A still from the short film This Is A Period Piece (directed by Bruna Arbex)
This Is A Period Piece is one of the 11 short films screening at the 2021 Future of Film Showcase (FOFS), a Canadian not-for-profit media arts organization presenting short films from Canadian filmmakers aged 40 and younger.
Anyone who has their period can perhaps recognize the initial horror and insecurity around first experiences of menstruation. Personally, rolling around on my bedroom floor thinking the absolute worst, that life was over. The slight reluctance in saying this aloud is comforted by the open dialogue Brazilian filmmaker Bruna Arbex encourages in her short film. Given the plentiful resources readily available as cycle guides, the horror of not knowing what to do is even more deeply felt in the pre-Internet age. Arbex’s wickedly titled This Is A Period Piece tells the 90s-set story of Riley (Matreya Scarrwener), a 13-year-old tomboy confronting her fears of becoming a woman the night she gets her period for the first time. Arbex dabbles into the horror genre by showing a twisted version of what it means to approach womanhood. Finding the perfect bra, getting the perfect smile, and walking in heels become obstacle courses in a creepy hospital ward, a surreal place where Riley goes in her mind when her period starts. At the ward she meets devilish nurses and is played a tampon instruction video (guided by the neatly named Aunt Flo). The consensus that surrounds Riley’s first menstrual cycle is she’s now “crisp and clean,” all ready to impress all the boys. The film makes compelling use of the colour red in the hospital scenes. While surreal and stylized, these moments feel grounded in Riley’s perspective.
This Is A Period Piece is an endearing depiction of innocence and insecurity, as well as the spirited determination to push beyond stereotypes of what it means to be a woman in the world. Arbex creates a funny and entertaining narrative around the acceleration of young girls into womanhood, particularly when it comes to how they are pressured to look and behave a certain way from a young age. There’s a strong sense of independence in the character of Riley. Without her mother or any older female figures around to guide her, she relies on TV commercials that give her a materialistic view on womanhood. She finds her own voice among the noise and emerges from the nightmarish hospital ready to paint the town red, ready to conquer anything. Arbux addresses stereotypes surrounding womanhood and brings a lot of openness to a topic that young girls can often feel uneasy discussing publicly. The film includes a charming scene between Riley and her father having a reluctant period talk, where she assures him she can handle it herself. The delicacy that can overpower conversations around periods is met with a strong encouragement to keep the dialogue open. This Is A Period Piece makes a charming impression and brings plenty of promise for what Bruna Arbux does next.
The 8th annual Future of Film Showcase will be available to stream across Canada for free on CBC Gem from July 9 to 22, 2021. Visit www.FOFS.ca for the full short film lineup, which includes more women-led stories to discover.
Editor's note: This Is A Period Piece is one of the 11 short films screening at the 2021 Future of Film Showcase (FOFS).