From Our Dark Side Winner, Nicole Steeves, Shares Her Experience at the 2018 Frontières Market

Being chosen as one of the six women to pitch at the Directed by Women Networking and Pitch Session at the Frontières Co-Production Market at Fantasia was an invaluable opportunity.

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Nicole Steeves Pitching “A Method” At the Created By Women Pitch Sessions at

I didn’t quite know what to expect as it was my first film market, and I was blown away by the professionalism and experience of the industry experts with which we met with. I was given great advice and had considerable interest in my project, A Method. I’m looking forward to the feedback I’ll be getting once I send the finished script.

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From Left to Right Maude Michaud, Nicole Steeves, Alison Hepburn, Carleen Kyle, Sandi Gisbert, & Jessica Tremblay

As a woman in the Film and Television industry, I have noticed that often we are put in a “training loop” however this experience felt different. I felt that I was treated as a professional artist with a project that had merit and potential to become a produced piece.

Being part of the From Our Dark Side has been nothing short of inspiring. I got to meet and work alongside some incredibly talented women and share the exciting experience with them. I’ve made new friends and professional contacts. I am excited to move forward with my project and all the better to do so because of the experience.

Nicole Steeves                                                                                                              Writer/Director

A Method

Submissions for the 5th season of From Our Dark Side are open until October 31st, 2018. Click here for more information on the program, for application guidelines, and to check out the project one sheets of the past winners. To stay up to date on all things Dark Side follow us on Facebook and Twitter

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VIWIFF 2018: Meet the Filmmakers

German filmmaker Claudia Vogt has learned that intuition is tantamount to a film’s success. Trust your gut, she says, and a project will flourish. Her latest film, titled Golden Hour, subtly and sensitively explores the refugee crisis as it affects Germany; she offers viewers a chance to more closely understand the way Germany’s children see a politically and socially charged situation. When asked about the inspiration behind Golden Hour, Vogt said that Germany’s political conversation surrounding Syrian and Iraqi refugees deserved an artistic perspective, and a more intimate one—she “decided to go to a place where children from different cultural, ethnic and social origin come in contact [with each other] every day; at a school.” Her intuition led her correctly, and soon Golden Hour had the full support of the school community, as well as Vogt’s own filmmaking sphere. The result is, as you will soon see during the festival, a delicate and endearing (but still politically resonant) look into the lives of Germany’s most vulnerable, and arguably most insightful, people—it’s children.

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This nuance is perhaps a skill Vogt absorbed while watching the films of Ingmar Bergman and Andrei Tarkovsky, both of whom she cites as major inspirations. She felt a great connection to “their films’ specific imagery and [style of] storytelling, especially how much they knew about the human soul.” Attention to the more transient and ephemeral aspects of human life—it’s soulfulness—is certainly present in Golden Hour. We observe an elementary-school janitor make his rounds from empty classroom to empty classroom, sunlight streaming in through the windows, as he follows the traces left by youngsters full of promise, hope, and imagination. The delightfully candid voices of children narrate his journey, speaking about the goings on of their day at school but also of the adversity they face after migration.

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Vogt’s skill and the strength of her film’s theme allowed her access to funding through the Berlin Project Fund for Cultural Education, a regional support fund for the arts. She says that Germany’s awareness surrounding gender inequality in the film industry has grown, and that funding is a key element in the country’s efforts towards equal opportunity, but that there is always more work to be done. “Of course,” she says, “we need more women in the film industry. Quite clearly, we as female filmmakers still have a lot to do to bring about change and to assert ourselves.” After watching Golden Hour, it is clear that the assertions of Germany’s female filmmakers are exceptionally worthy of the public’s attention. Vogt’s artistry as a filmmaker, combined with her aforementioned intuition, certainly solidifies the need for female perspectives, if that need wasn’t already obvious.

