Button Out! & Pass The Salt: WIFTV Members with Films at VQFF 2018 Part One

The 30th Vancouver Queer Film Festival is officially underway and one of our WIFTV blog writers, Hanna B, recently took a moment to catch up with five WIFTV members with films screening at the festival. 

Button Out! is a video art project about the power of buttons by Kathleen Mullen, and while this short short-film seems like a fun-to-watch spot in between longer heavier piece, do not be fooled!

Still from Button Out!

Still from Button Out!

The tiny pins and buttons shown above all carry their own stories. While some buttons are a call to action, others are a humorous token. By simply filming them successively on the same jacket, the viewer is invited to imagine whether they were worn in a celebratory manner at marches, or casually sported to let others know who you are and what causes you support, or maybe, they were fearlessly displayed as an act of defiance and bravery during a darker time.

In Button Out, Kathleen Mullen tells a new story about the history of the simple yet effective art of using buttons to make a statement. She explains, “buttons change as our times and issues do, and more than ever we have to be vigilant about fighting for our history and our present-day rights. This is a rallying cry.”

Kathleen, who has contributed to film and art festivals for 20 + years (including Toronto International Film Festival, Hot Docs, Inside Out Toronto, Planet in Focus, and VQFF), first got the idea of making this short when she saw the collection of over 1500 buttons at the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives. She said, “I felt there was a lot of potential to play with the visual appeal of the buttons and their defiant, provocative, and courageous messages.” Furthermore, she was inspired by her “own love of buttons” which she wore them over the years at marches, protests, pride events. “Buttons speak to me in a profound way as they encompass so many experiences that I have had in the queer community since I came out in 1985.”

Kathleen Mullen, Director of Button Out!

(Fun Fact: Kathleen actually own one of the pins shown in the movie! She revealed: “I have the pronoun button that is the last button in the film.”)

As straightforward as it seems, the film did not come without a challenge as the director stated, “I was living in Vancouver and I had to travel to Toronto to shoot the film in the archives so I had to make a lot of logistical arrangements. But really it was organizing all the buttons, and trying to pin them on the red leather jacket without them falling off!”

‘Button Out!’ will be playing at VQFF next week but Kathleen plans to put the film online after “so that people can see this amazing collection.” She also has few things on her plate that we can look forward to, as she concluded “I have a couple of short films to finish and one I have to re-edit. I am working on getting a bit of funding to finish them. And then I am trying to write a feature. At the moment I have returned for a seasonal contract as Festival Programming Director of Twist: Seattle Queer Film Festival.”

Button Out! screens on Sunday, August 12 at International Village at 4:30pm just before Sarah Fodey’s The Fruit Machine


 

Directed, written, and produced by WIFTV members Panta Mosleh & Hayley Gray, Pass The Salt is a lively comedy about two women of different faiths, Jewish and Muslim, trying to find a way to reveal their love—and announce their wedding plan—to their traditional families, all gathered together at a luncheon. Between jokes, arguments, culture clash, and a Pictionary-like game, this animated gathering turns from confrontational to peaceful and friendly as the film tells a story of “love and acceptance.”

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The short uses the familiar soap-like appeal, found in many comedies about lovers from different backgrounds, to its advantage in order to convey its message. As Panta attested, “I always try to wrap an important message with a sweet flavour of comedy. It always makes it easier to swallow the facts that way.” As to the style of the film, she then added, “The feel of the film was influenced by big middle-eastern family dinners that I have been through. The closest thing I could compare it to would be My Big Fat Greek Wedding, the middle eastern version.” Hayley later explained that to give a genuine quality to the piece they “Brought in actors from the Muslim and Jewish communities and worked with community organizations that were able to help us better frame our discussion.”

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Left to Right, Hayley Gray & Panta Mosleh

Hayley, who started as an actor then made her way behind the scenes in production roles, reinforced this idea of authenticity as she shared how Panta was a huge inspiration, drawing from her own life experiences as a source of insight for Pass The Salt. Panta, who has also been in the industry since a very young age, first as an actress on Iranian TV, then working in Japan, and now an established member of the industry here in Canada, revealed, “As a bisexual woman of color myself coming from a family that has one side with a super religious Islamic beliefs and the other side with a more modern non religious conservative side. I knew that a situation would and could arise that I might possibly pick a female as a life partner.” And, as the project began to form in her head, she asserted in her director’s statement, “I thought to myself how would the encounter with both families go and how would I hope for it to turn out, so I explored that idea.” From there she went on to work on the script and processed it for about a year before approaching Hayley to co-direct the film with her.

