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(The 2021 Slamdance Film Festival kicked off February 12 and runs through February 25, all online. Like what you see here on Hammer to Nail? Why not give just $1.00 per month via Patreon to help keep us going?)

Heartbroken, Mia returns to her mother after walking out on her boyfriend. As the details emerge, it seems like Mia dodged an unemotional bullet. Assuming she is cheating on him when she arrives home 2 hours late from the salon, her boyfriend slapped her. Although a few of her friends and even her mother suggest that not all slaps are equal, Mia is done and she’s ready to plot her revenge. She’s going to make a sex tape with another boy and then show it to her ex. Spoiler in the title – Mia Misses Her Revenge. In the process of finding the right boy to ‘perform’ with her, she moves on with her life, finds a group of supportive friends and generally lives.

Writer/Director Bogdan Theodor Olteanu’s simple story doesn’t bother too much with the idea of building tension or following a three-act structure. When it comes down to it, there is very little to this film at all other than a wonderful performance from Iona Bugarin as Mia, and some really wonderful supporting characters such as her mother and the boy Mia selects for her revenge sex. The film never suffers from feeling small, or feeling trapped in mom’s house. Especially strong are the rehearsal sequence’s where Mia seems to be performing in sort of production of Kiss Me Kate, adding to the depth of the world. The other women Mia hangs out with – almost a Greek chorus of friends – never really develop much of their character, and I had a hard time telling them apart, but in the one on one scenes, the film really shines. The highlight of the film has to be Mia’s attempted pitch of her drama teacher the option of having sex with her on tape and his acknowledgement that he hoped this would happen, but after the play’s opening night.

Despite all the film has going for it, I couldn’t help but feel that it did not live up to its potential. The film’s focus on the women’s bodies, whether it’s theater director’s complaint that the bathing suits for the production have too much fabric or the way the women seem to be hanging around in their underwear for no reason draws this reviewer’s attention to the male writer-director. The bathing suit scene especially seems a little on-the-nose, like somebody racing to head off a complaint. This is a film about female strength and female companionship and it just feels like it is some male version of what that might be. I wonder what this film would have been like if Ioana had directed it herself.  In a place like Romania, where according to the World Economic Forum statistics on equality ranks last in the European Union and 72nd worldwide. According to a recent survey, half of the female Workforce in Romania work low-paying jobs like Administrative Assistant or unskilled labor. Romanian newspaper Adevarul reports that 50% of people believe that domestic violence is “A Private Matter.” In the same poll, 30% of Romanians believe women are sometimes beaten because “They Deserve It.” With this backdrop, I couldn’t help but wish for a female director’s perspective on whether the slap Mia receives from her boyfriend is just a slap and then maybe the revenge would not be something she would let herself miss.

Author’s Note: Mia Misses Her Revenge screened as part of Slamdance 2021. In 2019, Slamdance awarded a Grand Jury prize to Nicole Brending’s Dollhouse: The Eradication of Female Subjectivity in American Popular Culture, a film called out for transphobia by over a dozen critics (See here here here and here for examples) Slamdance has yet to issue an apology. The UK organization TransActual has a great explanation of Transphobia and other useful resources in case you would like to know more.

– Bears Rebecca Fonté (@BearsFonte)

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Bears Rebecca Fonté is a transgender filmmaker, festival programmer, and journalist. She founded Other Worlds Film Festival after two years as the Director of Programming for Austin Film Festival. Her SciFi shorts ROADSIDE ASSISTANCE, PRENATAL, and THE SECRET KEEPER have played 150+ festivals including Fantasia, SciFi London, Boston SciFi, FilmQuest, Austin Film Festival and Dances With Films. Her LGBTQIA Horror short CONVERSION THERAPIST made its world premiere at Inside Out in Toronto and US Premiere at aGLIFF. Her feature thriller iCRIME, which she wrote and directed, was released on DVD, VOD and streaming by Breaking Glass/Vicious Circle Films in 2011. Bears Rebecca also was one of the producers on the Sundance Jury-Award Winning short THE PROCEDURE. In 2021, after five years on the Board of Directors she was made Artistic Director of aGLIFF, the oldest Queer film festival in the Southwest.

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