VIWIFF 2018: A Trio of Girlhood Truth

What a joy it is to watch movies by Canadian directors! I don’t know about you, but I’ll watch home-grown content anytime, and this year’s Vancouver International Women in Film Festival is full of exactly that. As a favour to all you festival-goers, here are a few top Canadian picks. Consider them highly recommended!

Ingrid Veninger’s latest feature follows the success of her 2015 film, He Hated Pidgeons, and sticks with her talent for nuanced story-telling and affectionate character study. After moving from Toronto to the small, northern Ontario town where her father lives, thirteen-year-old Bea befriends rambunctious Kate, who quickly becomes the centre of Bea’s adolescent world. As both girls face the adversity of growing up, their friendship remains a source of courage and comfort against the trouble of adulthood. Strong performances and well-woven drama drive the film, as Porcupine Lake invents a story of girlhood in cabin country with sensitivity, choosing to face the scary-strangeness of young friendships and family dynamics head-on.

Porcupine Lake - Header

Preceding Porcupine Lake, VIWIFF has programmed Alberta filmmaker Sandi Barrett’s Chokecherry, a short film that is sure to stir up feelings of nostalgia and adolescent heartache. Over the course of one summer, a young girl in the midst of childhood freedom balances on the precipice of young adulthood, and she must choose to either remain with her sisters in their world of imagination or abandon herself to the inevitability of growing up.

Threads - Heaeder

Or, on a more uplifting note, be sure to check out Threads, the latest from Oscar-winner Torill Kove. This charmingly animated short has city-folk soaring above high-rise and farmland alike, pulled by strings hanging from the sky. At the end of each string are a child and an everlasting connection. Motherhood and the passage of childhood are lovingly explored in Kove’s work.

These three Canadian films feature the intricate worlds of girls as they face the truths of adulthood, and dive deep into complicated feelings of relationship—Porcupine Lake deepest of all. Add them to your list of screenings to catch, since you won’t want to miss out!

-Sarah Bakke

Chokecherry & Porcupine Lake are screening at 6:00 PM on Saturday, March 10th.

Threads screens during the Family and Friendship shorts programs at 4:15PM on Sunday, March 11th.

The Vancouver International Women in Film Festival (#VIWIFF) runs from March 6th – 11th, 2018 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.

Advertisements

VIWIFF 2018: Resistance and its Many Expressions

Cinema has the power and privilege to influence the way we understand the people and conflicts of the world, hopefully for the better. By turning a considerate eye towards life both near and far, filmmakers can offer what the boundaries of our own lives cannot—an open and ever-changing perspective. To meaningfully engage with the world is oftentimes to know someone else’s sorrow and, with confidence, their triumph too. This year’s Vancouver International Women in Film Festival offers an outstanding line-up of documentary films, both feature-length and short, sure to change the way we experience the struggles and successes of people across the globe. Here are a few of those titles!

VIWIFF’s program of critical and affecting films, titled Resistance, will be screening on Saturday, March 10th at 12:00 p.m. and features outstanding works from three international filmmakers followed by a panel discussion.

“Irina Patanian’s short documentary, Little Fiel, examines the civil warfare which lasted in Mozambique for sixteen years, beginning in 1977 and ending in 1992, and celebrates the resistance and hope found in the toughest of times. Artist Fiel dos Santos creates sculptures from decommissioned guns used during wartime, usurping their original purpose and turning them into expressive figures. Fiel uses these sculptures to tell meaningful stories based on childhood memories of perseverance, family, and respect through immersive stop-motion animation.”

LittleFiel - Header

Second in the program is Objector, another short documentary with political resonance, directed by Molly Stuart. With articulate precision, the film tells the compelling story of Atalya who, at nineteen years of age, chooses prison over obligatory military service in the Israeli army. The film offers a window into the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine from the perspective of a young Jewish woman taking a stand against it.

Objector - Header

Finally, VIWIFF’s Resistance bloc ends with Tatiana Chistova’s Convictions—a sharp take on Russia’s political and social traditions. Russian men are required to serve in the military once they reach the age of eighteen. An alternative to military service is offered to conscientious objectors, but they must first prove the validity and strength of their convictions to a staunch draft board. Chistova follows four brave young men as they each make their case.

