While attempting to escape the underground world of Catfighting – a sport where women are forced to fight one another to the death for the entertainment of men – Sadie the Savage and her trainer-turned-lover Barb the Barbarian are ratted out by one of their own. As punishment, they are forced to do the unthinkable: fight one another in the ring.
Ariel Sinelnikoff fell in love with cinema after being introduced to Hitchcock’s Psycho at the age of 11. Following her passion, she pursued a career in film directing at San Francisco State University, where she earned her Bachelor’s degree in Film Production. It was there that she began to explore socio-political issues ? such as women’s and LGBTQ+ rights ? that were close to her heart through the lens of genre filmmaking. This allowed her the freedom to communicate the nuanced experiences endured by members of these communities to a larger audience through accessible metaphor. It was through this work that Ariel received the Ronald A. Jacobs Scholarship and a nomination for the Princess Grace Award for her feminist horror thesis film, Enceinte, which went on to premiere at the 2014 SF IndieFest Another Hole in the Head Film Festival. Ariel has worked coast-to-coast, receiving her Master of Fine Arts in Film Directing at Brooklyn College’s Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema in New York, a program that specifically celebrates diverse voices in the film industry, where she received the Dean’s Award for her work in directing. She currently resides in Los Angeles, where she is continues to explore these subjects and genres. When not making films, Ariel enjoys expressing herself through painting and catching up on indie comic books.
Back in 2015 when I was asked by Catfight creator and co-writer Sarah Mahan to direct and co-write the film, our world was not as different from today’s world as many would like to believe. Issues such rampant sexism, racism, and homophobia were no less prevalent than they are now, merely veiled by a seemingly liberal-leaning political environment. Yet, these social issues lurked, ready to rear their heads come 2016. Catfighting is those issues that have always been there, that continues to persist. Catfight is our demand to demolish the systems that keep these issues in place. While there are numerous good folks working to right these wrongs, there are still roadblocks within social movements that delay the changes we strive to achieve. Girl-on-girl competition, even within the feminist community itself, has and continues to poison the waters leading to true progress, impacting progress for gender, LGBTQ+, and racial equality alike. When we are divided, it is easier to keep those fighting for change suppressed. But like all those who have inspired this film – intersectional feminists, the Riot Grrrls in the 1990s, and many others fighting for the rights of the many – Sadie and Barb will no longer stand for this systematic oppression. Through our own encounters with women who are pit against each other, Sarah and I knew this issue was one of the biggest threats to female-identifying people moving forward in society. So, we turned to art, and poured our hearts into these characters and this story. We knew there was only one answer to combating this type of vitriol: true, deep love and understanding of our fellow sisters. That love is shown through Sadie and Barb’s undying love for one another, and the rebellion that stirs within them. Catfight was ultimately made to let women and girls know that we are not each other’s enemy, and that it is necessary to come together if we want real change. We must create a community that includes all women ? women of color, queer women, trans women, women of all religious backgrounds, differently-abled women, etc. ? for us to heal as a whole. Catfight is a battle cry, but rather than one that is a call for violence, it is one that is a call for radical love.