FLOFILM DEFINED




...and yet how many of us have ever experimented with different menstrual styles?


Come to think of it, all films are flofilms, aren't they? Just as we find ourselves at the beginning, middle, or end of our menstrual flow, so we find ourselves at the beginning, middle, or end of a movie.


Ginger Snaps, 2000, Drama Horror, Emily Perkins, Katharine IsabelleIn Search of Juan Colorado, Molly Strange, 1994

In the first instance, there is a flow of "blood, endometrial remnants, products of tissue decomposition, as well as various secretions, including cervical mucus," [1] and in the second, a flow of characters, dialogue, music, plot points and plot twists.


However, the actual definition of a flofilm is much narrower: That is, a film with some aspect of menstruation as its subject. The flofilm concept grew out of an interview with Molly Strange, who in 1994 had written, produced and directed In Search of Juan Colorado, a film about a girl experiencing her first period while on a camping trip with friends.

When I'd asked Strange what she thought of there being an entire genre of menstrual films, "perhaps called 'menofilms,'" Strange had instead suggested: "How about 'mensepix'? Or 'menstruflix'? or 'flofilms?'"

And so flofilms it is.

Some may believe that an entire genre of menstrual films is not possible, given that menstruation is much too limited a subject matter for screenwriters and directors, not to mention a general audience, to take any interest in - especially not in numbers sufficient to produce enough films to claim such a genre even exists.

Right now, as a matter of fact, if you go to the Blockbuster Video homepage and do a search under keyword "menarche," no matches are returned; a search for "menstruation" brings up one match for "Gingersnaps," which describes "15-year-old sisters committed to introversion, menstruation anxiety and terminal misanthropy"; and strangely enough, a search for "menopause" brings up 5 matches, two for the series "Absolutely Fabulous" and three exercise videos.

There are a number of fine menstrual documentaries available, such as The Curse and Under Wraps, as well as sex ed (read: menstrual ed) films used in schools...but Flofilms as a genre wants to be more than a collection of documentaries, important as those may be.

Rachel Kranz, in a review of Eve Ensler's "The Vagina Monologues," [2] addressed this desire for "wanting more":

"...Ensler's work both satisfied me and left me wanting more. Many women before Ensler have offered testimony about the vagina...But Ensler is one of the first to create narratives for the vagina...Still, as I left the theatre, I couldn't help wondering what a drama about vaginas might be like. Not only women telling their vagina stories--the brave, groundbreaking step that Ensler has taken. But a vagina story that happens right there in front of us..."

What would menstrual stories be like, I wonder, if they were to start "happen[ing] right there in front of us" in theaters and on television?

Or consider Julia Cameron's discussion of "Cinema Selves," [3]:

"Some of you may be familiar with an old Danny Kaye movie 'The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.' In the film, Kaye plays a Milquetoast son, dominated by an overbearing mother [sic]. His lackluster life is enlivened only by his persistent creative fantasies - in which, he, Walter Mitty, is secretly a hero. This outsized, spiffed-up, heroic version of him is what I would call "Cinema Self." Cinema Self is a larger-than-life, idealized version of you. The kind of you that looms from the Silver Screen...It is a glossier, more daring, more glamorous you, but it is based on you as you actually are. You are the prototype from which this character is drawn."

How might we experience our menstrual cycles if there were a genre of film presenting "outsized, spiffed-up, heroic version[s]" of menstruation? "Glossier, more daring" versions of menarche? "Larger-than-life, idealized version[s]" of menopause? Yet "based on our [menstrual cycles] as [they] actually are. [Our menstrual cycles]...the prototype from which these character['s menstrual cycles are drawn.]" I think it is telling that our teen years, when we are just beginning to menstruate, are usually a time of intense experimentation with style and self-presentation, yet how many of us have ever experimented with different menstrual styles? A variety of "menstrual selves?" And later in life, on the brink of the second "change of life," how many of us experiment with different menopausal styles? In order to encourage such experimentation, may we suggest organizing a Flofilm Festival of your own...

[1] "Is Menstruation Obsolete?," Elsimar Coutinho, page 61.

[2] "Going Public," by Rachel Kranz, The Women's Review of Books, Vol. XVII, July 2000, page 26-27.

[3] "The Vein of Gold," by Julia Cameron, pages 95-96



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