Convictions - Header

It’s rare to find such galvanizing material, and all in one place. Don’t miss the Resistance series at this year’s festival! All three films provide a peek into the often tumultuous, always inspiring lives of foreign folks. You and I are lucky to know them in this way!

– 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.

DarkBlueGirl - Header

“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.

Kis

“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.

VIWIFF - Blog 1

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.

VIWIFF Screenplay Competition Announces 2018 Official Selections

VIWIFFScreenplay Logo

2018 marks the fourth year for the VIWIFF International Screenplay Competition. This year we welcomed feature screenplay submissions from female writers across Canada and the U.S.A., Japan, Australia, Brazil, United Arab Emirates, Tajikistan, Hong Kong, France, Austria and the U.K. Our jury consists of professional-level story analysts and experienced screenwriters who judge the entries on a spectrum of criteria: structure, character development, dialogue, set-up and pay-off, scene composition, visual imagery, formatting and originality. Probably the most important aspect of a writer’s success in the competition is her ability to hook the reader in the first 5-10 pages. In the initial round of judging, advancement is based only on the script’s first act. Just like real-life in the industry, if a reader is hooked early on, she’s going to want to read the remainder of the script. So those first 10 pages are key.

This year we had several instances where jury members commented that they had seen the title submitted in prior years… And happily, those scripts had improved substantially! Writers who had previously not made the cut, showed their tenacity, improved their skills and their scripts – and we are happy to include them among the list of 2018 Official Selections:

Marquette Jones – After the Jump

Jocelyn Osier – If I Could I Would

Ellie Foumbi – Zenith

Jes Sugrue – A Homemade Christmas

Shannon Walsh – Unidentified Minor

Bonnie Maffei – Becoming Picasso

Jill Taylor – I Need A Hero

Sophie Naima Caird – When He Gets to Her

Sheri Davenport – Sins of the Father

Lina Roessler – The Rescuer

VIWIFFscreenwriters10

Top 10 Finalists (clockwise) Marquette Jones, Jocelyn Osier, Ellie Foumbi, Jes Sugrue, Shannon Walsh, Lina Roessler, Sheri Davenport, Sophie Naima Caird, Jill Taylor, & Bonnie Maffei.

Congratulations to the top ten Official Selections for the 2018 VIWIFF International Screenplay Competition, who will receive a festival pass and an opportunity to pitch their scripts to industry professionals at the festival. The top three writers will receive additional prizes and the first place winner will be presented the Ken Hayward Award for Best Screenplay at the VIWIFF Awards Ceremony on Sunday, March 11, 2018.

Many thanks to our volunteer readers, jurors and VIWIFF Screenplay Competition Coordinator, Joan Macbeth.

The Vancouver International Women in Film Festival runs from March 6th to 11th, 2018.  Join us for a diverse selection of local and international short and feature films and stay for the parties, panel discussions, artist talks and more. Free events on International Women’s Day, March 8th. Check out this year’s schedule here.

 

 

Mariel Scammell on Frontières, Fantasia, & From Our Dark Side

01_Mariel_Headshot_2017

Mariel Scammell

Participating in the 2017 Frontières Co-Production Market at Fantasia this year was both an honour and an incredible opportunity. The five-day market was a whirlwind of industry panels, pitch sessions, networking cocktails, and meetings. As an emerging writer, director, and producer, I gained invaluable insight and experience into the production, financing, and distribution of feature-length genre films.

The highlight for me was participating in the first year of the Directed by Women Networking and Pitch Session. This session provided a challenging and supportive environment to present my first feature project, The Lot, a supernatural thriller developed through WIFTV’s From Our Dark Side Incubator Program. I received expert feedback on the project from industry professionals and connected with an impressive slate of producers, distributors and sales agent in a series of one-on-one meetings. At this event, I also had the opportunity to watch six other fantastic projects presented by incredible and inspiring women. As an advocate for women in genre film, participating in this event was truly inspiring.