Another German filmmaker whose newest film will be screening at this year’s festival is Claudia Euen—her documentary, In the Shade of the Apple Tree, similarly explores the soulfulness of human life, with equal success. “In the Shade of the Apple Tree is a very personal film,” Euen says. “It was a long process of research, over many years, into my own family history. I decided to make a film to tell the sweet story of my grandparents. To me, they were an extraordinary couple. The starting point of my research was when my own relationship ended; I asked myself with even more intensity, how did they do it? How could their love survive over all those years?” In the Shade follows Ilse and Wolfgang Gutsche, who have been married for 65 incredible years; together, they have faced four social orders, the raising of children, growing old, and all manner of life’s ups and downs. Their love and respect for each other are palpable through the screen. This is certainly due, at least in part, to Euen’s familial connection with Ilse and Wolfgang (she is their granddaughter, after all). But the power of this story also lies in its slow, steady progression; the care and contentment that Ilse and Wolfgang feel as a couple is mirrored by the camera’s repose. A love’s strength lies in its moments of stillness and quietude, so In the Shade would suggest. In Euen’s words, “the film feels very slow because everything moves slowly in their life. The camera is fixed, and life develops before [its lens].”

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Euen made her documentary with a very small crew, and shouldered much of the production work in addition to her role as director. Thankfully, she was able to secure funding from Germany’s government resources—otherwise, we might have never had the opportunity to meet Ilse and Wolfgang. However, Euen states that her success with government funding is not the experience of all female filmmakers. “In Germany, half of all students in film schools are female, but when you look at [the allocation of] funding and awards, there are far more men than women,” she says. “The chief of the MDM (Filmfund in central Germany) said once, that only 25 percent of project applications are from women. Another big problem is that most juries who decide [where the money goes] contain more men than women. This is a big subject of discussion.” Institutional barriers preventing women’s voices from being widely heard are internationally felt, it seems. As, unfortunately, one might expect.

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But hope and consolation are not hard to find, especially with superb cinema such as Golden Hour and In the Shade of the Apple Tree available to enjoy. How lucky are we, to have the work of emerging artists such as Vogt and Euen on Vancouver screens? Not only will their films be screening at this year’s festival, but both filmmakers will be in attendance during the International Women in Film Festival’s bloc of artist talks, taking place on Friday, March 9th. When asked how they feel about travelling to Vancouver and participating in the festival, both stated their enthusiastic excitement. Vogt said that she “is greatly looking forward to attending the festival, meeting other filmmakers, and talking about our films. I am excited and feel honoured. I am sure this journey will be a great experience.” Similarly, Euen expressed enthusiasm for the work of other filmmakers, stating that she is “really looking forward to coming to Canada—to seeing the country, presenting my film to an international audience, and to meeting and talking with people about film and future projects.” I can’t wait to hear more from Vogt and Euen during their time at VIWIFF—cinematic insight will abound!

-Sarah Bakke

In the Shade of the Apple Tree  is screening at 8:30 PM on Wednesday, March 7th with the short film about a man and his cat, KisGet tickets now!

The Golden Hour is screening at 9 PM on Friday, March 9th in the Symbols and Survival shorts block of international gems. Get tickets now!

The Vancouver International Women in Film Festival runs from March 6 – 11th, 2018 at the Vancity Theatres. Don’t miss a diverse selection of local and international short and feature films as well as the workshops, artist talks, parties, panels, & more! Click here for more info on the festival.

Sarah Bakke currently interns at WIFTV, where she gets to write all kinds of film-related material––a cinephile’s dream! When she’s not scribbling film notes or watching movies, Sarah can be found at The Cinematheque as a weekend theatre manager and online at SAD Magazine, in her role as web editor.

VIWIFF 2018: Symbols and Survival

In keeping with the theme of heartening stories from all corners of the globe, the Vancouver International Women in Film Festival’s bloc of films on Friday, March 9th—titled Symbols and Survival—fits the inspirational bill, and even pushes a few boundaries. Packed with seven outstanding films (six shorts and one feature) from an exceptionally diverse pool of filmmakers, Symbols and Survival offers cinematic energy and thoughtfulness in spades. Here are a few flicks, picked from the bunch, that I think you should know about.

