by Lenka Sucha
Arriving at this year’s IFFR for its world premiere, No Men Beyond This Point came fresh out of the editing room. The film was screened as part of the strand focusing on feminism, its various shapes and forms and what the word can mean in today’s society.
No Men Beyond This Point is a mockumentary set in the present day that bravely imagines an alternative world where men are fast becoming obsolete. In this ‘version’ of history, women started getting pregnant spontaneously about 60 years ago, and these so-called fatherless pregnancies would always result in a female birth; as a result, men are a dying breed. Cue Andrew Myers, who is the youngest living male at the age of 37 and works as a housekeeper for a family of women. The global developments of the past half a century serve as a backdrop for Andrew’s and his family’s story. There are plenty of jokes to go round – from synchronised worldwide menstrual cycles to a special reservation where the few remaining men are kept and looked after.
Despite the filmmaker’s use of very common and recognisable tropes of the documentary genre (talking heads or re-enactment), the strength of the film lies in its attention to detail and the playfulness with which the director Mark Sawers approached the use of archival footage. Apart from real historical clips that were used out of context – thus taking on a whole new meaning – there were also staged ones, where the footage of a real historical event would be mashed together with shots made especially for the film, whilst very closely imitating the style and costumes of the original.
A predominantly female audience appreciated the Q&A that followed after the screening, where the director Mark Sawers and one of the producers Kaleena Kiff shared their experiences with script development, pre-production and shooting. To showcase the attention they paid to the tiniest of details, Sawers elaborated on certain aspects that may have escaped the audience. In an attempt to portray the alternative world as accurately as possible, the film’s diegetic “historical re-enactments” – obviously meant to be shot in a world where there are no male actors under 37 – only featured older men or girls playing boys when necessary (one could notice breasts or tiny earring holes).
Of the 20 films I’d seen at IFFR this year, No Men Beyond This Point was by far the funniest. By the end of the festival, the film had made it to the Top 10 based on Audience Votes, and it’s not surprising – the laughter that rang through the theatre during the screening serves as evidence that it successfully puts the ‘mock’ into mockumentary. Yet alongside poking fun at everything from religion to stereotypes about men and (sometimes) women, it also poses some interesting questions about what a female-controlled world would be like – and it’s not all sunshine and lollipops.
NO MEN BEYOND THIS POINT (Mark Sawers, Canada, 2015)