Runtime: 10 minutes
Director/Writer: Marina Michelson
Cast: Marina Michelson, Spenser Granese, Chloe Wepper, Briana Venkus, Ramiz Monsef, Aaron Smith, Angel Halford, Michael Ashley, Patricio Cabrera-Sanchez
By Morgan Roberts
If reality television has taught us anything, the professional kitchen is a very male-dominated arena. So, what does it look like to walk into that environment as a woman? Writer/director Marina Michelson explores just that in her latest short film “Stagiaire.”
The film follows Leila (Michelson) on her first day in a new kitchen. From the first frame, the film pulses with intensity and tension. Leila, while a new chef, understands the power structure of the kitchen. As the stagiaire, she is on the bottom. As her first day begins, so does the hazing she will endure. What makes this film so grounded is that the hazing isn’t all overt. There are many subtle moments when Leila is undermined or ridiculed. This all comes to a head when she is confronted by the chef training her, Mateo (Spenser Granese), in the walk-in.
At the core of the film is a #MeToo story. One that demonstrates the insidiousness of abuse, and how hierarchical power structures exist to empower only those at the top. When we think about cooking, domestically, it is seen as “women’s work,” and is devalued in the home. However, professionally, cooking remains a heavily male-dominated world. At the beginning, we learn that the head chef, Viv (Briana Venkus) in the kitchen is a woman. Dismissive, she tells Mateo to train Leila, remarking, “Meet your new girlfriend.” Not all women are allies, especially when they let the misogyny and power corrupt their way of thinking. It also makes the audience question what she had to endure to get to the level where she is at. And rather than breaking the cycle, she is pulling Leila into it.
“Stagiaire” is a profound watch. One that highlights the ubiquitous nature of toxic masculinity, detrimental power dynamics, and abuse. Societally, we are nowhere near a post-#MeToo world. And short films such as “Stagiaire” continue the conversation while confronting the work we have ahead of us.
“Stagiaire” is available online and can be found here.