Director: Marta Jaenes, Rosa Márquez
Running Time: 86 mins
What The F* Is Going On? (¿Qué coño está pasando?) is a Spanish documentary looking at the increasingly heated debates surrounding gender inequality, and the fight of women across the country and the world to achieve their goal in the face of heavy obstacles.
It’s always interesting to come across documentaries like What The F* Is Going On?, because despite the value and clear importance of its discourse and message, as well as the fascinating experiences and examples that its interviewees give throughout, the need to make a documentary feel at least a little bit cinematic is still present, and that’s something this film doesn’t really manage.
Of course, being a cinematic spectacle is hardly the main objective of this documentary, and that’s absolutely fair. Political documentaries – particularly those focusing on contemporary issues – can often be difficult to turn into thrilling movie spectacles, both because of the heavy, detailed nature of the subject matters as well as a need to present the topic in the serious manner it deserves.
What The F* Is Going On? is a documentary that squarely puts focus on delivering its message in as clear and serious a manner possible, and as a result proves a hugely informative and often eye-opening look at the nature of feminism in modern-day Spain.
So, if you’re looking for a film that opens up the issues facing women today as much as possible, then this is the one for you, and as it delivers its subject matter in impressively objective fashion, it’s one that anyone will be able to learn from and appreciate.
On the flipside, there is always the argument that in a film like this, which does so squarely aim its gaze at the guilt and culpability of social systems, as well as men more generally, it would have been nice to see a little more input from the other side of the debate.
Whether or not the opinions presented by the other side are valid, a persuasive documentary needs to at least recognise the opposition and balance its own views with that, whereas this film often steamrolls over any objections to its ideas without a moment to pause. Again, that doesn’t mean what this film presents is wrong, but it does come across as very one-sided, and perhaps not as fair as should be the case.
In its capacity as a persuasive documentary, though, you might think that the discourse is far more important than being cinematic. That’s a fair assumption, and to an extent a correct one, but the problem with What The F* Is Going On? is that, despite the passion of its interviewees and directors for the subject matter, it comes across as a really bland and repetitive film.
Compare this to the legendary Blackfish, a film that, despite criticisms of its own discourse and balance, is massively persuasive principally because of its striking cinematic style. Playing out more like a thriller than a political argument, Blackfish achieves its goal of putting across its views in a serious manner while simultaneously entertaining and exciting.
What The F* Is Going On?, on the other hand, is little more than a series of interviews strung together, only interspersed by the odd clip of archive footage. That doesn’t lessen the value of its argument in the slightest, but when you’re sat there for an hour and a half, something a little more cinematic really wouldn’t go a miss.
As a result, the film really struggles to keep you entirely engaged despite its fervour and passion throughout. It’s a detailed, well-supported and interesting documentary in all regards, but it really isn’t a good cinematic piece, and if you’re looking to see a film rather than a lecture, then this isn’t the best choice for you, which is why I’m giving it a 7.0.