by Tracey Francis
Cinenova, the feminist film distributor, is now running monthly screenings at The Showroom, London (The Showroom ⇾ Upcoming Events ⇾ Cinenova/Now Showing). A contemporary artist-filmmaker is invited to choose a film from Cinenova’s back-catalogue  to be screened alongside her own work. Nooshin Farhid, who screened Lis Rhodes, and Lucy Clout, who screened Susan Stein and Tracey Moffatt were the first artist-filmmakers.
The April screening featured Some Women, Other Women and All The Bittermen  by London based artist-filmmaker Rehana Zaman, with her chosen back-catalogue film, Who Takes the Rap – Immigration (1986) by Lai Ngan Walsh .
The soap opera narrative of Rehana’s film is a fictionalised piece that takes place sometime in the 1990s when Tetley factory workers are being faced with a takeover from a foreign company. This will inevitably mean changes and redundancies for the workers. The stylishly filmed six episodes are interspersed with documentary footage of migrant women domestic workers, who are filmed at a Justice for Domestic Workers (Leeds http://www.J4DW.com) meeting where they discuss their employment situation and are given advice about their rights.
Rehana’s film lulls you in with a fictional storyline: a young man makes an entrance into the factory bar to apologise to his girlfriend for his wrong-doings and then proposes. The father of the girlfriend throws sarcastic comments at his future son-in-law. The dramatic ingredients of a soap opera have now been instantly set and you are intrigued about the outcome.
The drama unfolds as the female lead faces gender discrimination at work and is eventually put in an awkward situation; you can feel the imminent changes, with the foreign company’s takeover, that will not be in the workers’ favour. Suddenly the soap opera narrative is punctuated with the migrant workers discussing their work situation at the J4DW meeting, as well as dancing and being involved with a filming project. They are no different from the soap opera characters – they also have a life outside of their employment situation and can enjoy socialising and laughing, if only at the meeting. The similarities in the situations of both sets of workers highlights the breadth of inequality in the global economic system. Importantly, though, Rehana’s film allows the J4DW Leeds women to have a voice and not be victims.
After Rehana’s film we saw her chosen film Who Takes the Rap – Immigration (1986). It compliments her film as it acts almost as a timeline for the negative issues that occur around immigration and race, showing footage of the Garners’ Steak House and Grunwick strikes of the 1970s. From our digital age the film initially looks dated but as it continues it is a reminder that these issues are still not being discussed openly enough. Currently in the UK, a day does not pass without a story in the news that isn’t race-related. Therefore, we shouldn’t be surprised at the rise of a particular political party whose main strand is immigration. The soundtrack of Who Takes the Rap – Immigration includes the voices of two women rappers providing a commentary about the Immigration Laws since 1903. This film is nearly 30 years old but is hard- hitting and as relevant today as in 1986.
The next event, on Thursday 8 October (LUX, E8 2WZ, 6.30-9pm) will feature the work of Cara Tolmie. Other invited filmmakers in the programme include Grace Schwindt, Letitia Beatriz, Leeds Animation Workshop with Justice for Domestic Workers, and Claire Hope.
 Cinenova was formed when the women’s distribution company Cinema of Women (COV), form the early 1980s, became a casualty of funding cuts in 1991. It brought what was left of COW together with the surviving other feminist distributor, Circles, which has launched in 1979
 There appears to be no easily-found information about Lai Ngan Walsh, but she is listed (University of Westminster Arts on Film Archive) as an assistant (sound) on Bob Bentley’s 1989 short film of a DV8 Physical Theatre performance, Songbird; and (IMDB) as dir/writer on On Man’s Meat (15mins) of the same year.