For one day this spring, Sheffield’s historic Paradise Square is set to transform into an art gallery for a major outdoor screening event as part of Sheffield Doc/Fest.
A Soft Rebellion in Paradise, a new short film by artist Chloë Brown shot on location in the Square, will receive its international premiere on Saturday 8 June. The film, which centres on women’s voices, was created with an all-female crew, production team and cast, and was commissioned by the city-wide visual arts programme, Making Ways.
A Soft Rebellion in Paradise was conceived in response to Sheffield’s proud history as a city known for its political activism and where, in 1851, the Sheffield Women’s Political Association was the first organisation in Britain to call for female suffrage. It focuses in particular on the voices of women that are too often silenced and lost in the retelling of histories around the world. Following in the wake of the ‘Me Too’ movement, the film questions the systematic contemporary and historical silencing of woman’s voices.
More than 200 women participated in creating the film, performing a series of ‘Soft Rebellions’, a term used by Brown to describe her on-going exploration of artistic actions. Previous ‘Soft Rebellions’ have included working with participants who dance, eat, meet and applaud in places where it is unusual, or even forbidden, to do so.
At the heart of the film is the poem, Soft Rebellions in Paradise Squared by Sheffield-based poet, Geraldine Monk, who worked with Brown on the project. This part chant, part song and part incantation sits alongside a goose bump-inducing silence and an ear-splitting yell by the crowd. It is a call to action by ‘The Unquiets’ (the women in the crowd) who urgently chant as Monk performs on the balcony where, in the past, John Wesley once addressed the masses who gathered in the Square and the chartists were dispersed by troops leading to a running battle. Alongside this, a group of four women perform a discordant ‘song’ that references both historian, Mary Beard’s lecture, ‘Women & Power’ and author, Henry James’ criticism of the female voice, which he described as ‘a mumble or jumble, a tongue-less slobber’.
To accompany these ‘Soft Rebellions’, Belfast-based musician and performer, DIE HEXEN, has composed an evocative soundscape that builds to an intense and powerful crescendo.
Chloë Brown says: “At a time when the world is still reeling from the #MeToo campaign and we mark the one hundred year anniversary since some women first achieved the right to vote in this country, I wanted to make a film that could contribute to this debate by focusing solely on women’s voices to create a defiant piece of art that is demanding to be seen and heard.”
The premiere takes the form of an outdoor screening in partnership with Sheffield Doc/Fest on Saturday 8 June 2019, in Paradise Square. The film, which is approximately 10 minutes long and a certificate U, will be screened from midday to 9pm as a free drop-in event.
There will be a special introduction by Chloë Brown at 4.30pm.
Sheffield Doc/Fest takes place in various venues across the city from 6-11 June.