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Saturday, December 09, 2023

New student film explores what it means to be masculine

For most people, the categories of “male” and “female” are taken as undeniably natural divisions. But a new film from four UW-Madison students, which will be showcased at the Chazen Art Museum this evening, is looking to challenge the notion that men have to put on a “masculine” front.

“[Men] can’t really be themselves, especially in this hyper-masculine society we live in,” Eneale Pickett, who collaborated on the project, said. “It’s hard. You’re put in a box immediately … there are immediately norms forced upon you, and it gets really overbearing at times.”

The film, titled “Maskuline,” will kick off First Wave’s Line Breaks Festival. It was directed by UW-Madison students Sam Broadnax, Jose Navarro and Garrett Pauli. A majority of the roughly 30-minute runtime is devoted to showcasing group discussions in which men and women deconstruct masculinity. Pauli said the idea for the film was born out of the directors’ involvement with the UW Men’s Project.

“We thought that other men should have these conversations, or should be engaged with these kind of things,” Pauli said.

Broadnax, Navarro and Pauli began collecting interviews with male-identifying individuals exploring their masculinity, and they had their first video shoot in early March. From there, Pauli brought Pickett on board, incorporating elements of Pickett’s “Dear Masculinity” project into the film.

“These projects meshed really well because we were both exploring how male-identifying folks express their masculinity,” Pickett said.

“Dear Masculinity” centers on men writing letters addressed to their masculinity in order for them to critically examine its role in their identity. The intimacy and convenience of the project was what Pickett said was appealing about this enterprise.

“I wanted to create a project that was very personal for male-identifying folks to critically examine their masculinity, but it had to be quick and it had to be accessible,” Pickett said.

Pickett has received nearly 50 letters thus far, encompassing a wide range of responses. He plans to circulate them on social media, and eventually compile them in a book.

“Some people were very apologetic to their masculinity, other people were very confrontational with their masculinity,” Pickett said.

In “Maskuline,” the authors of these poetic letters read them aloud on screen, complementing the conversations running throughout the film.

“I really like that sometimes, the discussions will reflect some of the poems,” Pauli said.

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After the screening, Broadnax and Pauli said they hope to spread their film on social media as well. But no matter how far the film’s reach extends, Broadnax said the very process of making it was a rewarding one.

“To know that other men and women want to go through this learning process and kind of reshape how they think about masculinity, and the fact that they’re passionate about it, is pretty cool,” Broadnax said.

“Maskuline” will be screened for free in Room L160 of the Chazen Art Museum. Doors open at 6:45 p.m., and the film will begin at 7 p.m. After the screening, the authors will host a “Dear Masculinity” writing workshop, where participants can contribute their own letters to Pickett’s project. “Dear Masculinity” apparel, designed and produced by Pickett, will also be available for purchase at the event.

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