A teenager riding home on her bicycle becomes the object of predatory attention. Bethany Whitmore in Mwah, by Nina Buxton.

Nina Buxton, filmmaker: “Being cat-called at night is an incredibly common scenario.”

Recent Film and Television graduate Nina Buxton felt compelled to make her short film, Mwah, after experiencing sexual harassment while riding alone one night. In the lead up to the film’s screening at the Human Rights Arts and Film Festival, she tells us more. 

By Nina Buxton

As soon as I graduated from Film and Television at the Victorian College of the Arts in 2015 I started thinking more about what kind of films I wanted to make, and what kinds of stories I hadn’t seen told on the screen before. There are so many films and television shows that depict female characters being violently attacked or killed, but I could think of hardly any that showed the subtler, everyday moments of sexism that women endure. That’s what inspired me to make my short film Mwah.

The film itself is very simple: it follows a teenage girl as she rides her bicycle home from a friend’s house on an ordinary school night. On her way home, she encounters a man who follows her and makes her the object of predatory attention.

It’s called Mwah because the only sounds the man makes from the driver’s seat of his car are kissing noises. I wish I’d made this story up, but sadly the plot comes directly from my own experience. In some ways, making this film has helped me to reclaim a sense of power – because that’s what’s really taken from you when you’re made to feel afraid.

I think the narrative speaks to most women – being cat-called when you’re alone at night is an incredibly common scenario. I think the film encourages women to speak about their own experiences too. At festival screenings, I often end up meeting women who want to talk about the film and share their own stories.

Writer/Director Nina Buxton on the set of Mwah. Image by Kirrilee Bailey.
Writer/Director Nina Buxton on the set of Mwah. Image by Kirrilee Bailey.

It feels like there’s a positive change happening in the film and television industry at the moment: female stories are being amplified. Being a filmmaker is such a privilege, and it feels really special to be able to tell stories about my own experiences, and to feel a part of that change. I hope this film encourages women everywhere to tell their own stories, in whatever way that may be.

Banner image: A teenager riding home on her bicycle becomes the object of predatory attention. Bethany Whitmore in Mwah, by Nina Buxton.