02_Mariel_Headshot_2017

Mariel Scammell’s “The Lot” table for Pitching at Frontières

At Fantasia, I also had the great honour to present Undress Me, a short body-horror film I recently produced with director Amelia Moses at the Born of Woman shorts program. This screening, which featured nine female-directed genre shorts, was an amazing compliment to the Directed By Women Pitch Session.

04_Mariel_Frontiers_Photobooth_2017

Amelia Moss (left) with Mariel Scammell celebrating the screening of their film “Undress Me” at the Born of Woman shorts program at Fantasia

These back to back experiences were wonderful, and express the growing commitment to broadening horizons for women creators in genre film. I was honoured to be a part of of this year’s events, and the experience I gained and the connections I made during Frontières will be invaluable as I move forward with The Lot.

 

Follow me:

www.marielscammell.com/

Twitter : @truesweetheart_

Instagram: marielscammell

If you would like to find out more information on the From Our Dark Side Genre Concept Competition, click here!

 

 

Day By Day at the Whistler Film Festival with WIFTV Whistler Film Festival Film Market Preparation Mentorship Recipient, Shannon Walsh

Shannon Walsh is not only the recipient of the 2017 WIFTV Whistler Film Festival Film Market Preparation Mentorship but she was also one of eight directors chosen for the Women in the Director’s Chair (WIDC) script development and directing mentorship program, Story & Leadership. Both opportunities were in collaboration with Whistler Film Festival and included participation at the festival.

Here is what Shannon had to say…

I had no idea what to expect at the Whistler Film Festival – I’d heard it might be something of a Sundance Lab of the north, and that felt like a good description. Nestled in the snow and the beauty of the mountains, it was an absolute treat to pitch my script and meet a ton of new people along the way.

Shannon1

Shannon Walsh with her mentor Robyn Wiener (left)

My WIFTV mentor, Robyn Wiener, and I sat down in Vancouver a few weeks before the festival and had a great lunch getting to know each other. With all that is happening in the industry right now around women, sharing stories of some of the uglier parts of the film industry, it was so good to connect and feel the importance of female mentorship. Mentorship offers support without an agenda, meant to lift us up so all of us can be better together. That kind of community-building spirit is so important to me and it was such a key component of being part of this mentorship opportunity.

After meeting up, I sent Robyn the materials for my film “Unidentified Minor”. It was really great that Robyn took the time to read the script I sent her and give me detailed feedback. I was really pleased with her enthusiasm, and it made the project feel that much more doable. She had lots of comments and insights to share around the story and the potential she saw in the project.

Day one at the Whistler Film Festival got off to a great start. The morning was filled with a WIDC roundtable and one-on-one meetings with Mehernaz Lentin from CBC, which was exciting and inspiring. After that, we met with all the other Talent Labs from the festival and had the rather nerve-wracking opportunity to pitch our work to the room! After lunch with CBC and the WIDC cohort, I returned to the Conference Centre to meet up with Robyn as soon as she arrived at registration. The centre was abuzz, and we took the opportunity to grab some photos, and to catch up.

Shannon2

Shannon Walsh (middle) with Pamela Jones (left) and Carolyn Combs (right)

After bags were dropped and sorted, I met up with Robyn in the evening and we had dinner, where I shared with her what I’d been doing the last few weeks as part of the WIDC “Story and Leadership” lab. We met up with a few other women in the industry there, before heading to the evening festivities at the Grill & Vine at the Westin. Robyn introduced me to a range of people at the party, and I quickly found my way through some new, and some familiar, faces. Already we were off to a good start, as the chilled out and open vibe at Whistler made it easy to mingle and meet people.

Day two started with a very early breakfast and one-on-one meetings with Lauren Davis from Telefilm in the Maury Young Arts Centre. My next meeting was cancelled, so I slid over through the mix of rain and snow to the Conference Centre for the next few hours of meetings with the WIDC script editor and acting coach. Then straight from there to the Squamish Lil’Wat Cultural Centre for the Whistler Film Fest’s “Got Talent” Luncheon, which brought together groups from all the Talent Labs happening at the festival. This was an awesome lunch; there was so much talent in the beautiful space. Robyn introduced me to a number of people at the lunch, including some of the “Stars to Watch,” like Julia Sarah Stone, and I had the chance to have a great chat with her.

