Meet Story Editor and #FromOurDarkSide Consultant Nikki Saltz

By Peggy Thompson – Project Consultant

Nikki Saltz is a screenwriter and script consultant based in Toronto. She is the founder of the script consulting agency, House of Stories, and is an alumnus of the prestigious Writers’ Lab at the Canadian Film Centre. Nikki has worked in Script Development for Darius Films, Amaze Film + Television, Whizbang Films, and New York’s Goldcrest Films, as well as with countless producers and writers. When she’s not story editing, Nikki produces horror films written and directed by women with her company, Ikki Pictures. Their film “The Tease” played at the Calgary Horror Con and the Chicago Horror Film Fest last year, and the company has just completed post on a new film. Nikki was the creator of the digital series, Slutty Book Club, produced by Smokebomb Entertainment. Her writing has appeared in Chatelaine Magazine, on the CBC and in the Toronto Star.

This year Nikki is consulting with From Our Dark Side winners Melanie Jones and Mariel Scammell on their respective projects: Switchback and The Lot.

You love horror – why is it an important genre for women?
Horror is undersold as a genre for feminists. It’s a genre where filmmakers often feel like outsiders, and as a result, they tend to be less afraid to be critical, and more willing to tell stories that are critical of society and the status quo. The genre lends itself to disruption, which I love. When you add feminism into that already delicious mix, the results are very exciting to me.

Do you have any favourite horror tropes?
It’s less of a trope and more of a sub-genre, but I’m particularly interested in rape-revenge films. It’s obviously very dark subject matter, but I’m fascinated by how these narratives are depicted in horror, especially because most of the time, they’re written by men and exploited for thrills and scares and titillation. I always have my eye on women who are taking control of narratives that reflect our own experiences… but I’m also a sucker for classics like I Spit On Your Grave, Ms. 45, and The Last House on the Left (which still holds its own as one of the most disturbing films I’ve ever seen!).

Why are you involved as a story consultant with From Our Dark Side?
I think it’s extremely sad that there’s still this perception that horror is a boy’s genre, and sadder still that we even have to have female horror filmmakers instead of just horror filmmakers who happen to be women. When we make films at Ikki Pictures (my production company), we crew at least 75% female, and it always makes me laugh to see the men on our crews turning away and being grossed out by our gore effects, whereas the women don’t even blink an eye at blood and guts. Another reason I’m involved is because every year, I wait to see what films get programmed at Midnight Madness (at TIFF) and every year, I’m sorely disappointed to find maybe one woman director in the program. I’ve asked the festival why this is, and their response was that there simply aren’t lots of women submitting horror films. I don’t know if that’s entirely true, but if it is, I want to be involved in anything that will change that.

Who are some women working in horror who inspire you?
I’m really inspired by Jovanka Vuckovic, who just put out the female horror anthology XX. Beyond being a talented filmmaker, she’s extremely generous and supportive of other women filmmakers, too. The Soska Twins are another favourite(s) of mine. Then there’s Marina De Van (In My Skin) and Claire Denis (Trouble Every Day). I’m also really pumped to see what Julia Ducournau, who made Raw, does next.

And anything else you’d like to add.
Just that I’m so glad From Our Dark Side exists, and I can’t wait to see the films that come out of this incubator!

VIWIFF 2017 Festival Highlight: A Revolution in Four Seasons

By Emily Bignell
Tunisia/USA

A Revolution in Four Seasons - 2

This inspirational film traces the struggle for democracy, activism, and self-sacrifice for the sake of revolution.

For those who don’t know,  The Arab Spring was a revolutionary wave of both violent and nonviolent protests, riots, coups and civil wars beginning with the Tunisian revolution. A major slogan of the demonstrators in the Arab world is “the people want to bring down the regime”. Many demonstrations were met with violent retaliations from authorities, as well as from pro-government militias and counter-demonstrators. These attacks were answered back with violence from protesters in some cases, continuing the vicious cycle of conflict.

A Revolution in Four Seasons follows two women with opposing political views as they fight for different versions of an ideal political future in Tunisia. Over the course of Tunisia’s critical post-revolution years, Emna Ben Jemaa, works towards a country governed by free speech and dreams of dismantling corruption of the former regime. In contrast, Jawhara Ettis of the Islamist party Ennahda works towards a Tunisia guided by traditional Islamic principles.

On a public level, both women must navigate how women are treated in their society. Through the journey, they must make difficult choices to balance their public, political roles with marriage and motherhood. As for anyone involved in the political world,  the threat of extremists means that all they are working towards is teetering on the brink of break down and all they’ve worked for could be lost. This timely and insightful documentary traces their paths from public figures in the Arab Spring to opponents in its wake, and the common obstacles they face as outspoken women.

