Faride Schroeder's female gaze
From being Mexico's ambassador for Free The Work, to co-founding female cooperative Dear Sisters, Mexican director and writer Faride Schroeder is a visionary creative who entwines her beautifully diverse filmmaking with advocacy and activism. Here, she talks about honing her gaze, filming home births, and how parallel careers in advertising and cinema can nourish each other.
A fourth-generation Mexican writer and director from a family of Lebanese immigrants, Faride Schroeder is a prolific new talent with a growing portfolio of authentic, impactful, and socially conscious work.
Signed to US production company MADRE, she skilfully traverses both cinematic and commercial work, bringing a sensitivity and powerful female gaze to every film she directs.
Speaking to Schroeder, it’s clear that her work is driven by a force greater than her; there’s a commitment to collaboration, education, and community, as well as a strong feeling of sisterhood and an innate need to create meaningful change, both within the industry and the wider world.
Above: Schroeder on set.
Despite the ideologies that underpin her work today, Schroeder explains that her first venture into filmmaking was provoked by a more personal project. “I started as an art director, but at the same time, I filmed my first short film in 16mm. I wrote a story about my father, and felt that I needed to direct it myself, because it was very personal. I didn't mean to direct it, but that's how I discovered my vocation”.
In spite of the systemic inequality she noticed in the industry, Schroeder’s youthful energy, hunger for knowledge, and need to share her vision helped her progress past those barriers in the early stages of her career. “Sometimes the industry resists. One, because you're young, two, because you're a woman. But I think that I was clear enough with my intentions to keep going with my own creative process as a filmmaker”. However, she also acknowledges her privileges, stating that the university education she received is still not a right for every woman in Mexico.
The advertising is nourished by a cinematic gaze, by storytelling, a sensitivity that occurs when you go deep with your characters and topics, and write your own stories.
She started writing and filming her own shorts, at the same time nourishing her creative practice with her professional work as a script supervisor and assistant director. She emphasises how important it is for all young filmmakers to experience working in different roles in the industry before taking a seat in the director’s chair. “When you've worked in different departments or positions, you know what your decisions mean production-wise. It's very valuable to have that experience as a director,” she says.
It was whilst working on set as an assistant director that the owner of a production company glanced at her screen whilst she was editing a personal short, and he asked to see the finished work. As promised, Schroeder showed him the film, to which he responded, ‘So, are you ready to direct?’, sparking the young creative’s parallel career path in advertising.
Above: You get a muscle memory when you shoot advertising, Schroeder says, because you go on set regularly.
“I have two completely different resumes, but each career nurtures the other in some way,” she explains. “The advertising is nourished by a cinematic gaze, by storytelling, a sensitivity that occurs when you go deep with your characters and topics, and write your own stories. And the other way around too; you get a muscle memory when you shoot advertising, a worked craft, because you go on set regularly, you have a large production behind you and you have to give instructions and clearly present what you envision filming to several people”
Being present, I think, is the most important thing a filmmaker can do.
At the heart of Schroeder’s practice is her gaze; a personal vision based on a vast inner world of accumulated knowledge, life experience, inspirations and gender perspective, which, combined with a well-honed skill set, allows her to bring a unique voice to every project she works on.
When asked about her favourite cinematic work, she instantly refers to her film Oasis, an entrancing and deeply moving tribute to Mexican women who chose to have home births during lockdown. A far cry from the sets of commercial filming, the experience of capturing and being present at these home births was a sacred, spiritual and intoxicating experience for Schroeder.
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“I shot 13 births by myself. During lockdown, I got addicted to the sense of community, the intimacy, the oxytocin, the sisterhood, you know, I became part of the tribe. It was beautiful to be there. I got goosebumps. I went to their houses with my camera rolling and they were already in labour, but I knew that my film wasn't the priority. Paradoxically that made my film better. I went there as another woman, as another human being. Being present, I think, is the most important thing a filmmaker can do.”
Whatever project I'm in front of, I try to make it personal and make it my own, to make it more authentic.
She highlights the importance of creating with intent, approaching work in a more conscious and present way to contribute new perspectives. “I think that cinema and art, and even what we do in advertising, is about questioning things, and proposing different ways of seeing, diverse perspectives, different gazes from different backgrounds.”
Above: Stills from Schroeder's film, OASIS.
An example of commercial work to which Schroeder has brought her personal vision is a campaign for beer brand Cerveza Victoria. Created by Ogilvy through it’s Chicago, Miami, Los Angeles and DC offices, this was a project with diversity, inclusion, and authentic storytelling at its core; a celebration of Mexican heritage and the immigrant journey, created by a bespoke, borderless team of Hispanic, Mexican, and Mexican American creatives and strategists.
There is still much to be done to eradicate the gender violence and inequity that are normalised in our industry.
“It was beautiful to make a campaign where I can bring my own vision as a filmmaker, but also as a human being. Whatever project I'm in front of, I try to make it personal and make it my own, to make it more authentic and human.”
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And, if her rising directorial career doesn’t keep her busy enough, Schroeder underpins her work’s ethos of sisterhood and social justice by being Mexico’s Ambassador for Free The Work, a global initiative for women filmmakers, and underrepresented creators, founded by Alma Har'el.
She is also co-founder of Dear Sisters, a Mexican female collective dedicated to telling untold stories, educating communities, and questioning how women are represented in film. “We write, we create audiovisual pieces about different female experiences, like periods or the body of the women as a total autonomous territory." she explains.
Being a director is not about ego, it's not about power, or hierarchy. It’s about contributing your perspective that can represent others, like you, so the work speaks to a wider audience.
"We started making pieces to bring to life, from our own gaze, female stories that we thought weren't represented enough. We also dedicate time to open dialogues and raise awareness about these issues. We participate in panels, we share in community centres, universities, festivals, media.”
Over the last five years, she’s been working in Mexico to raise awareness within agencies and production companies of gender inequity in the industry, and supporting female and underrepresented creators. Whilst tentatively excited about the progress made in the last five years, she acknowledges that "there is still much to be done to eradicate the gender violence and inequity that are normalised in our industry,” highlighting that change must come from an honest source, rather than from external pressure.
Above: Stills from Schroeder's campaign for Cerveza Victoria.
When asked what advice she would give to a young director trying to make their way in the industry today, she brought home the importance of developing a unique vision, then carrying it into the world with the confidence and craft to uphold it. She also emphasised the value of working with others and learning from peers.
“Being a director is not about ego, it's not about power, or hierarchy," she says. "It’s about contributing your perspective that can represent others, like you, so the work speaks to a wider audience."
I think that cinema and art, and even what we do in advertising, is about questioning things, and proposing different ways of seeing, diverse perspectives, different gazes from different backgrounds.
In her personal work, the director tells us that as well as finishing her feature film Oasis, she is also developing a couple of fictions; one a thriller, the other sci-fi; both very character-oriented. “I have found that I can use symbols to talk about the deep human conditions that I’m interested in through fictional genres,” she says. A fictional film with the emotional depth and diverse narratives of Schroeder’s work to date will undoubtedly be one to watch out for.
Commercially, she’s excited to work on bigger projects, collaborate with international crews and agencies, and, unsurprisingly, continue to make “powerful pieces of advertising that can reach many people, offer new perspectives, and continue to share my vision as a female Latin American director.”