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“Laymun” directed by Catherine Prowse

Laymun, a short film by U.K.’s Catherine Prowse, tells the beautifully animated story of a gardener working amidst the crumbling walls of a Middle Eastern city, affected by the destruction of war. Her plants, left on doorsteps and window-sills, give hope and point to the promise of growth; life can flourish even in the darkest shadows. See it and admire the skilled animation technique, warm sentiment, and humanitary resonance.

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“The World in Your Window” directed by Zoe McIntosh

Another festival treasure is Zoe McIntosh’s The World in Your Window, a stirring film from New Zealand talent. Eight-year-old Jesse lives in a twilight world of sadness and silence, squeezed into a tiny caravan with his grief-stricken father. They’re in limbo, existing more than living. The child intuitively understands that looking forward is harder than looking back; that’s where life happens. But they are stuck until an unlikely friendship unlocks the means for Jesse to liberate his father and himself. A hopeful story about a surprising act of kindness and connection, The World in Your Window is not one to miss.

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“Anissa 2002” directed by Fabienne Facco

Finally, I recommend Anissa 2002, directed by France’s Fabienne Facco. Closing out the Symbols and Survival bloc, this feature (clocking in at a lean 48 minutes) follows 16-year-old Anissa as she suddenly rebels against her parents’ wishes and runs away into the French countryside. She befriends two travelling strangers who, without understanding the consequence of their actions, help Anissa find the independence she seeks. A poignant and tender presentation of adolescent desires and the turbulence of familial expectations, Facco’s film sticks with me in a strong way.

There you have it. A perfect Friday evening spent munching on popcorn and taking in the powers of great storytelling, with these three titles nestled in amongst a collection of similar gems. Symbols and Survival showcases cinema at its best and most deliberate, highlighting filmmakers from varying paths of experience who create films of great significance. You’re welcome, in advance!

-Sarah Bakke

The Vancouver International Women in Film Festival runs from March 6th – 11th at the Vancity Theatres in Vancouver. Click here for the full festival schedule.

Get your tickets now!

Sarah Bakke currently interns at WIFTV, where she gets to write all kinds of film-related material––a cinephile’s dream! When she’s not scribbling film notes or watching movies, Sarah can be found at The Cinematheque as a weekend theatre manager and online at SAD Magazine, in her role as web editor.

Opening Night & Beyond: an Introduction to VIWIFF 2018

Cinema is multi-faceted and varied in its expression—thank goodness. If not for the compassion and insight of filmmakers from all political and cultural experience, much of the world’s creative spheres would be unknown to those outside of them. It is an honour to be able to peek into the lives of beautiful, strange, troubled, joyous, and extraordinary people; to whom we are introduced by skilled and singular filmmakers.

This year’s Vancouver International Women in Film Festival (#VIWIFF) will be an excellent opportunity to reach out and metaphorically shake the hands of people all across the globe, and revel in their remarkable presence onscreen. In fact, it will be such a gathering of great minds and personalities, it may become a bit overwhelming. And so, here are a few suggestions, in case you’re unsure of where to start.

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“Dark Blue Girl” directed by Mascha Schilinski (Germany)

Where better to begin than opening night? Mascha Schilinski’s Dark Blue Girl is slotted to break the festival ice, on March 6th. This feature film from Germany has a surrealist bend, appropriately so; seven-year-old Luca is the film’s fiery lead (it’s dark blue girl), and the turmoil of her youth takes you in often bizarre directions. When Luca’s separated parents, Jimmy and Hannah, finally find a buyer for their holiday home on the Greek volcano island of Santorini, the disjointed family returns to the place where they split up two years ago. Suddenly, the young girl faces an emotional environment now much changed, as her mother and father reignite a dormant passion. The magic and intensity of childhood provide Dark Blue Girl’s through-line, as Luca’s viewpoint reveals the strange ties that bind people together, whether they like it or not.

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“Kis” direced by Svetlana Bolycheva (Russia)

Speaking of strange ties, Kis, Svetlana Bolycheva’s short documentary, peeks into the delightfully intimate relationship between a Russian Orthodox priest and his cat. Priest Konstantin Michailov and his companion, Kis, get along as equals in a life of happy solitude, save for each others’ company. The two friends banter with one another, share meals together, and muse over the oddities of life, though only one speaks out loud. Perhaps strange is not quite the right word—remarkable should be used instead.