Robyn and I walked back to the Maury Young Arts Centre, chatting about the film and possible connections along the way. That evening we went to the Apres Networking event at the Grill & Vine, another great opportunity to pitch the film and meet new people. I attended films in the evening and supported some of the local talent to watch on the big screen!

Day three was an early morning once again, with scheduled meetings with WIDC mentors and the Harold Greenberg fund, as well as a group lunch. Between films, watching pitches, panels, and meetings, I caught some parties, and celebrated awards given out at the Apres Networking sessions. Another day filled with great new contacts and energy about pushing the project forward.

Shannon4Day four and the “Women on Top breakfast and Keynote” was a stunning way to round off the festival. Inspiring talks and again new contacts and discussions with some incredible women who are leaders in the field. I left feeling like I had renewed energy and connections. Back down on solid ground, I caught up with Robyn about the events of the last few days, and again attended panels and a number of films, soaking in all the inspiration I could.

Shannon3The final day on Sunday started with early breakfast and a few hours of industry immersion meetings with WIDC, before supporting some of my own students with work in the BC Short Student work segment, and listening to the stunning panel on Screenwriting hosted by Variety. Then films, films, films! Taking in as much as I could as the day sped by!

Each day held such a range of connections, inspiration, and networking, and it will take me some serious time to process it all. I’m thankful to Robyn and to the many women who have paved the way for folks like me to come up in this industry. It was a truly transformative experience and one that I believe has sparked just the beginning of my relationship with the film industry in Vancouver! Many thanks!

Shannon Walsh

Find out more about WIFTV mentorship opportunities here.

An Interview with “A Better Man” Filmmaker Attiya Khan

1-A-Better-Man.-

*Content warning: domestic abuse*

Reel Causes, one of WIFTV’s community partners, is screening the NFB documentary A Better Man. This landmark film is the story of a woman, Attiya Khan, who confronts her abusive ex-partner, Steve. Through the candid conversations they share 22 years later, we learn about their respective experiences throughout the relationship.

WIFTV was offered the opportunity to provide Khan with some questions via email, and we were happy to reach out. Given the subject matter, it is not difficult to understand why she would feel more comfortable responding to questions over email. This Vulture article explains it in greater detail.

Join Reel Causes for the Vancouver premiere of A Better Man on November 23rd at SFU Woodward’s (149 West Hastings Street) at 7 pm. There will be a panel following the screening and an active listener will be present.

As you are not a traditional filmmaker and we’ve read that Steve took some convincing to be involved, we’re curious how this film ended up getting made.  

I have wanted to make a documentary about my experience for a long time. After years of running into Steve, and eventually talking with him about why it was important to me to make a documentary, he agreed, but not without careful consideration; we knew that this commitment would be difficult for both of us. I had a friend film our first conversation, and wasn’t exactly sure what the next steps would be. I eventually searched for a producer, and we worked very closely to define my goals, navigate the requirements for financing a film, and ultimately manage the overwhelming experience of making a film about myself. It was almost a five-year process, and the commitment from everyone involved was immense.

Earlier this year, WIFTV was thrilled to share the news about the NFB initiative to expand its gender equity plan to include other key creative positions (i.e., cinematographer, composer, and screenwriter). Most of the crew for A Better Man is comprised of women. What process was involved in deciding on the crew?   

Sarah Polley introduced me to my producer, Christine Kleckner, who was a very close collaborator throughout the making of this film. We very carefully established a team that would be respectful of my process, and respectful towards women. We spent some time creating a demo to discuss our creative ideas and really get to know each other. My producer, co-director and cinematographer are seasoned documentarians, and they knew how intense the process would be for me, and were incredibly supportive. There were a number of women that were essential, but the entire crew really was a dream team. Further to that, my outreach team – Steph Guthrie (Impact Producer) and Janette Luu (Strategy and Communications) are fiercely driven to push this project. My instinct will always be to work with women first, but I think it’s important to be open to all of the possibilities.

Throughout the film, the responses seem genuine and candid. Was there ever a time when having a camera present impacted your behaviour? Or Steve’s behaviour?

