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.

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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.

Heather Hatch on What She Learned at #Banff2017

We caught up with Heather Hatch, the 2017 Banff World Media Festival Mentorship recipient. This mentorship awarded Heather a pass to attend the Banff World Media Festival, June 11- 14, 2017 at the Fairmont Banff Springs. Prior to the festival, she had a chance to consult with her mentor, Cynde Harmon, Producer and CEO for “Really Real Films Inc.” (Stranger In The House, If I Had Wings), as well as meet with members of the WIFTV team both before and at the festival. Here is what Heather had to say.

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2017 Benff Mentorship Recipient, Heather Hatch

How was the Festival? What was the biggest highlight for you?

The first meeting I attended with my team, I did not say a word, I just smiled and nodded, but the BBC can be overwhelming for a first meeting. So, at first the festival was very intimidating but attending the parties and meeting people in the industry at these event made it easier. The biggest highlight was meeting people who have sat on committees for some of the grants I have gotten and getting good news in a pitch meeting.

 

What did you learn throughout your Banff World Media Festival Experience?

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From left to right: Tami Gabay, Cynde Harmon, Karen Wong, Heather Hatch, Pamela Jones

You have to put yourself out there, and working as a team makes it easier. Even if your pitches are not what somebody is looking for, asking them what they are interested in can help you choose projects you want to invest in creatively. Write down on the business cards, something about the person and your conversation so that you can remember them, and make possible connections after the festival. If you have meetings, look them up so you know what they look like, and can talk about some of their projects to break the ice. When booking a meeting, pick a location or it can get hairy trying to find them. Attending the workshops is full of information and can help you meet people.

 

Did the mentorship benefit you? What did you learn from your mentor and how did she help you?

The mentorship with Cynde Harmon, was unbelievable, she was a bubbling well of information, from how to organize my computer files, pitching advice, getting business cards, how to navigate the Banff media website, and how to keep track of and schedule meetings. Mentorship is so important in this industry, you can learn so much form a veteran of the trade, its knowledge that you can not gain through education alone. My Banff experience would not have been as successful without her guidance.

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

Do you have any new projects on the Horizon? Or further development of current projects because of this experience?I was lucky enough to get the Telefilm micro grant this year to make a feature length documentary, the story of an Elder who wants to fight for her land that will be flooded by the Site C Dam in British Columbia which you can follow at #DellaFilm. The show that Women in Film and Television sent me to Banff for was a successful pitch meeting that turned into development, which was unbelievable. This show involves indigenous language and storytelling for children, and was created with alliance between myself and my team which you can check out at catapult pictures and open sky pictures.

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

 

Norma’s Story – Animation Glimpses into Traditional Aboriginal Life – #VIWIFF2016

Normas story egg hill (1)The award-winning animated short film Norma’s Story runs under only five minutes, yet the message transcends time.

Director Alex Hawley takes the audience into a whimsical world that is part mid-century children’s book styling and traditional beadwork.  Continue reading

Snapshot of a Stolen Childhood — The Chicken by Una Gunjak at #VIWIFF2016

By Mersiha Musovic

THE-CHICKEN_02_Selma(IMAN-ALIBALIC)The Chicken, by Writer/Director Una Gunjak, is a uniquely intense, yet very moving film, which takes the viewers back in time to 1993, to a volatile setting they might be unfamiliar with: the Bosnian War.  Continue reading

From rough cut to festival: How WIFTV and the Film & Media Showcase helped me finish a film

By Sandra Ignagni

Sandra Ignagni Picture-3Once a month Vancouver filmmakers gather at the Film & Media Showcase to watch a selection of short and feature-length films in a casual and supportive environment. Co-hosted by three artist-focused British Columbia organizations – Women in Film + Television Vancouver, Cineworks and DOC BC – the event offers filmmakers an opportunity to screen their work and discuss their creative process – both successes and challenges.

Last summer, WIFTV selected my short documentary One Step at a Time: A Story About Women and Shoes for screening at the showcase. The film, a portrait of four young women in Toronto and Vancouver who are embarking on unconventional careers in the traditionally male-dominated fields of cobbling and shoemaking, was decidedly in rough-cut stage. Continue reading

Vampire Superstition in Eastern Europe – The Cursed Days at #VIWIFF2016

The Cursed Days_Nataša NinkovićDid you know that the word “vampir” (vampire) originated in Serbia? The vampire superstition started in the 18th century when, as legend has it, a villager was accused of killing nine people after his death. Continue reading