As a final addition to this list of must-see’s, may I suggest the festival’s program of local short films? Some gems include: Akashi, directed by Mayumi Yoshida, which examines the strength of family connections, as well as secrets: Jean Parsons & Jennifer Chiu’s Memory of the Peace, a close look at the intersecting lives of three people living with the reality of the impending Site C hydroelectric dam: Mental (Jax Smith), a fantastical interpretation of one woman’s insecurities and instabilities, as she fights to break through depression and anxiety’s formidable cycle: and Unintentional Mother, directed by Mary Galloway, which poignantly tells of a young Indigenous nanny’s struggle to decide between her responsibility to the little boy in her care and to the demands of her father.

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Clockwise from top left – Akashi (Mayumi Yoshida), Memory of the Peace (Jean Parsons and Jennifer Chiu), Mental (Jax Smith), & Unintentional Mother (Mary Galloway)

These are just a few of the many outstanding films screening at this year’s fest. Quick! Mark them down on your calendar! I’ll see you at the theatre, fellow film-lovers.

– Sarah Bakke, VIWIFF Blogger

Dark Blue Girl is screening at 7pm on Tuesday, March 6, 2018, followed by a Q&A with the filmmaker, Mascha Schilinski.

Kis is programmed with the feature-length documentary, In the Shade of the Apple Tree, at 8:30pm on Wednesday, March 7, 2018.

Mental is screening in the From Haunting to Horrific block with many other local short films at 5pm on Friday, March 9th.

Memory of the Peace is screening in the High Stakes Block at 3:15pm on Saturday, March 10, 2018

Akashi & Unintentional Mother are screening in our Family & Friendship block at 4:15pm on Sunday, March 11, 2018.

For the full festival schedule, click here.

Sarah Bakke currently interns at WIFTV, where she gets to write all kinds of film-related material––a cinephile’s dream! When she’s not scribbling film notes or watching movies, Sarah can be found at The Cinematheque as a weekend theatre manager and online at SAD Magazine, in her role as web editor.

“A personal obligation to share these stories”: Joella Cabalu and the making of her documentary It Runs in the Family

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Still of It Runs in the Family

Nestled in the back corner of a cozy café on a crisp Saturday morning, I sat down with filmmaker Joella Cabalu to talk about her recent documentaries, StandStill (2013) and It Runs in the Family (2015). We spoke for nearly two hours in what felt more like a friendly conversation than an interview, as Joella shared her emotional journey in the making of both her films. As we sipped our coffees, Joella explained the barriers she faced with tackling a story as personal as the coming out of her brother, but also touched on the rewarding nature of documentary filmmaking.

In 2007, Joella’s brother, Jay, came out to her. Joella recalls, “when Jay came out to me, it was one of those circumstances that was almost surreal – I had to balance being a supportive sister with not letting shock read on my face.” At the time, she was finishing up her art history degree at UBC. She was the first person Jay had told in her family, and she knew that Jay would have a difficult time coming out to the rest of the family, given their Roman Catholic upbringing and Filipino background.

When Joella started studying film at Langara College’s Documentary Film Production program, she began to form a narrative in her mind about Jay’s coming out and its impact on her family. She knew she had to make a 10-minute project as her graduate film. “I knew going into school, I wanted to make essentially what would become StandStill. But really what I wanted to make was It Runs in the Family,” Joella explains to me. She knew the 10-minute short would be a good start to tackling a longer film.

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Jay Cabalu

Joella constantly checked in with her brother throughout the writing stages of the film. “For him, it was going to be challenging, having to dig up all of those feelings again,” Joella says. Soon after, she and Jay set out on a journey to track down other queer family members in both North America and the Philippines. As she and Jay got to know their relatives more, they began to think that Jay was not so different from the rest of his family after all. “We’re trying to create this space to have this conversation and normalize it,” she explained.

Joella’s allyship to the LGBTQ+ community, her willingness to be vulnerable, and her empathy towards differing perspectives give the film a sense of maturity and completeness. It neither judges nor is assuming of other identities on the subject of LGBTQ+ rights. The story unfolds organically and both she and Jay are self-reflective in their interviews and encounters with family.