Post Tunisian involvement many large-scale conflicts resulted including the Syrian Civil War. There was an ongoing power struggle after the Tunisian Revolution/Arab Spring. While leadership changed and regimes were dismantled, power then was offered up to another potentially corrupt leader across the Arab world essentially coming down to a contentious battle between the consolidation of power by religious elites, and the growing support for democracy in many Muslim-majority states. As of July 2016, only the uprising in Tunisia resulted in a transition to constitutional democratic governance.

Director Jessie Deeter from California, is a Berkeley Masters graduate in journalism specializing in the Middle East and Africa. After grad Deeter produced stories for Frontline and Al Jazeera, and then moved on to become a Fulbright scholar in Oman, Morocco and Tunisia where she began A Revolution in Four Seasons.

VIWIFF 2017 Festival Highlight: A Trip Along Exodus

By Emily Bignell
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The multimedia, political memoir A Trip Along Exodus takes a heartfelt and intimate dive into the last 70 years of Palestinian politics. Looking at the hope for peace, love, heartbreak and loss, Director Hind Shoufani tackles one of the most difficult topics of this generation from a personal, poetic approach, all through the lens of her father’s life. Her father, Dr. Elias Shoufani, was the leader of the Palestinian Liberation Organization and an academic leftist. Born in Ma’liya in the Galilee and educated at the Hebrew University as well as Princeton, the multilingual and erudite Dr. Shoufani was also the Arab world’s leading analyst of Israeli affairs for more than a generation.

The Israel-Palestine conflict is the unresolved struggle between Israelis and Palestinians that began in the mid-20th century. It is one of the modern world’s longest standing, irreversible, conflicts in history. The war is wide-ranging but one of the persisting issues at the core is between the Jewish yishuv and the Arab population under British rule. The Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip has been powering on for 50 years despite scattered intervention, peacekeeping missions, and cease-fires.

In many ways, the film is a conversation between father and daughter – an open-ended discussion about what peace looks like in the Arab world. Though Hind takes a more feminist approach to her journey to peace for the Arab world, her father held very similar value at the core and was extremely progressive for the time. The result is a touching though complicated take on intergenerational discourse and peace in complicated times.

Director Hind Shoufani from Lebanon, lives between Dubai and Beirut, in the Middle East. She is a poet, director and producer. Born from Palestinian activist parents, her father having graduated from Princeton became the leader of the PLO, Shoufani received her masters of filmmaking and directing at NYU from Tisch school for the Arts. Her main focuses are on freedom of Arab people and transnational feminism.

VIWIFF 2017 Festival Highlight: Anishoara

By Emily Bignell

Moldova/Germany
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Anishoara is a fairy tale-like love story, coming of age hybrid, set against the changing of the seasons in breathtaking Moldova.

Minimal dialogue and simple landscapes stand in stunning contrast to the character’s busy relationships. Anishoara, is a 15-year-old girl from a small village. Outwardly, her life is calm, and of a dreamy aesthetic concealing the archaic feelings within. Alone with her old grandfather and her little brother, we follow Anishoara through the seasons as she falls in love with different parts of the earth. The melon harvest, the sea, and, eventually, a man.     

A must-see for foreign film fanatics, travel bugs, and anyone who is feeling nostalgic for summer days and young love.

Director Ana Felicia Scutelnicu from Moldova, graduated from German Film and TV Academy and went on to live in Benin, West Africa, before returning to Moldova to pursue her career in film and directing further.

 

VIWIFF 2017 Festival Highlights: “Shorts Programme 2: Relationships Under Pressure”

By Emily Bignell

shorts 2 Stalingrado 6With the world being what it is, it can be hard to remain compassionate.

Sometimes, the society we live in, the beliefs we have, or the stress we are facing amount to conflict – with strangers, friends, and the unknown. They put our relationships, in every sense of the word, under pressure.

The films from Shorts Block 2: Relationships Under Pressure reminds us of all the different ways that stress, prejudice and contrasting beliefs can create unintended consequences.

  • Aftermath (Germany) looks at the fight for everyday survival, the natural course of action and reaction and eventually takes a violent turn. A friendship evolves from this difficult and unusual circumstance but only lasts a moment before an unwavering grudge interferes.
  • Stalingrado (Spain) explores an Oedipal relationship, and the role it plays in the son’s relationship with another woman. A jealous mother becomes aggravated at her son and lover’s other woman.
  • The Patriot (UK) illustrates the simmering racial tensions within a young girl’s rural English community. The story follows a rollercoaster of tolerance and playfulness taking a quick 360 to tension and violence on the basis of class and race.
  • The Things We Do They Don’t Understand (USA) is a cinematically simple, heartfelt film that follows a girl who wakes up after a one-night stand, and finds herself alone with the man’s mother. The mother only speaks Spanish, and with the language barrier the two women have an emotional breakfast together, finding a way to communicate with each other, both verbally and emotionally.
  • Here Nor There (BC) begins with a mysterious meeting in an underground parking lot. A funeral for a woman who has been missing for years and a private investigator who discovered her body bring light to infidelity, intimacy, trauma mystery and the unique ways that people deal with loss and love. Nothing is as it seems in the face of personal tragedy.
  • On the Beach (Germany) is about the holidays at the sea in Northern Germany. A woman is bored and invents a game where she pretends to be blind, and her partner plays along. The game leads to a deep hole of lies and reveals the emptiness of their relationship.