Although Pass The Salt was not without any challenges when asked about difficulties the directors replied, “This film definitely did have setbacks, we worked on many grants and pitches, none of which moved forward which meant finding the people, the locations, gear, and actors with only ourselves for support.” Hayley and Panta are now, “Working on reimagining Pass the Salt into a series and are excited to see where that leads!”

Pass the Salt screens with EQ at The Coast is Queer on Friday, August 17 at the York Theatre at 9:00pm. 

Hanna B. works in the industry and writes about Films & TV Shows on her blog What2watch2night.com.

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Catching Up With Filmmaker & 2017 WIFTV Banff World Media Festival Mentorship Recipient, Heather Hatch

Heather Hatch, 2017 recipient of the Banff World Media Festival Mentorship, is devoted to collaboration and self-reflexivity in her work. With positive media representation of Indigenous women and girls as her focus, Hatch uses her talents in writing and filmmaking to put Indigenous community, language, and values at the forefront of the moving-image screen. Her recent project The Girl Who Talks to the Moon (created in partnership with Rebecca Campbell at Catapult Pictures and Frederick Kroetsch), which was picked up by CBC for a pilot episode, highlights the value of connection to Indigenous culture at a young age—the show revolves around a girl from the Haida Nation, Harmony, and her quest to build a kite for Nanaay (Grandmother) Moon. The pilot beautifully combines stop-motion animation with live-action and engages young audiences in Haida traditions of creativity and language. This success is just the beginning for Hatch; she plans to continue her work as filmmaker concerned with Indigenous voice and collaboration.

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Behind the Scenes Shot of Harmony from “The Girl Who Talks to the Moon.” Photo by Dwayne Martineau.

I spoke with Hatch over the phone one weekday afternoon, just after she had left a meeting regarding her latest endeavour—a documentary about the controversial Site C Dam. I was interested to know more about her process and her goals for this latest work. We talked about these and several other topics, with Hatch’s enthusiasm for collaborative filmmaking and cultural representation shining through with each response.

Sarah Bakke: How did you first find a passion for film?

Heather Hatch: I’d say it was a mixture of things. My friends had been in the industry for a long time, and I often ended up helping them with their projects. In university, I took some film [studies] courses and really liked to write and research, so it all kind of happened naturally.

SB: Yes, you mention a love of writing in your artist bio. You also mention that seeing your writing onscreen is a really inspiring process. Can you elaborate on that experience?

HH: I guess, when I’m trying to think of ways to illustrate a point or a feeling, I try to write what I see in my head. Being able to communicate that through film really got me interested in exploring [the medium] more seriously.

SB: How else has your experience at Banff influenced your career as you’ve moved forward?

HH: I think meeting so many industry experts made it easier to attend future meetings and having to pitch fast makes it easy to define what the thread of your project is. If you can’t see it clearly [as you’re pitching it], perhaps you need to work more on the story. The mentorship from Cynde Harmon was really great, too.

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Heather Hatch (centre) with her mentor Cynde Harmon (left) and WIFTV Treasurer Karen Wong (right)

SB: You mentioned a collaborator in Fort St. John. Can you describe the project that’s in the works currently?

HH: Yeah, I’m currently working on a feature-length documentary called Della and Goliath. It focuses on the Site C Dam that’s being built on treaty land, and on an elder named Della Owens, whose life is deeply affected by this dam. I’m focused on how First Nations’ connection to the land is integral to their identity, and on the [continually perpetuated] destruction story and legacy of Canadian cultural genocide. I also want to say, this project was funded through the 2017 Telefilm Talent Fund.

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SB: You’ve stated that your focus as a filmmaker is to create positive media representations of Indigenous women and girls—have you encountered any challenges or unexpected obstacles in completing that work?

HH: The biggest challenge is constantly educating yourself about the issues, and listening to the community you’re looking to serve [through] telling their stories. For example, I took some Indigenous studies on the history of Canada and its treaties while working on this film, to understand the importance of what’s happening to Treaty 8, and with Site C and in the Fort St. John area. It’s just a constant learning curve.

SB: What are your go-to strategies for overcoming those challenges?

HH: Well, being humble. I think because I work in documentary a lot, [it’s important to] be humble, respect my subject and the information I’m given, to listen, learn, research, and collaborate.

SB: Is there a specific filmmaker, writer, or film movement that has influenced your work?

HH: Yes—the documentary Finding Dawn by Christine Welsh. When I saw this film, I realized how powerful documentary filmmaking could be, and how much important information it could give, and in such a personal way.

