UNLIKE many of the films shown this past weekend at Grimmfest 2017, Natalia Leite’s brutal film, M.F.A is a depiction of true horror.
Noelle (Francesca Eastwood), an art student at a California university, is sexually assaulted at a party, leading her to take vigilante revenge into her own hands and explore her artistic creativity. An extremely timely feminist film, it shows the startling reality of the corruption in places of power when dealing with sexual assault victims.
In a week that has seen major sexual abuse accusations and evidence in the film industry world, most notably regarding producer Harvey Weinstein, M.F.A feels even more appropriate and uncomfortable to watch.
Francesca Eastwood is stellar in the lead role, channeling the gritty, take no prisoners attitude that made her father, Clint, such a star. She plays the vulnerability of a victim of this nature with terrifying realism and when she feels that those in power are doing nothing to help deter these acts around her university, her performance transforms into an intensely driven character who will stop at nothing to do what she thinks is right.
The story goes to some very dark places as we discover just how close to home the past sexual abuse around the university hits Noelle and we are sat in anger and frustration watching as characters pass it off as ‘something we just have to deal with’.
Leah McKendrick, who plays Noelle’s friend Syke in the film, also gives a startling, upsetting performance and only adds to the anger felt by the audience that cases like this are glossed over all too often.
— Stephen Witkowski (@switkowski) October 9, 2017
M.F.A is not a film that presents men as the enemy as can sometimes be the case with films like this but instead takes this much more realistic approach. If there is a real villain of the film aside from the sex offenders, it is the system of power itself and their inaction in such a painfully serious situation.
Again, this fictional depiction of inaction by those in power feels yet more real with certain news over the weekend.
Perhaps the strongest film of Grimmfest 2017’s entire line-up in terms of its effectiveness in creating an emotional response to its story, M.F.A feels like a necessary viewing experience. Not an easy one. In no way a fun one. But particularly now, very necessary.
If you have been affected my sexual abuse or want to know more, visit CISters website.