Let Us Spray: The All-Woman Graffiti Documentary Celebrating Illegal Art
Czech graffiti artist Sany knows that girls can bomb, spray, and tag trains as well as the guys. So she spent eight years filming them.
All film stills from 'Girl Power'
This post was originally published on Broadly Germany.
Graffiti is widely considered to be a boy's club, not least because of its illegal, underground nature. Sany knows firsthand how hard it is for women to make a name for themselves—the Czech artist had to struggle for years before she earned the respect of her male counterparts in the scene.
To shed light on the reality of life as a female graffiti artist—and to show that women can spray, tag, and bomb trains with the best of the dudes—she decided to make a documentary. Almost eight years, 15 countries and 28 graffiti artists later, Girl Power is premiering at film festivals around the world. We spoke to Sany about her new film.
BROADLY: Hey Sany, you're currently on a promotional tour for Girl Power. How is it going so far?
Sany: We just had screenings in Paris, in Ukraine and in London. We're going to Berlin soon. We have a few screenings in front of us. The films playing in theaters in the Czech Republic, A thousand two hundred people came to the premiere. The graffiti scene has been waiting for this film for a long time.
How has it been received so far?
It's been super. Obviously everyone can't be involved in with graffiti and our main goal isn't to change that. We just want graffiti artists to be considered totally normal people, who work and study—and also have their own issues. Graffiti artists lead a double life and that can be really hard. You see in the film how I lose my job and have problems with the police. The police were holding evidence against us and some artists in the film (who spray illegally) over our heads.
How are the artists now that the film is done?
They're very happy. I repeatedly run into artists at screenings, who tell me with tears in their eyes that we told their story, when it comes to women in the graffiti scene.
Read more: The History of Bodily Fluids in Feminist Art
What drives you personally? Why do you spray graffiti?
Once you've established yourself in the scene, you travel around the world and discover extraordinary places and experience situations that you would never have in normal life. I think that's the reason I stuck with it.
Why do you think it's so hard for female graffiti writers to be taken seriously in the scene?
Right now I'm the only female sprayer in the Czech Republic—and it's really hard to get to the point that I'm at now. In my country, we lived under a communist regime, which really restricted women for a long time. When I started spraying, guys would spray over my work and wrote things like "get back in the kitchen" on my stuff. And nobody wanted to have me in their crew because I'm a woman. But I didn't give up and then I founded my own crew, Girl Power.
Do they take you seriously today? Do they respect you now?
Yes. I've been active for 16 years and have done more than 90 percent of Czech men. I had to be pretty stubborn and actively contribute to the scene. I think that men often think you aren't worthy, because you aren't as strong as they are physically. But I think they should just respect the fact that you've chosen that path and that you're managing. Recently, men will come up to me and show me designs that their girlfriends made who want to start spraying. That's a really good feeling.
Were there also phases during the eight years you were working on the film where you just couldn't work anymore?
Yes, there definitely were. Some of the artists we followed are in the underground scene. It took years to get in contact with them. The scene knew about us, but we first had to prove that we were serious and that this documentary would actually get made. As I said, the police were holding things over our heads. I lost my job, I dropped out of college... It was pretty hard.
Did making the film change you—as an artist, as a person?
Of course. When I started the film, I was 22 and full of energy. I didn't expect it all to take so long. We quickly found a co-producer who promised to support us but then ended up leaving us empty handed. But we were already too far along to give up. I learned at this time that, when you're a sprayer, you can't trust anyone. I withdrew from everything and got depressed and didn't talk to anyone outside the scene because nobody understood me. But it was all worth it. I found myself. I have a job today and I'm much more relaxed.
What's the message you're sending with Girl Power?
It's just about following your dreams and not to listen to what other people say and think. I also wanted to show that graffiti is very much for women too, even if a lot of artists don't think so. I wanted to show that we can make it. We're here and we're carrying on. And yes, we made a film about women, but it doesn't have to be about gender in the end. You have to believe in yourself and be ready to give a lot to achieve your dreams.
Girl Power premieres on June 18 in Helsinki, Finland, July 2 in Gdansk, Poland, and on July 14 and 23 in Leipzig and Potsdam, Germany. For further screening dates, click here.