SB: What is the most impactful piece of advice that you can give to aspiring filmmakers?

HH: Work with experienced filmmakers as you’re starting out, so you can learn from their experience. Even just having the help [as you’re] learning how to write grants. It helps you develop your own projects. And I would say that collaboration is really important—film is very collaborative in itself, but working with other people can really clarify your ideas. Also, taking classes at your local film co-op creates a supportive environment.

Finally, if there’s an idea or an image that has caught your attention, it’s probably something you are passionate about, and you should focus on it.

Follow the development of Heather’s latest documentary project, Della and Goliath, at #DellaFilm.  

The 2018 WIFTV Banff World Media Festival Mentorship is now accepting applications here.  Read Heather’s guest blog about her time at the Banff World Media Festival here

 

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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

WIFTV Members With Films at DOXA 2017

With DOXA right around the corner, Women in Film and Television Vancouver caught up with three members whose films will be screening during the festival. DOXA, the name stemming from a Greek word pertaining to the realm of opinion and belief, is heading into its 16th year as Vancouver’s annual international documentary film festival. Presented by the Documentary Media Society, the 11-day festival explores the role of documentary as both an art form and a ‘site of dialogue’.

Shirley Vercruysse

The festival is opening with The Road Forward, an innovative stage play turned musical documentary from award-winning writer, director, and producer, Marie Clements. Clements explores the important and often untold stories of the Aboriginal political and social movements in BC. We chatted with The Road Forward Producer and WIFTV member Shirley Vercruysse  who told us the film reminds the viewer of the history of the First Nations activism in BC in a very personal way, stating “this film is by the right person, made with the right people.” The film tells the stories of Canada’s oldest active Indigenous organization, the Native Brotherhood of British Columbia, The Native Voice newspaper (1946 – 2002), and the Constitutional Express — a peaceful protest on an Ottawa bound train to ensure the rights of Aboriginal people were included in the 1982 Constitutional Act. Vercruysse went on to explain that many of the people involved in making this film, who have also been involved in Aboriginal activism for 50 or 60 years already, felt that the work is successful in telling these stories. Shirley Vercruysse is the Executive Producer of the National Film Board of Canada’s BC & Yukon Studio, based in Vancouver, BC, where she leads the team producing documentary and animation projects. The Road Forward is screening on opening night (May 4th) and again on May 10th. 

The Carnival Band – Photo by Sandra Ignagni

Sandra Ignagni

You’re Already in the Band (You Just Don’t Know It Yet), created by WIFTV member Sandra Ignagni, follows The Carnival Band as they celebrate community through music. The Commercial Drive-based band can be spotted at a variety of events, from protests to parades, all over Vancouver. Ignagni followed The Carnival Band for over a year, documenting rehearsals, road trips, a wedding, a funeral, and everything in between. In 2016 Ignagni was chosen for a WIFTV Short Film Mentorship program. She explained that “my participation in that program helped propel the project forward and that positive momentum was critical to me finishing the film.” Sandra Ignagni is an award-winning documentary filmmaker based in Los Angeles and Vancouver. She trained in film production at Maine Media and Langara College and holds a PhD in Political Science and a Master of Arts in Indigenous & Canadian Studies. You’re Already in the Band (You Just Don’t Know It Yet) will be screening on May 9th and 10th as part of the City Voices: Short Program.

Fixed! Film Still – Photo courtesy of Cat Mills

Joella Cabalu

Fixed! is having its world premiere on May 8th and screening again on May 11th. The film centers around the volunteer-run, grassroots organization known as Repair Café in Toronto. The group holds monthly events where people bring in unexpected items they cherish enough to find out if they can be repaired. We sat down with producer and WIFTV member Joella Cabalu who described these repair services as “tangible, accessible solutions that people can introduce in their lives.”  Cabalu explained that the film focuses on the interactions between the volunteer fixers and the visitors in a way that explores both the community aspect and environmental aspect of repair cafes. Joella Cabalu is a Filipino-Canadian Vancouver-based documentary filmmaker with an Art History degree from the University of British Columbia (2008) and a graduate of the Documentary Film Production Program at Langara College (2013). Fixed! is part of the Stuff: Shorts Program, described by DOXA as a collection of films that “calls attention to our increasingly complex and contradictory relationship with our stuff.”

DOXA 2017 is screening at select theatres throughout Vancouver from May 4th to 14th. Check out the schedule here.