If dark and sad isn’t your style, check out Shorts Block 5: The Lighter Side of Change, for films by local comedians as they tackle comedy in unique and endearing ways. If your doom-and-gloom quotient hasn’t yet been met, or if you’re looking for a new reflection point on conflict, this shorts programme is for you.

VIWIFF 2017 Festival Highlights: Breath

By Emily Bignell
Iran

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Director Narges Abyar from Tehran is an author, screenwriter and film director with over 30 pieces published ranging from children’s stories to novels and political pieces – and it all comes together in Breath.

Abyar’s background is well-served by the cinematography of Breath, which captures the beauty of both peace and chaos as it follows the daily routine of an imaginative young girl.

Bahar’s story eloquently incorporates the beauty of literature and how she uses it to explore and interpret her life amidst the tumult of revolution and war in Iran.

Using animation and still pictures, Breath gives us a front row seat to the imagination and dreams of a child living the realities conflict.

By embracing her reality through self-directed studies and reading, Bahar escapes the day-to-day life in Iran, taking her existence from tolerable to near-enjoyable.

VIWIFF 2017 Festival Highlight: Unveiled: The Kohistan Video Scandal

By Emily Bignell
Pakistan/BC

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Trigger Warning: Violence, Sexism

Vancouver-based director and producer Brikshay Ahmed originally from Afghanistan started in journalism and then moved on to bring light to similar topics instead through film and is also a member of WIFTV.

The worlds of investigative journalism and documentary filmmaking collide in her latest project, of blurred public and private spheres in Unveiled.

When four girls go missing after a video of them clapping and singing in public “illegally” goes viral in their small, remote village in the Kohistan region of Northern Pakistan, their families and community suspects the tribal council is behind the disappearance.

Cell-phone and professionally shot footage combines to tell the story of a fight for justice – fuelled by a dedicated community and media outrage, but ultimately silenced by the slow pace of progress.

Today, Pakistan more than 1,000 women and girls murdered in honor killings every year. Though many areas are making progress towards recognition of women’s rights, smaller villages continue to ingrain the patriarchy into the core of the culture. ( http://hbv-awareness.com/)

Join us at the festival for a FREE screening of Unveiled featuring a Q&A with the director. (Link)

Vancouver International Women in Film Screenplay Competition announces 2017 Official Selections

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VIWIFF International Screenplay Competition founder Michelle Muldoon and jurist Bill Hurst at the 2016 Vancouver International Women in Film Festival.

By Joan Macbeth

The starting point for every great film is a well-written script. The VIWIFF International Screenplay Competition, in its third year, welcomed screenplays from women writers all over the world. Judging was based on a number of criteria, including story composition, scene construction, set-up and pay-off, imagery, character development, formatting, dialogue, and originality. Thanks to our esteemed jury for volunteering their time: Angela Crosato, Mia Divac, Sasha Duncan, Bill Hurst, Dee LeBlanc, Jenny Siddle and Kelly Tatham.

The philosophy of the competition is to replicate a professional experience for the writers, as much as possible. When submitting a script to producers, managers or agents, many times a writer’s success is based on the first few pages of the script. We allow up to 30 pages for the initial read, plus a synopsis, for the jury to decide if the script should advance to the second round. All of our judges are professional story analysts, with the same type of training you might find in the industry “gatekeepers” who make the initial decision on whose screenplays will move up the ladder. For the more advanced screenwriter, our objective is to garner for them industry attention and recognition for excellent writing.

Congratulations to our Official Selections!

Amanda Darling – Mary: The Trials and Tribulations of an Unwed Pregnant Teen in The Ancient World
Ana de Lara – The Virgin Mary Had a Little Lamb
Clara Dollar – Patients
Annie Frazier Henry – Footprints In Blood
Elizabeth Indianos – Libertaire
Alix Joyce – Kill Me
Anita Reilly McGee – Mammy
Lily Mercer – My Old Man
Kristine Stephenson – Flightless
Megan Turner – Amaranthine

For the ten Official Selections, WIFTV provides a prize package that includes a festival pass to VIWIFF 2017, and an opportunity to attend pitch meetings offered during the festival. For the top three finalists, to be announced just before the festival, additional prizes include a downloadable copy of Final Draft software, and an InkTip listing. The first place Grand Prize Winner receives a cash prize of $250.

Special thanks to our sponsors:

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