The director behind the award-winning short film Weighing talks Bi Awareness Week, conversion “therapy” and telling queer stories
BY FRAN DI FAZIO, IMAGE BY STEPHANIE ALEXIS/WEIGHING
For bisexual people, visibility is vital. With many grappling every day with bi-erasure, even within the community, feeling seen bears a special significance. And what’s serving up more visibility than filmmaking?
I had a chat with Martina Amoretti (she/they), an emerging bisexual and non-binary filmmaker and photographer based in London. A directing graduate at MetFilm School, Martina is also the director of Weighing (2020), a short film centred on conversion “therapy”. Taking the perspective of a conversion therapist named Éidin (Liis Mikk), the film shows her self-doubt about her job, which reaches a tipping point when Éidin is directly confronted by her new patient Iúlía (Larissa Teale). The film won the Best LGBTQ Award at Flick Film Festival – Monthly Edition 2021 and the Award of Excellence at the Best Shorts Competition in the same year. It was also featured as part of the official selection at the 2021 Sheffield Short Film Festival and at the Kingston International Film Festival in 2022. It’s scheduled to be released to the public later this year.
When we spoke on Zoom, Martina was enjoying a rare moment of rest in their flat in North West London. We discussed being queer in the film industry and how they come to terms, as a bisexual non-binary person, with the still predominantly binary concepts of sexuality and gender.
Congratulations on the success of your last work, Weighing. How did you come up with the concept?
Martina: It was kind of a long journey. Weighing was made as the final project for my masters. At the beginning, I wanted to adapt Sylvia Plath’s short novel Mary Ventura And The Ninth Kingdom, but I couldn’t due to time and money constraints. So, I thought about the values I had found in that short novel and what I wanted to create with my art. In that moment, I was feeling strongly about being part of the LGBTQIA community, as bisexual but also as non-binary. There was also much discourse about conversion therapy at the time. I wanted to say something about it, but I wanted to make it relatable to everybody. So, I started working on this concept with a friend of mine who’s also part of the LGBTQIA community, César Coronado, who wrote the script based on my idea. We wanted this film to be about the notion of doubt and oppression weighing down on you, as you try to balance things in your life, coming to the realisation that maybe when the scales are tipping too much on one side something is wrong. I think that’s what Weighing is about: listening to your doubt and then spring into action to help the people who are near you. Conversion therapy is such a horrible practice, because it really messes with your mind. It makes you think that it’s okay for you to be there and that it’s a form of therapy, which it is not. It’s mind control at the end of the day.
What research did you do to approach the topic?
First of all, I had to draw a distinction between the two major countries where we know conversion therapy is happening. In the US it’s very much talked about, you have films like The Miseducation Of Cameron Post. It’s a wonderful film, but it’s very much rooted in the US context, where there’s proof that conversion camps are a thing and that conversion therapy can extend also to physical violence. Working in the UK, I had to research organisations that provide conversion therapy. I also looked for statements from people who had to go through it. These organisations feel very strongly about saying that you’re the one deciding that you need conversion therapy. It’s manipulative, because it doesn’t show you that, instead, we should be striving for a society in which everybody is accepted for who they are and where you can be your true self. And initially I wanted to base the story here in London, but I couldn’t find proof of any such organisations operating here, even though I knew it was happening. That’s why I based it in Northern Ireland instead. Now Stonewall has picked up the Ban Conversion Therapy campaign and it has been proved that it’s happening all over the UK, but I was doing my research one year prior to that.
You’ve mentioned relating topics to your own experience. You also have a taste for breaking the fourth wall as a director. Set, for example, was a mockumentary that showed misogyny running rampant behind the scenes. As a bisexual and non-binary creative, did you ever experience discrimination in life or at work and then translated it into your art?
I do find myself translating parts of my life into filmmaking. I feel art is political, no matter what you do. Art is there for you to bring up and talk about a concept or an issue, but also for you to express parts of yourself. When it comes to biphobia, I have to admit that personally I’ve always been very lucky with the people that I encircle myself with. Even when I came out to my family, they were really happy for me. Through the years then came a realisation that not everyone is like that. I remember that once someone I was hanging out with made a joke about bi people. I thought I had to laugh, but I wasn’t okay with it and didn’t know what to say. It’s small things that start to pile up in your everyday life. Last year I was working abroad during Bi Week, and I was explaining to my colleague what [bisexuality] is, because so many people aren’t aware of it. It’s weird. You know, I have this meme in my head that I saw on Tumblr ages ago, which says: “If you’re a man you can never be friends with a woman because you’ll always want to bed her, same thing if you’re a woman. And if you’re bi, everyone is prey!”
And you can’t have friends!
Exactly! I think people have this idea that if you’re bisexual then you can’t have friends, you’re always going to be interested sexually in somebody. That’s only one of the big misconceptions around it. Also, being bi doesn’t necessarily mean you’re attracted to only two genders. Gender is a construct, so it doesn’t have to be just men and women, you can be bi and be attracted to so many other people. And it can also be in different proportions, you can be more attracted to men than women, for example, or the other way around. It’s complex.
How important is it to tell different queer stories on film?
I think it’s very important. It’s something I’m thinking about a lot lately, because now you have people saying that labels are not important. And I believe that as well, but I also feel that labels can be helpful for people when they’re just starting to discover who they are. They don’t need to be constrained by them, but it’s important to let people know that being bisexual is a thing, being non-binary is a thing. It’s just about letting people explore. After they’ve explored, yes, we can forget the label. It’s like little stars sprinkled around. People can decide to hold them and if it’s not for them, that’s fine. But it’s important that they are in the sky.
What are your next projects?
I’ve recently been on a programme with Apple Creative Studios and Fully Focused Productions in the role of producer. I worked on a micro-short that was filmed with an iPhone. It was really fun and the main character is also non-binary, which is amazing! I worked with a wonderful director, so I’m very excited about it. Next, I want to make a documentary – which is a bit scary, because I’ve done only one other documentary before. It’s going to be about being non-binary, I want to explore the fluidity of it.
Weighing is also coming out for the public in December, January at the latest. I really hope that anyone who watches it will connect with it. And if they don’t, that’s fine. You’re welcome to question it if you want. Art is also there so that something else can be born out of it. Most importantly, I hope that people will know that it’s okay to be who you are, you don’t have to worry about explaining yourself to anyone. Put yourself first and live your best life. And be your best bi self if you’re bi!
Discover more about Weighing and Thursday, Martina’s upcoming project, by visiting the films’ official Instagram pages @weighing.film and @thursday_at_mine. To know more about Martina’s work, visit her portfolio martinaamoretti.myportfolio.com/work.
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