Words by Kaitlen Arundale

 

Meet Story Editor and #FromOurDarkSide Consultant Carrie Gadsby

Carrie GadsbyCarrie Gadsby is a Vancouver-based story editor and analyst for feature film, who has lived in Los Angeles, where she worked in development for Oliver Stone. A freelancer, Carrie has also worked extensively with Telefilm Canada and Super Channel.

Working collaboratively and intimately with writers has always been her true passion, says Gadsby in a recent e-interview. Most recently, she was involved in the book adaptation of The Dwelling with Robert Cuffley, and as story editor for WIFTV member Suzanne Crocker’s multiple award winning documentary All The Time In The World. Continue reading

A recap of WIFTV’s submission to the CRTC

 

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Sharon & Susan at the CRTC making submissions on behalf of WIFTV members and supporters.

This is an edited version of an email I sent to WIFTV members and supporters. If you would like to become a WIFTV member, please click here. To subscribe to receive occasional updates like this in your inbox, please click here. 

Barely a week ago, I listened via live stream from my Vancouver office as WIFTV board members and advocacy leads, Sharon McGowan and Susan Brinton, made a presentation to the CRTC in Ottawa on behalf of our members and supporters.

In a nutshell, WIFTV traveled to Ottawa to challenge the Commission’s selective enforcement of the Broadcasting Act. Specifically, section 3.1.d.3, which stipulates that the Canadian broadcasting system should:

“…through its programming and the employment opportunities arising out of its operations, serve the needs and interests, and reflect the circumstances and aspirations, of Canadian men, women and children, including equal rights, the linguistic duality and multicultural and multiracial nature of Canadian society and the special place of aboriginal peoples within that society.”

Despite the above, there has never been a Commission policy to support Canadian women’s aspirations and rights to equal opportunities in the productions triggered by Canadian broadcasters, or in the creative personnel who receive employment through those productions.

This being the case, Sharon and Susan challenged the Commission to do the following:

  • By March 2017, develop, file, and begin implementing a plan to achieve 50/50 gender equity in key creative positions of director, writer and producer across its programs of national interest programming by 2020;
  • Implement accurate metrics that track and compare male and female participation in the key creative roles annually and over the three year period; and
  • Present an evaluation report of the 3-year plan in 2020.

The commissioners responded with genuine interest and concern and, less than 24 hours later, I listened again as, using notes from WIFTV’s submission, they challenged broadcasters’ on the lack of gender equity in the key creative positions on the productions they license. The broadcasters were caught off guard and did not have good answers to these concerns.

Colleagues, this is the first time in decades, if ever, that these issues were raised in license renewal hearings.

Though we do not yet know the outcome of the hearing, given the response our presentation received, WIFTV made an obvious impact at the highest level of policy development in the Canadian film and television industry.

I truly believe that with the momentum of the National Film Board, Telefilm, and the CBC’s recent announcements, we are closer than ever to getting to gender parity in Canadian programming, but we will continue to need voices like WITFV’s at the table.

I urge you to read Sharon and Susan’s submission to the CRTC and, if you are moved as I was, I hope you’ll join me in publicly thanking and congratulating Sharon and Susan on WIFTV’s Facebook or Twitter for their hard work and generosity.

If you have not recently had the chance to, I’d like to invite you to chip in to support this work.  

Our advocacy work, including Sharon and Susan’s work and travel on WIFTV’s behalf has been 100% volunteer-led and funded. These efforts will continue in 2017, but with nominal financial contributions from our members and supporters – people like you – we can increase their frequency and impact. With your support, WIFTV can continue to bring the voices and perspectives of our members to forums as crucial as the Commission is proving to be.

Please chip in what you can here: http://www.womeninfilm.ca/donate.html.

As always, thank you for all the ways you support Women in Film and Television Vancouver and our mission.

By Sarah Kalil, President
Women in Film and Television Vancouver

“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.

Jay Cabalu

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.

Joella

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. 

NFB Announces Gender Equality Initiative at #VIWIFF2016

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From left: Sharon McGowan, Rina Fraticelli, Claude Joli-Coeur, Karen Day, Susan Brinton

Women in Film + Television Vancouver is proud to have provided the venue for the groundbreaking announcement by the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) in Vancouver on this International Women’s Day, March 8, 2016.

Coinciding with the start of the 11th Annual Vancouver International Women in Film Festival, Government Film Commissioner and NFB Chairperson Claude Joli-Coeur announced that at least half of its productions will be directed by women and half of all production spending will be allocated to films directed by women. Continue reading