After having heard about Jennifer Reeder’s work at Oberhausen International Short Film Festival, where she won the ZONTA Prize for her remarkable film A Million Miles Away, I was curious to find out more about her work. I contacted Reeder who invited me to check out a few of her recent short films. Taking a look I was blown away by her combination of experimental storytelling techniques with a distinctly female sensibility, in works that focus on compelling female characters trying to deal with their feelings of failure whilst attempting to make sense of life.
Reeder portrays the anxieties of ordinary people, with the inner voice of the individual central to the work. Her characters are preoccupied with relatable concerns – life, death, sex, relationships, ageing, the past – operating in worlds that are a mix of the mundane and the fantastical. The recurring image of the girl in marching band uniform symbolic of an all American girlhood perhaps? We are offered glimpses into the private moments in people’s personal lives: rehearsals of conversations, pep talks in the mirror, secrets shared in the bedroom or the psychiatrist’s office.
The sensitivity of the work is intensified by the heartfelt renditions of popular songs that permeate our lives sung by the lead characters in their solitary introspective moments – Guns N’ Roses, eighties Madonna, Foreigner. In A Million Miles Away wonderfully the choral piece sung by the disparate group of teenage girls is Judas Priest’s You’ve Got Another Thing Coming.
Life may be at times lonely and filled with doubt, but it’s also immensely beautiful in Reeder’s world, and this visual magic – the close up portraits of credible women, the radiant and symbolic colours her camera lingers on – allows these people’s stories to captivate and to leave room for contemplation of one’s own lot in life.