One of Joella’s major moments of reflection was when director Steve James (Hoop Dreams) asked during a screening of a rough cut, why should I care about Jay? Joella realized that the objective of her film was not to portray Jay as a gay person, but as a person – period. “People really became interested in who Jay was when they saw his art,” she explains. Because of this, Joella held a second interview with Jay and included footage of him making his art. This new addition provided a beautiful juxtaposition between Jay collaging materials together on a canvas and piecing together stories of his queer family. In the film, Jay mentions that collaging is the sum of all of his experiences. And so, Joella found the missing piece to complete her film.

“I feel that being the race that I am, and having the background that I have – I immigrated here as a kid – and the gender that I am as well, I am very aware of the inequity in terms of representation in the media. I feel a personal obligation to share these stories. I want my contribution to be unique and to add, for lack of a better word, diversity to the whole thing,” Joella explains.

As the production of It Runs in the Family came to an end, Joella had a very different outlook than when she started the film: “It made me think about why you need to declare to the world [your orientation]?” In traveling to a different culture and listening to her family’s stories and Jay’s feelings, Joella was able to gain a deeper understanding on these issues, and she felt rewarded in how, ultimately, they are family and they will love and accept each other no matter their identity. But most importantly, Joella advises documentary makers “try and find what it means for you” in order to really make the process worth it.

It Runs in the Family will have its hometown premiere at the Vancouver Queer Film Festival on Tuesday August 16th at 9:00 pm, International Village. Buy tickets here.

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Joella Cabalu

It has screened all over North America, winning the Audience Choice Award at the Seattle Asian American Film Festival and special jury mention for social justice documentary at CAAMFest. It will have its Canadian television broadcast on OUTtv in October 2016.

By Zoe Arthur
Photos courtesy of Joella Cabalu

Zoe Arthur is a UBC film production student, minoring in gender, race, sexuality and social justice. She writes about social issues in a critical, feminist framework and aims to show how film can be a powerful tool for social change. 

WIFTV announces #VIWIFF2016 Festival Awards

The exhilarating week that marked the 11th Annual Vancouver Int’l Women in Film Festival (#VIWIFF2016) kicked off with a bang on International Women’s Day, March 8. The National Film Board of Canada (NFB) chose our venue to announce its groundbreaking initiative that 50 per cent of future NFB productions will be directed by women.

The festival week that ensued featured a plethora of films created by women from all over world, and offered numerous opportunities for networking and professional development.

The festival came to a close on Sunday, March 13, with the annual awards gala. Continue reading

When Giants Fall — A stunning status quo of ivory poaching across Africa

WGF_eyeA common view of the ivory poaching crisis is that it’s an old crisis. One that our parents had to worry about in the 1970s. Unfortunately, the resurgence of ivory poaching is very real, and more critical than it has ever been. Everyone has heard about blood diamonds, but how about blood ivory?

The problem is vast and complex, spanning many countries and cultures across the world. Elephants are dying by the hundreds every day, and so are people on both sides of the coin. It is an overwhelming topic to attempt to package in one feature documentary. Somehow, When Giants Fall, a documentary by journalist Leslie Griffith, manages to do just that. Continue reading

Mystery in the Woods – Lise Raven’s Kinderwald screens at #VIWIFF2016

KINDERWALD BOYS STILL 2In German folklore, the forest is a breeding ground for miracles, mysteries and the supernatural. Paying homage to the Black Forest of the Brothers Grimm, Kinderwald creates an ethereal, isolated and atmospheric woodland world of 1854 Pennsylvania.

Despite its apparent seclusion, this forest teems with characters of dubious, if not outright malevolent intent. The only exceptions seem to be the hardworking John Linden (Frank Brückner, who also co-wrote the script) , his dead brother’s wife, pious Flora (Emily Behr) and her two sons (Leo and Louie Fischer-Pasternak). Not long after settling in, the Linden children wander away, leaving their mother and uncle to endure a trial of faith through a dark and tumultuous fairy tale. Continue reading