This idea was pinched from my then therapist. When I expressed my disappointment in being unable to sit through a film, they pointed out that I didn't have to watch it all in one go... Once they said this, it seemed so obvious! Why hadn't I thought of this before?!

Whether it be a five to ten minute break in the middle, a few sprinkled throughout, or even choosing to spread the film out over a day or so, it is about finding what works for you in that moment. There is no need to watch the whole thing at once.

I try to think about it like reading a book. Watching a film is not a race or competition, but instead something to be savoured and enjoyed.

Remove Distractions

This can be really difficult when enduring the lowest points of depression. They say a tidy space equals a tidy mind, but I know how hard I found it to keep my space tidy - and still do at particularly stressful times.

If you can move to a tidy space that is great, but if that is not available to you, just placing phones out of reach or ticking clocks in cupboards can be enough to alleviate feeling scattered - or as though there is too much going on at once. 

Other tips include grabbing drinks and snacks before the movie begins, and opting to watch a film on or through your TV rather than laptop. This can also help eliminate the temptation to see how much you have watched, how long is left, or to 'quickly' check Twitter/Facebook/YouTube, but then accidentally fall down a social media hole instead...

This piece was written by A Film Club Creator, Sian. If you have any tips for watching films when living with depression, tweet them to us at @afilmclub or share them via the #afilmclub hashtag!

"Don't Be What They Made You": Loneliness and Immortality in James Mangold's Logan by Millicent Thomas

Please note: This piece contains spoilers, and talk of depression.

 Original artwork composed for this piece by Andrew Bastow. Check out more of Andrew's work on their  Instagram .

Original artwork composed for this piece by Andrew Bastow. Check out more of Andrew's work on their Instagram.

"Nature made me a freak. Man made me a weapon. And God made it last too long."

James Mangold’s Logan (2017) at surface level is just another addition to the long-running X-Men film franchise. Further than that, it is a skilfully directed and brutally violent western homage. But if you keep digging under everything it appears to be, the beloved mutant’s final donning of his adamantium claws is a stunning character study. Exploring depression, addiction, and facing one’s own mortality.

It is common knowledge that Logan has long suffered with alcoholism. He is almost never pictured without a glass of whisky or a cigar, and his answer to most problems is to fight it out and then head to the bar. In X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009), we see a montage of Logan’s life before he met Professor X and the rest of the gang. He has certainly been through a lot since he grew his claws; fighting in two wars, working as a gun-for-hire, and enduring the procedure which bonded adamantium to his entire skeleton. Due to his healing and regenerative abilities, he has also outlived most of his loved ones.

It is often touched upon in films and TV that immortality is an incredibly lonely life sentence. In Logan, James Mangold examines this idea with an intimate and violent portrayal of self-realisation. Logan learns what he needs to gain closure from his past experiences and find peace within himself.

"Immortality isn't living forever, that's not what it feels like. Immortality is everybody else dying."

– The Doctor, Doctor Who S09 E05.

The year is 2029, no new mutants have been born for over two decades and the X-Men are no more. Hugh Jackman’s Logan (known also by his birth name, James Howlett) now lives life off the grid, working as a limo driver for hire, and caring for Charles (Patrick Stewart) who is all but bedridden with old age.

At the start of the film we meet Logan passed out (likely from excessive alcohol consumption) in his leased limo, whilst it is being ransacked for parts. After a violent altercation with the men responsible, there is a montage of his life as it has been for some time. Driving for various types of people; hen parties, prom parties, and rich businessmen, and taking care of Charles in an overturned water tank somewhere along the Mexican border.

Charles and Logan have a beautifully realised relationship, and those who have been following since X-Men (2000), will have grown up watching it evolve. Myself being one of those people, it was particularly heartbreaking to see what Charles had become. He has the most powerful brain in the world but is now suffering from dementia; a combination that can do some real damage, and the responsibility falls to Logan to make sure he does not hurt himself or anyone else. 