We were both aware of the camera, although there were some moments where we immediately focused on each other and the camera was the last thing we were thinking about. But there were times when Steve struggled to find his words, or I was thinking about how far I might want to take a conversation, and our awareness of being filmed would start to infiltrate. But our cinematographer, Iris Ng, was exceptional at reading these signals, and would make decisions that gave us the space we needed, while really maintaining that feeling of intimacy and authentic feeling of the mood and space that we were in.

[We liked this question Reel Causes used on their blog and decided to ask Khan for her input.] This film is unlike anything we’ve seen before, bringing healing and insight for women – and men, as we watch your courage in meeting your former abuser, as well his voluntary act of taking responsibility for the violence. How do you think Vancouverites – victims, abusers and allies – can work towards healing?

I think one thing we can all do is recognize that people can’t be categorized so neatly as that. We are whole human beings and our identities and histories are complex. People who use violence aren’t just abusers – there are many other characteristics and actions that make up who they are, and many of them have also experienced violence at some point in their lives. Many people who may identify as allies, and some of those of us who’ve experienced violence, have also engaged in abusive behaviour (physically, emotionally or otherwise) at some point in our lives. As a culture, we are getting closer to understanding in theory that people who use violence are not monsters but our friends, family members, colleagues and neighbours. But I think when actually faced with the possibility that someone we care about has used violence, or that we ourselves have engaged in behaviour that hurt somebody else, we still default to very black-and-white responses that validate the “monster” narrative, by either dismissing the possibility (“I’m a good person, I didn’t mean to hurt anyone!”) or by ostracizing the person. I hope A Better Man helps people understand that there are other options available to us besides ignoring and ostracization when we encounter stories about violence happening in our own communities.

How has making this film impacted you?

I really do feel like I’ve started to heal, which I didn’t expect from all of this. This goes beyond a sense of relief – I physically feel better. I feel less burdened and have less anxiety when I’m in new spaces. I’m literally breathing better! I got what I needed from this, and the strength and joy that I feel entering the next phase of my life has a lot do with making A Better Man.

While this film has the potential to be triggering for audiences, it is an incredibly important story. What advice would you give to those who are reluctant to attend a screening?

This is a difficult film for audience members, especially for people who have experienced violence. This is why our team has made an effort to ensure there are counselors available at as many screenings as possible, to listen and offer support to audience members. People who have experienced violence know what is best for them, and I hope they listen to their instincts about whether or not to attend. If they do attend, I encourage them to think about what steps they can take to make sure they have the support they need during and after watching – whether it’s some quiet time alone afterward, bringing a close friend with them to the screening, or anything else they need.

Words by Brianna Girdler and Jennifer Foden

Samantha Loney, From Our Dark Side Winner, Dishes about the Highlights (and more) of the 2017 Frontières Market

We asked Samantha Loney some questions about taking her project Married to Murder to the 2017 Frontières International Co-production Market and Networking Platform and here is what she had to say. 

pjimage.jpg

What were your Top 3 Highlights from your time at the Frontières Market? 

1 – Seeing a rough cut scene from George A. Romero’s Road of the Dead!!!

2 – Getting the chance to pitch my project alongside some amazing ladies and be berated in front of an audience by an amazing group of judges. Was a great learning experience.

3 – The Femme Fatales ladies only gathering was amazing. It was a safe space to discuss our period cramps, and how to overthrow the patriarchy. Stay tuned world.

What was one of the lessons learned through the experience?

Grey Nuns Residence is a great place to stay because you’re a block away from all the events at Frontières, but is it worth it when you have to lay awake at night dressed in nothing but your own stank? For lazy people like me yes, but warning to future participants Grey Nuns has no air conditioning.

IMG_0786 (1)

If you had to pick only one, tell us about your favourite moment.

The farewell dinner. After spending four days of talking we got to eat some amazing food, and dance away all the calories from the wine we had consumed all week.

What impact do you feel being at Frontières Market had on your project?

I’ve made quite a few connections, and have been in talks with a director, which I hope works out well so we can take Married to Murder back to Frontières next year to beg for some money on the big stage!

If you would like to learn more about From Our Dark Side, click here.