The question of quality-of-life came to me when I first watched Logan attempt to make Charles take his medication. He cannot move without assistance and is essentially alone all day, every day. It was deeply saddening to see the Professor in that way, and in showing us this, Mangold tells us that these two heroes cannot fly around saving the world anymore. They must grow old like everybody else, and with that comes a vulnerability that cannot be withheld.

Now, although Logan has aged, and his abilities have begun to deteriorate, technically he still cannot be killed. At least, not without the purest form of the very metal that made him The Wolverine… This portrayal of immortality is unusual, and is commonly represented through the absence of ageing, but Mangold has chosen for Logan to physically change. 

The make-up department on the film should get some recognition for their effort in showing this so subtly. With nearly 30 hair and make-up artists credited I couldn’t possibly name them all, but their work is truly brilliant. Throughout the film his face appears older, he has more of a grey colour about him and, though he may heal every wound, they have begun to leave some hideous scars. What this shows is that he has to start being careful, as every altercation could leave the very last scar.

When Dafne Keen’s Laura comes into Logan’s life he is stubbornly against the idea. He does not want to help anyone in this film but Charles. Even when a family lose their grip in the road and their horses begin to walk amongst traffic, he says “someone will come along.” Charles’ rebuttal is a memorable exchange; “someone has come along.”

Laura, or X-23, is the product of an unauthorised experiment on children, in which they attempt to prompt artificial mutations by treating them with the DNA of known mutants. A brief shot of some papers show that some children are the biological sons and daughters of Cyclops, Storm and other recognisable names. The organisation behind it, Transigen, have somehow got hold of their DNA, and these children have been numbered and nurtured to be weaponised.

After a group of nurses help them to escape, they become separated and Nurse Gabriela (Elizabeth Rodriguez) attempts to track Logan down. She wants him to take care of Laura and protect her from Transigen. We learn all this through phone footage that ends with a heart wrenching: “She may not be my daughter, but I love her. You may not love her, but she’s your daughter.”

Logan is not a family man. In X-Men Origins: Wolverine he is depicted as having fled from home at a very young age after his mutation manifested in bone claws extending from his knuckles. Growing up, he had an older brother figure in Victor Creed, both were participants in the Cold War super soldier program ‘Weapon X’. This program is where he became The Wolverine we know; with adamantium bonded to his skeletal structure, resulting in unbreakable claws and an enhanced healing factor. However, Victor Creed went on to become Sabretooth, a formidable archenemy of The Wolverine. After this, other than the rest of the X-Men, Logan is not known to have connections or relationships with anybody, or want to for that matter.

Because of this disconnection from humanity he has built all his life, Logan is immediately dismissive of Laura. The tension-building, turmoil-filled road trip that follows her introduction is a journey that is constantly trying to wake him up to reality. She is just like him, adamantium and short temper included, and they need each other. 

In the stunning finale, we see the heartbreaking death of our hero, who we have been on this cinematic journey with for 17 years. He fights until his last breath to ensure Laura and her friends can escape Transigen. X-24, a genetically engineered clone of his younger self, is what ultimately kills him, and this feels entirely significant that he dies at the hands of his own image. 

As brutal and inhuman as X-24 is, his identical face suggests the idea that Logan is giving himself permission to die, permission to allow himself closure and cease suffering. By this point Charles is gone too, and Laura is all he has. She is the only thing left to sacrifice anything for and he makes the ultimate sacrifice - himself.

In James Mangold’s lovingly crafted piece, Logan comes to terms with his own mortality and what it means to find belonging outside the X-Men. In his final words, as Laura holds his hand and whispers “Daddy” through her tears, something clicks for him. He sighs “So this is what it feels like.” This can be interpreted many ways, but two stuck with me; he finally feels death and rest, but also the unconditional love having a daughter brings. In Logan, The Wolverine rediscovers his humanity and finds his peace.

This piece was written by A Film Club member and blogger, Millicent Thomas. You can find out more about Millicent via their Twitter and website!